I’m the kind of person that gets really excited about birthdays. In high school I would always make and bring cake for people’s birthdays. I love planning surprises and spending time celebrating people I love.
That being said, anyone who knows me knows that I typically dread my own birthday. I’ve had a bit of a track record of less than noteworthy birthdays, myself, so I tend to try my best to let the day slip by.
My second favorite birthday day was the year I turned 15. I was living outside of Sydney, Australia at the time, and my family took a weeklong vacation up north to Cairns, Queensland.
Now during this point in my life, the word “adventure” was synonymous with words like “unsafe” and “death” and “nothanksbye”.
It was around my 15th birthday that I decided to challenge this belief. And I did so by hanging upside down in the canopy of the world’s oldest rainforest.
I imagine my mom was hesitant when she told me we’d be going ziplining that day. I don’t remember how the final decision was made, but I don’t think I truely understood what zip lining was, or I probably would’ve shut that idea down from point A.
The morning of my 15th birthday, my mom, younger brother, and myself loaded into the rental car and took off, deep into the Daintree Rainforest.
Now we all know I have a love/hate relationship with long car rides. This one in particular is one for the books. It was dark. It was hot. It was rainy. It was twisty turny madness.
After about two hours we arrived to what looked like a small picnic shelter situated on a dirt parking lot. Mom got us all registered and we were helped into our gear.
I dont know if you’ve ever ziplined or worn a climbing harness, but as an awkward-bodied 15 year old girl I was less than pleased to wear this wedgie machine. But, I slathered on my “good sport” smile and curiously waited while an instructor snapped my helmet under my chin. It was then that I noticed all the helmets had character names written on the front. I felt like a real cool kid joining the line of riders with the name, DARTH VADER, sprawled across my head.
It was around this time that I realized exactly what was going down. Referencing back to my non-adventure-seeking youth, I probably don’t have to tell you that I was not the first person to get clipped onto the line. In fact, if memory serves me right, I was either the last or second to last to go. You better believe that I made my mom and younger brother go ahead of me. My logic: If they died, I would not go ziplining.
Well they did not die. And it was my turn. I remember trying to play it cool as the tall, dark, muscular Australian guy clipped me onto the line. But I also remember totally failing as my legs and voice were shaky. All I could muster was awkward, nervous laughter.
“Just sit down” I remember him saying. So I ungracefully shifted my weight to my butt until my feet left the security of the launching platform.
All I remember is the refreshing breeze as I raced through the trees, and the nervous twitching in my knees. My mom smiled a proud-type smile. “Was that fun?” She asked. I smiled back and nodded my head, still shaking from a mixture of nerves and adrenaline.
Soon after, it was time for the next line. This time I was a pro. I didn’t even have to be told to just sit. I just sat. Like a boss. A ziplining boss.
After the second or third line, the nerves disappeared and I found that I was comfortable flying through the trees. I began looking around me and I rode down the lines, in quiet hope I might see a koala or something cool in the trees around me. I even started doing some crazy stunts, like not holding on for dear life.
Line after line we went, soaring through the jungle, my confidence building with each leg of the tour.
“This next one is pretty low to the ground.” Our tour guide explained. “You can go upside down if you want.”
At first my brain was like “WUT NOPE” as I was hooked onto the line. Our guide started explaining how to get in position to ride upside down, and the dormant, adventurous part of my brain awoke and took over. I just kinda did it without thinking. There I was, literally dangling from a zipline in the middle of a rainforest. And I felt something that I was fairly unacquainted with.
I was impowered.
“YEAH, I AM UPSIDE DOWN ATTACHED TO A ZIPLINE IN A RAINFOREST IN AUSTRALIA”
“YEAH, THIS IS PROBABLY THE COOLEST THING”
I remember stepping back onto the ground, taking my harness off, and feeling a mixture of ultra-badassery and serious pride in myself.
This was the first time the thrill-seeker within me took the reins. This was the first time I realized that living life in a shell of safety and security was less than fulfilling. This was the first time I began to measure my life, not in comfort, but in adventure.