Check these smiles. Look at us. We are having a blast! Life is perfect! We are SO PUMPED and SO STOKED to hike, to be outside, to step into the unknown, to camp for days, to carry 50 lbs on our backs, and to be free in nature! If this is what you see, ahha! What a great disguise! Behind my smile, my heart was racing full of anxiety and fear and my nerves were on edge! I was terrified and anything but pumped.
One of the top places to experience on Kauai is the Kalalau Trail. Also, the trail is one of the top ten backpacking trips in the world listed by Backpacker Magazine. This trail is epic, a big deal and can’t be missed. In guide books the trail is noted as "strenuous with cliffs." My heart sank when I read those words in the description. What? No! That is freaking terrifying for me. But, I knew Adam would definitely want to do this trail. And, I did, too. But, I was so scared of the unknown. What exactly do “cliffs” mean. What kind of cliffs? How many cliffs? How wide is the trail on these cliffs, really?
Deep down, I knew I couldn't miss this opportunity. Everyone was saying, "People travel from all over the world to do this trail. You have to do it!" With each conversation and each new description of the trail, my blood pressure would sky rocket. Over the years people have discussed my fears with me and given me a new perspective. I have a fear of heights. Oh no, it's really a fear of falling. Until recently a friend said, "No, you have a fear of landing." Okay, well, all of the above then. Whatever my fear is, I have it when it comes to ledges, heights and drop offs. Hello to all you adventure seekers that aren’t afraid of heights- this is totally normal! My body is responding to a sense of danger.
However, my fear and anxiety has taken over me on tons of adventures and completely steals all of my joy. I become a panic freak. I have been known to freeze on climbing walls and cry hysterically. Just a bit embarrassing. I have also been known to stand at rope swings and cliff jumps for what seems like hours trying to go, do it, just jump. Oh yeah, and I can't forget the time I have been yelled at by Costa Ricans when I froze in mid repel down a waterfall,"Let go, Linzee! Let GO!" But, I freeze, fret, sometimes go and sometimes chicken out. I love being outside and I want to be adventurous, but a lot of times my anxiety builds, swells, my heart races, and I don't enjoy what I'm doing. I become so zoned in on my fearful thoughts of “what if I trip, fall, land at this certain angle and then topple down the cliff.”
As we have been adventuring Kauai, every hike is slippery from all of the water that rainy season brings making the leaves, rocks, roots, mud, and banana peels slick. Ha, yes, there are even banana peels here on the trails to slip on. Here I have encountered my turning point. I have just gotten so sick and tired of always spending so much energy and time becoming physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted from my fear of just hiking down hill! I’m so much slower than everyone that bound down like it’s nothing. In my mind, I always think, "Come on, Lindsey! Just let go!" A week ago, I hit my boiling point. I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired from fear!
So, I cried out to God for help. I know that I cannot overcome my fears by myself and praying was my only choice. God can do the impossible, and I have spent years trying to overcome my fear and low and behold, I still have it. From spending hours chatting with God about it, I knew this hike would be a big deal for me. A turning point. A life changer. And, I had to do it. I was still dreading it, though. No! Don’t make me! Dang it!
From past marathons and half marathons, I knew that I needed to fill my mind with positive thoughts. When I did the Pikes Peak Ascent, I filled my head with songs like, "Can't touch this, nah, nah, nah, nah!" and I powered up that mountain! Yeah! So, I came up with a mantra for when the Kalalau Trail became difficult. If not, I knew I would freeze and it would take me hours to get past one point of the trail. None of us would have fun. To keep it positive and to give my feet rhythm to work with, I chose, "Step, Go, Success, Yes!" I needed some celebration at the end, you know? I know, I'm ridiculous. But, you bet your bottom dollar it got me through all 27 miles of the trail! I did it!
The few days before the start of hiking I fretted, cried, spent so much time thinking of the "what if's." Two of my adventurous, awesome girlfriends, Becca and Heidi, had hiked the same trail a month before. Talk about Wonder Women. I called Heidi to get her details on the trail. She specifically stated, "Miles 7 to 9 are terrifying and you definitely don't want to do them in the rain." For fearless Heidi to say that, oh geeze, that didn’t help. The night before we were to head out on the trail, I tossed and turned and finally woke Adam up. "Adam, I don't think I should go. What if I can't do this." Adam was already awake because he couldn’t sleep. He was like a little kid excited to go to Disney Land and I’m on the other spectrum. Terrified. Being the amazing Adam he is, he walked me through the truths of what we know that I could cling to. I prayed my heart out and filled my mind with my mantra, "Step, Go, Success, Yes!" I fell back asleep and woke up PUMPED to go on the trail! I wanted this challenge, and I wanted to get over this fear junk.
And so it goes, the first day was great weather with bright blue skies so we hiked to a waterfall and then to Mile 6 and camped. The next day I knew was the big day. Miles 7 to 9 were ahead of me. Breathing deeply, I took each step forward knowing I was in for my biggest fears. Cliffs, drop-offs, ledges. Adam was leading the way with me in the middle and our girl, Jacqueline, was pulling up the rear. Right as we crossed Mile Marker 7, the wind started whipping with rain coming in. The ginormous waves were crashing and were so loud they were like cracks of thunder! No blue skies in view. The rain was coming in sideways and I couldn't see out of my contacts. I was yelling to Adam in front, while Jacqueline was yelling "Mile 7! Yeah! Got a pic! Oh, look at the waves! They are huge! This is incredible! Oh, look at the goats! Wow! This is incredible!" The herd of goats were running up hill while we were heading down to the Climber's Ledge. Ah! I'm having a meltdown on my insides and whispering, "Step, Go, Success, Yes!" and Jacqueline and Adam are loving the terrifying excitement around us! Great!
I zoned in. My only choice. "Step, Go, Success, Yes! Step, Go, Success, Yes! Step, Go, Success, Yes!" This gave me something to focus on and my steps moved forward. I crossed the ledge without realizing it and we made it! Yeeeehaaaaaaw!!!!!
One of the biggest lessons I have learned thus far was from this one moment. God is with me always. Even when the waves are crashing, I can barely hear, the sun is gone, the rains flying sideways and I'm out on a ledge. He is always with me. It's overwhelming. And, he surrounds me with amazing people like Adam, Jacqueline, Heidi and Becca. All adventurous, courageous and compassionate spirits that I admire, trust and can learn from.
Back to reality. Mile 7 wasn't over yet, and we still had 5 miles to go. And, in two days we still had to do this same trail to get back out. But, prepping myself with positive thoughts that kept me moving forward put me in a new zone to actually do the trail and to conquer my fear! It turns out, on our way hiking back out the same thing happened. I got in my zone and didn’t even realize we had done the ledge in the rain again!
My journey of conquering my fears and anxieties isn't over. It's not going to be immediate. But, I'm learning to take control of my thoughts to find joy in scary environments and to love challenges, instead of being locked in my brain, in my fearful thoughts and freezing and crying in my moments of distress.
The definition of #nuventures is evolving to every kind of new venture. It’s not just seeing new places and trying new things, but taking ourselves out of our comfort zones, experiencing growth and having new thoughts, feelings and emotions. Thankfully, this growing moment was full of conquering! My trail name became Conq the Conqueror.