It was a hot, humid, ‘dog days’ of August morning in Central Park. I walked along with my friend Alexandra Simon, a working mom who juggles home, kids, work, and dog. She is a bright and direct woman who believes that “when you’re a woman with opinions, life is always more difficult.” It’s easier to go with the flow rather than take a different route.
I found her comment funny, thought-provoking and worth examining. In my experience, women who are confidant and comfortable in their own skin speak their mind and have opinions. They can seem fearless to some and intimidating to others.
Explorer Barbara Hillary is one of my favorite women; she is very opinionated and very direct. She is charming, intelligent, and a frequent speaker at colleges and corporations. Barbara shares her knowledge and her opinions with a daunting self assurance and she captivates her audience with her fearless attitude. She started a women’s travel group for fellow female adventurers who are ‘of a certain age’ and don’t want to sit at home in a rocking chair or “babysit grandchildren”… Ask their age and they will admit to being OVER 21!
Exploring women seek adventure and not danger, but it’s a matter of perception. In my opinion fear is the greatest obstacle in pursuing a challenge. It can be alleviated through calculated risk and training.
All expeditions and adventure challenges require training no matter how fit and healthy you are. Everyone has her own way of preparing and it’s all a matter of what stimulates and motivates. I believe it must begin as a cerebral acknowledgment that you are going to put yourself at risk and it requires your mind, body, and soul.
I have a personal check list that I follow. I was terrified the first time I scuba dived under the ice in the Arctic. I remember vividly sitting on the edge of the ice hole in my drysuit and gear ready to go, my legs dangling before me in the clear 28 degree water. I was frightened, I was cold, and I was uncomfortable, but I was prepared and all I wanted to do was get it done! I knew what I was getting into and it was now or never…twenty years later I can’t imagine not jumping into the ice hole — that experience forever changed my life.
The three steps I use to kickstart my planning and training include:
- Mental Preparation
- Physical Preparation
- Emotional Preparation
The Mental Preparation begins with accepting what you have set out to accomplish and educating yourself on the pros and cons of your upcoming endeavor. The purpose is to see yourself in the role as an active participant (team, group, solo) and moving forward with as much knowledge and information as possible.
The Physical Prep can be challenging and exhausting as you have to maintain focus and discipline. It helps to learn what your body can combat and overcome physically. There is a pain and discomfort threshold you experience and from that comes an inner strength which is very empowering. Physical training helps you to accept your limitations and how to work with them.
The Emotional Prep is the acceptance that you have done all you can do to meet your goal and your focus is now on beginning your journey. Confidence grows as you prepare and there is a calmness in knowing that you are as prepared as you ever will be. This is not a good time to second guess yourself as it destroys all the hard work you have done.
There is always a point on expeditions where you must reconcile that there is no more to be done but forge ahead as sometimes all that is left to do is put one foot in front of the other and go!
While I was traveling through the beautiful state of Maine, I stopped in York Harbor. One morning after a beach walk with my dog Ginger I came upon a huge van loaded with bikes and attached to it was huge trailer with even more bikes. As I walked around it I met Paige Granger who is one of the cross country cycle guides for Backroads.
She was was about to drive off on her way back out west after a bike tour that had just ended. We talked about adventure travel and her last leg of a four week trip driving all the bikes back to California on her own.
Paige is one of few women who lead bike tours for Backroads and she loves what she does. It was interesting to hear her experiences leading trips around the world and how she manages all the good (and bad) aspects of her job. I found that her love of the outdoors and sharing it with clients was absolute joy.
I thought she was fearless for going alone with all that gear, but Paige was cool as a cucumber and explained that she had everything under control — she had a planned route with rest stops, a back-up plan, etc etc. She also said that she had prepared mentally for the drive back because there was no other option.
I was impressed by her and wished her luck. She told me she was off again on another adventure within a few days of arriving out west. The calmness and confidence she exuded are all part of the experience and training that come with her job.
How we recognize and manage fear is different for all of us. The importance of being mentally prepared, knowing your limitations, making a plan, and working through it all help on the road to success and working through your fears.
Fear is not an option in certain situations and failure is not is not a bad thing if you learn from it.
Until our next adventure, pack away your wrinkle cream and out on your traveling boots…