Post 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)
When JetBlue first announced they were doing the second annual All-You-Can-Jet promotion, I didn’t really consider that I would be buying a pass. But after about a week of hearing how many people I knew were buying passes, I couldn’t resist the temptation. I convinced a friend of mine in New York to buy one with me and we’d travel together for 2.5 weeks of the 4 during the promo. Together, Liz and I went to Costa Rica, Miami and Seattle. Our overseas trip to Costa Rica proved to be memorable.
September is the rainy season in Costa Rica. It’s also hurricane season. Neither of these known facts were going to stop us from going, considering we had a pass to fly anywhere JetBlue flew. Little did we realize that it would take anywhere from 3.5 to 5 hours by car to get to the places we wanted to see.
Our first stop was Monteverde, or the Green Mountains. Monteverde is also home to the Cloud Forest, as the clouds hang low on the mountains…or, something like that. Regardless, you are surrounded by mist at all times when in the mountains here and it is quite stunning. We only had about 36 hours to spend in Monteverde and since we heard the best zip lining in the country was there, we decided to sign up for a tour.
7am the next morning, our transportation arrives to take us to Selvatura Park, where we’d be taking our canopy tour in the cloud forest. The tour we signed up for included 15 zip lines and a Tarzan swing, and was scheduled to take about 2.5-3 hours to complete.
Let me pause and state here that, while I like to think of myself as an adventurous person, I have never zip lined, nor am I necessarily keen on heights. For instance, jumping out of a plane is pretty much the LAST thing on earth I would ever think of putting on my bucket list. I would rather be dead at that point. I’m also not what one would call an outdoorsy person. Camping, to me, should include heat and electricity. But for some reason, the zip lining adventure was something I wanted to do – when in Rome, I guess. But I digress…
Did I mention it was hurricane season? Remember Hurricane Nicole that tore through the Caribbean and Central America right around the 3rd week of September? Yeah, well, apparently Selvatura Park laughs in the face of hurricanes. It was pouring and freezing cold. We bought rain slickers, but it didn’t matter – we were soaked to the bone within minutes of climbing to the first platform.
The best part of this adventure was the instruction on how to zip line. It lasted about 3 minutes and went something like this:
“When you want to go faster, loosen your grip on the line. When you want to stop, pull down on the line. The bad news for all of you is that it’s really windy right now. Wind is bad. It will make you spin on the line and that is no good….any questions? No? Ok, you had your chance.”
There were no opportunities for questions or for more instruction once you reached the first platform. I suddenly couldn’t remember what you had to do to speed up vs. slow down and then completely panicked when I realized I had no idea how I was going to stop. But, surprisingly, I jumped right into the first line and it wasn’t so bad. In fact, the first few lines were ok. I got stuck on the 4th line, as I stopped early of the platform because I started spinning and then started panicking. One of the guys came and rescued me, but that was it for me – I was terrified and couldn’t keep myself from shaking like a leaf. I couldn’t tell if it was the adrenaline, fear or the freezing rain pelting my face – it could have been all three. Just when I was thinking I was getting the hang of it, the 5th line was the Mother of All Zip Lines. Over a half-mile long in all her glory, the line ran out above the forest. It was so long and the clouds that lay before it provided such a thick fog of mist, that you couldn’t see your end point. I thought I was going to have a panic attack on the 3×3′ platform with 8 other adventurers. Once I saw this line, I knew immediately I couldn’t do it. I just got stuck spinning on a line 1/100 the length of this line, there was NO WAY I’d make it safely to the end. I was so petrified, in fact, that I requested a taxi – that is, one of the guides does the driving, you hook your legs around him and hang on for the ride.
It was the best taxi ride of my life. I was able to loosen up a bit and enjoy the scenery around me, instead of staring intently ahead trying to find the tree I was supposed to fly to and then figure out the appropriate time to break. After a few taxi rides, I was able to build up my confidence again and do several lines by myself, as they were much shorter distances. It became fun again.
Until, I saw the Second Mother of All Zip Lines staring me in the face. Again, over 1/2 mile long. Again, the distance so great and the clouds so thick, you couldn’t see your destination. Again, the line rising above the forest, taking you to a clearing where you literally feel like you’re flying above the world. And yes, without a net.
This time, though, I went alone. No driver but myself. After seeing my other adventurers have success and do it on their own, and being encouraged by the guide at that particular platform, I braced myself and leaped. What I had come to realize was that I was having difficulty on earlier lines because I was tensing up too much. When I let go into this mammoth line, I very consciously loosened up. I noticed everything my body was doing (and not doing) – I leaned as far back as I could with my hand, I loosened my grip, I folded my feet beneath me and sat like I was in a recliner. The ride (roughly #9) was the smoothest of all the rides I had done all day. Not a bump, not a pause, not a slight spin. Every inch of me was wet, including my underwear. I was freezing cold. The wind was whipping at us all day, but it felt like bullets in the air, when coupled with the torrential rain. But this time, I had enough time on this ride to actually feel the wind at my face. To feel the rain pellets beat down on my cheeks and get in my eyes. I turned my face and saw to either side of me the most gorgeous landscape of lush green trees, bright flowers and thick white mist. I can’t even venture a guess as to how high I was from the ground, but high enough to feel like there was no higher point I could get to without being in a plane. But I was free. Alone. I breathed in and the air felt cool (not cold, like I was on the platform moments before) and fresh. Clean, even. The rain stopped hurting my face. The wind felt smooth. I could hear the wind whizzing past my ears. My legs dangled below me and I became strangely aware that my feet were leading the charge of my body barreling towards an unknown target in the distance. As I approached a heavier part of the forest ahead and the clearing started to close behind me, I could see the tree that was my target. I (somehow) expertly breaked and got myself to the ledge and to my instructor with no problems. Every piece of my being was visibly shaking. My hands, my feet, my knees. No joint felt steady, no limb had strength. My blood was pulsating through my veins. My nerves felt shot. My eyes were wide and my head was throbbing. I was not in any pain, but I was acutely aware of everything going on inside of me. Each of my senses had the dials up to 10. I could barely stand. But once I got steadied on the platform by the guide, the only words I could sputter were “I DID IT!” It was a mixture of utter disbelief, pure joy, exhilaration and sheer pride. He looked at me, oblivious to the 10,000 things pulsating through me, and said (rather flatly), “Yes. You did it.”
I didn’t care. I climbed to the next platform in a daze. Not quite sure what just happened, but feeling like there were a million emotions and “things” happening simultaneously. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I was feeling. I don’t think any thoughts were even running through my head. I was just feeling.
That moment was the peak of the canopy tour for me. I finished it like a pro by the time I got to the end. But in that adventure, and particularly in that earlier moment, I have never felt more alive and connected to both my body and to the world around me. I don’t know why I went by myself on that line instead of with my taxi, but I’m so grateful for whatever pushed me to go alone. It was a moment that was meant to be just for me, and I will never forget it.