Jun 28, 2024 3 min read

What A Single Travel Experience Can Do - The Essence of Traveling

For my whole life, I have been dealing with severe acrophobia. For those of you who don't know, acrophobia means "extreme or irrational fear of heights". It was so tough that I had to take a few breaths every time I got on a bridge just to calm myself. This kind of extreme fear made mundane tasks harder. The problem was, that I never had the motivation to try to treat my fear.

But, it all changed two years ago, when I was visiting Switzerland for a family trip. We drove from Zurich to Leissigen, a very small town outside of Interlaken. Both Leissigen and Interlaken look like they were taken out of a picture or painting.

On our second night, my uncle told us about a thing called Hang-gliding. Hang gliding is the sport of flying a lightweight, non-motorized glider. Sounds nice, right? Not so much for someone with acrophobia.

Anyway, my uncle told us that there's a hang-gliding site on a nearby mountain. And of course, he talked everyone into it, except me. I spent the night searching Google for hang-gliding death statistics to justify my fear (they didn't, because the death rate is very low).

When we woke up the next day, everyone was talking so impatiently about how they couldn't wait to do it. And I couldn't understand why on earth someone would want to jump off of a mountain.

At the mountain base, my family members drove up the mountain one by one, each with their instructor, all the way up to the peak. My uncle was the first to go up and also the first to tell us how it was. From where we stood, they looked just like birds. And I had to admit it, it looked amazing and fun.

Yet, I couldn't release my mind from the thought that said, "If you go up that mountain, you will die". Quite frustrating, considering the fact that my whole family could hang glide without any fear and I couldn't.

Slowly but surely, I remained the only one at the mountain base, with an instructor standing next to me, because everyone else was up on the peak waiting for their turn. I just couldn't accept that I was the only one not flying. After a couple of minutes, the instructor said, "You sure you don't want to go up there?".

Now I was facing a dilemma - overcome my fear, which I know in this case is unrealistic. Or, let everyone think I am a coward and possibly miss one of the most exciting experiences in life.

I made my decision and told the instructor that I was ready. Shacking of fear, we drove up the mountain, all the way to the peak. It was about a half-hour drive, and with every minute I became more and more fearful and excited.

As we reached the peak, I discovered how beautiful the valley is from the almost 1000-meter-tall mountain. At that moment, I realized that I had already done the hardest part, which was to make the decision and drive up the mountain. Regretting was not an option anymore. And that's when my fear started to break.

Standing next to the hang glider while praying
That prayer was real!

After we built the glider, we were ready for takeoff!

To take off with a hang glider, you have to stand on a slope and run a few steps to gain the initial speed and catch the wind. So, we stood right before the slope, started running, and after about five steps we were in the air!

At first, it was unbelievably scary. But, before I knew it, the fear was no longer there and I could finally enjoy the feeling of flying.

What is the moral of the story? All that was needed to conquer my biggest fear was to do the thing I was most afraid of. If I could overcome my fear of heights, I bet anyone can overcome their fears, whatever they may be.

To sum it all up, I strongly encourage you to overcome your fears. Especially those that can "simply" be overcome by doing the thing you are most afraid of. Remember that regret will ALWAYS feel worse than not going out of your comfort zone and conquering your fear. Regret is irreversible.

I don't want to imagine how my life would look if I didn't find the courage to do what I did.

For me, the essence of traveling is moving out of your comfort zone and discovering what you are really capable of.


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