Feel your fear

[words by Narina Exelby / photograph © Mark Edward Harris, The WideAngle]

Fear. I’ve come across that word a lot lately. Conquer it, they say; own it; face it. Perhaps it’s this time of year: people are assessing their lives, making plans, setting goals. Or maybe they’re not. Whatever the reason and degree, that word keeps on popping into my timeline on Twitter, and into the blogs I’m reading. And it’s gotten me thinking: how dull would our lives be if we feared nothing. Because fear, I’m convinced, is what fuels adventure.

When is the last time you did something you were afraid of? And when did you last feel – honestly, truly feel – that you are alive? There’s some correlation, right? Right.

To the observer, fear comes in different sizes, but what matters to the individual is that you feel it – and how you deal with it. Whether it’s leaping off the highest diving board, handing in your resignation so you can take that trip of a lifetime, dining alone in a restaurant, sleeping in a tent, addressing a crowd, walking in the bush, free falling from a plane, swimming with sharks, surfing a big wave, running a marathon, or crossing a continent alone, facing that fear is ultimately what will enable you to sit back on your porch, light up something good and say, “I have lived.”

So if you, like me, are taking stock of where you are right now, where you want to be, I dare you to watch these videos, read these stories and not be inspired. If they don’t challenge you in some way, I can almost guarantee that at some point they’ll have you catching your breath. So go on – press play, take a read. What are you scared of?

1/ Get nervous when you’re under water or in small spaces? Yeah, me too, sometimes. Raising the Dead, written by Tim Zimmerman, is a story about a cave, and about a diver; it’s a phenomenal piece of writing, and an incredible tale (one that haunts me still, six years after first reading it): At the bottom of the biggest underwater cave in the world, diving deeper than almost anyone had ever gone, Dave Shaw found the body of a young man who had disappeared 10 years earlier. What happened after Shaw promised to go back is nearly unbelievable – unless you believe in ghosts. Read the feature, published in Outside Magazine, here.

2/ Are you scared of heights? The 140-metre concrete wall of the Gordon Dam in Tasmania’s wild Southwest National Park is the site of the world’s highest commercial abseil. To put it in perspective, the experience is like climbing out of a window halfway up the Empire State Building. The scale of this immense concrete cliff is so huge that bystanders watching from the observation point struggle not to lose sight of abseilers. Could you ease yourself over the edge, with a rope attached to your harness? Here’s what it feels like…

3/ You must have seen that photograph of a kayaker being followed very closely – too closely – by a great white shark. It was shot by Thomas P Peshak, a trained marine biologist who specialised in, among other things, shark conservation (he’s now an environmental photojournalist). Soon after the image was published, there was a frenzy of “but is it real?” emails and discussions. The answer: it’s very real. See the pic and read how Thomas captured the image here (and be sure to take a look at his gallery, at other pics he’s taken underwater while swimming among sharks).

4/ What makes your heart beat a little faster – the thought of base jumping, tight-rope walking or bungee jumping? Now, combine all three… That’s what a bunch of crazy Frenchman did in the Skyliners project. Walk a tightrope across a canyon? Simple. Get into lotus pose on a rope stretched between two skyscrapers? No sweat. Do a headstand on the very edge of a sheer cliff? Yawn. Watch the trailer to their movie I Believe I Can Fly (Flight of the Frenchies). Insane stuff: 

5/ Inspired to head out on your own adventure? These, according to National Geographic, are the best adventure destinations for 2012. Any on your bucket list?

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