Do You Push Your Personal Limits When You Travel?

Last week we talked about how your perception of a place can influence your decision whether to travel there or not. There was some lively discussion in the comments, and it was interesting to read everyone’s thoughts. Like so much else in life, there were widely varying opinions. How you feel in a city (whether it’s safe-enough-to-stroll-down-a-dark-alley-at-midnight or terrified-to-leave-your-hotel-room-at-noon), is totally subjective and will differ greatly from person to person, for lots of reasons. Your personality has a lot to do with it, as well as your prior (travel) experiences.

As a traveler, I try to make myself get out of my comfort zone. In travel, like in life in general, I know that it’s the scary things, the things we think we can’t do, that ultimately lead to growth. But the word to remember is “try.” I don’t always succeed. And the things that scare me would probably seem tame to another traveler. The problem I’ve found I have is striking that balance between embracing adventure and accepting my own limits.

For example, I love hiking. Now, I don’t claim to be an experienced, full-on, hike-for-days-in-the-wilderness-eating-native-plants type of hiker (yet). But I love wandering in the woods and getting my heart rate moving in the open air, all the better if there is beautiful scenery involved. So when I read about a hiking path in the Alps, outside of Mittenwald, Germany, I was 100% gung ho. My first flutter of fear came when I saw the path. It was narrow, with no shoulder on either side, and literally just wide enough for one person at a time to walk single-file. On one side you had a wall of mountain, while on the other there was a sheer drop. But I took a deep breath and kept walking. Maybe it will widen up, I told myself. Kids and elderly people walk this all the time, according to the website, so I have no excuses. But it didn’t widen, and as I climbed higher my stomach started to churn and my hands got shaky. I’m not good with heights anyway, but combine that with my naturally clumsy reflexes (I trip on hardwood floors. Wearing flats.) and you have a recipe for terror.

The final straw was the suspension bridge spanning two peaks. I carefully stepped down the metal stairs that were bolted into one side of one of the mountains, but sat down before I got to the bridge. I couldn’t go on. I was crying and shaking and angry with myself for not being able to make my feet walk across what was, I’m sure, a perfectly safe bridge. And if it had been a matter of life and death, I could have made it to the other side. But it wasn’t; it was a scary bridge on a scary (for me) hike, and I decided to turn back. I felt like I had reached my limit that day. I still think about that hike, that day. I wish I’d gone on and proven to myself that I could do it. But I decided that a day full of anxiety and tears wasn’t worth it. I don’t know if I’d make that same decision now, but I accept that I did then.

So whatever your particular fear; whether it’s the reputation of the place itself, or bungee jumping or traveling alone or trying to figure out a foreign bus system, know that you’re the only one who can decide what is worth a try and, on the other hand, when you’ve reached the point where continuing on would spoil your trip more than expand your horizons.

How do you push your limits when you travel?

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