by Ellen Barone
Get Inspired to Travel
We know that adventure travel is great fun, but it can also act as a catalyst for live-changing decisions, new relationships or transformational experiences that open heart, soul and mind. From facing a fear of drowning and a perfectly timed random encounter to following love across Africa and learning to love solo travel, these four travelers are living proof of the power of adventure. Read on for serious inspiration.
"A whitewater adventure gave me the strength to face my fear of drowning."
Having nearly drowned in the Pacific Ocean twice, Linda Ballou had a nagging fear of oceans and rivers. "I envied those who surf the blue face of foaming waves or whitewater rafters who fight their way through the fury of a wild river," says Linda.
Mired in the traffic and chaos of her Los Angeles life and craving an opportunity to regain control of her life, she signed on for a guided rafting adventure on the Salmon River. "I fell in love with the idea of taking an uninterrupted journey through rugged, isolated country where I might enjoy solitude," Linda recalls. "And a rafting vacation gave me the chance to face my fears head on."
Easing into the 86-mile float, Linda gained confidence in stages, graduating over the week from the group raft to a guided two-man kayak to solo status on the final day of the trip.
"It took all my strength to navigate the waves," says Linda. "But I felt empowered, brave and heady with triumph. Confronting, not hiding from, my fears allowed me to break down the barriers to forward movement in my life. It was a tremendous experience and a real breakthrough."
Read more about Linda's adventures in her book 'Lost Angel Walkabout: One traveler's tales'.
"A random encounter pointed me back to myself."
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
John Lennon, "Beautiful Boy"
Lindsey Rue never imagined her life would be summed up in a John Lennon song lyric. Nor did she anticipate wandering the streets of Stockholm's Gamla Stan, newly un-engaged from her Swedish fiancé.
"It was kind of a crazy situation. It was a few days before last Christmas. One day I was prepared to share the rest of my life with someone, get married, put down roots, and become a responsible adult. The next day, it's off."
Rain, ice and below-freezing temperatures had driven Lindsey into a clothing store in search of warmer attire. "I got to talking with a girl in the store. It's pretty unusual that this Swede, usually a quiet and reserved people, would talk to me. But she was obviously curious about what an American girl was doing in Sweden, in the middle of winter, inappropriately dressed."
The two extended the conversation over lunch at the rail station where the girl mesmerized Lindsey with stories of her childhood on Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea, a place of wild ponies, Viking settlements and mysterious legends.
"I was still a bit flabbergasted by the state of my personal affairs and in one of those situations where I was suddenly without expectations, plans or direction. I'd always been fascinated by cultural history, mythology, language and oral traditions, so the place intrigued me."
In the midst of writing a book, and unsure of what to do next, the island seemed like as good a place as any to regroup.
"Rather than researching the place, I just hopped a train, then a ferry and ended up renting a flat for a month though the website couchsurfing.org, something I'd never done previously."
"You can never travel very far from yourself. I'd been on the road for five years and had convinced myself that I was ready to settle down. But on the island I realigned with my true self and realized that there was nothing wrong with who I was. The month on the shores of the Baltic rekindled my passions. I was literally like a kid running around in knee deep snow."
Eight months later Lindsey is back in the States, currently residing in Montana with two horses and three dogs. What's next for Lindsey? "They say Gotland is nice in summer…"
"How far would you go for love?"
We've all done things for love that we might not otherwise. Maybe you have endured one too many Christmas vacations with your spouse's dysfunctional family. Or perhaps you spent your last holiday traipsing through European cathedrals when it was really a week in a beachfront hammock you were craving.
In 1898, when his girlfriend's stepfather asked what he had done to prove himself worthy of marriage, a 24-year old Ewart Grogan responded by walking from Cape Town to Cairo. Along the way the intrepid Grogan battled tropical disease, starvation, charging elephants, and hungry cannibals.
It worked. After two years in the bush, Grogan returned home, got the girl AND a heathly dose of fame and fortune for his efforts.
After making his wife-to-be, Laura, wait far too long, 35-year-old Julian Smith asked her to marry him. She said yes. "I was thrilled but terrified - after a lifetime of solo adventures, the idea of a lifelong commitment kept me up at night, says Julian."
So, inspired by Grogan's story, and its happy ending, he decided to retrace the British explorer's route to see if some of his wisdom, courage and mojo would rub off on him. And it did.
"I had to travel halfway around the world to realize it - and maybe to get one last epic journey under my belt - but I came home ready and eager to tie the knot, which we did in the mountains of Utah a month after I got back, and 107 years and 9 days after Grogan and Gertrude had."
After his adventures, Grogan and his bride moved to Kenya and stayed married until Gertrude died in 1943. He lived to be 92.
As for Julian and Laura, "We’ve been through a few more milestones since: we moved to Portland, bought a house, watched the economy collapse, and 20 months ago welcomed our daughter Ivy into the world," says Julian.
"We’re different people than we were when I left for Africa, or when I got back. It’s not just us now, and it won’t be for a long time. The days of taking off for months alone on the trail of an obsession are gone," he adds.
When asked how life has changed since the grand adventure, Julian says, "Our connection is still as strong as ever, even at two in the morning with a screaming teething toddler. I look at Ivy and Laura playing in the sun and I know that everything is exactly as it should be. New opportunities have replaced old ones, and the list is even longer now."
"I'm trying to keep Grogan's advice in mind," says Julian. "When asked near the end of his life for the secret of his longevity, he said, “to smoke very heavily, drink and eat very little and not take anything in life too seriously." At least the last part is good advice."
Read more about Julian's adventures in his upcoming book "Crossing the Heart of Africa" (out Dec 7 from Harper Perennial).
"I used to be afraid to travel alone. Not any more."
It was the summer of 2004 and Anne Hipp needed a vacation. She loved being a mother and wife, but she was ready to get away, to give something to herself for a change.
"On a whim, I asked a travel agent to recommend a trip that I would feel comfortable going on alone. She suggested a CMH Heli-Hiking adventure. It sounded awesome, but I wasn’t totally convinced I'd be comfortable on my own, so I asked a girlfriend to join me."
Anne had such a good time that summer that she immediately signed up to go back the next year. But this time her friend wasn't able to go.
"I was so nervous," Anne recalls. "I'd never been anywhere by myself."
The warm welcome she received from the hiking guides, lodge staff and other guests provided the perfect incubator for Anne's growing confidence. Once fearful of flying to the point where she'd nearly asked a pilot to turn the plane around, the Atlanta, Georgia, mother and wife hardly recognized herself.
"I went mountaineering, scaled glacial flows with an ice pick, and literally pushed myself to my limits. It was like an Outward Bound experience."
Anne returned alone for three more summers until she'd regaled her friends and family with such enticing tales and photographs that they too got caught up in the whirlwind of her enthusiasm and decided to join the fun.
"I ended up bringing ten people, including my husband and daughter to the Bobbie Burns Lodge. We did the zip-line, the via ferrata, the ropes course, the mountaineering, you name it. It was the highlight of my year. My husband was hesitant to go due to some physical limitations, but he loved it too."
Like the increasing numbers of travelers catching the adventure travel bug, Anne discovered that the heli-hiking vacations were more than an escape from the responsibilities and roles at home.
"Doing these trips has boosted my confidence in ways I could never have anticipated, says Anne. "Now, I feel like I could do anything by myself and I can't wait to do more."
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