Two years ago this past July, Loren and I went to Thailand and Cambodia for our honeymoon. We couldn’t wait to get out of town after our much-anticipated wedding day, but most importantly, we couldn’t wait to climb in another country! We did some climbing at Crazy Horse just outside of Chiang Mai, but the last week of the trip included climbing nearly every day in Railay on the giant limestone towers that cordon off the entire peninsula, rendering it completely isolated from the rest of the country. There’s no motorized transportation, just foot traffic. The “island” (as the locals call it) is entirely walkable. Every morning, I’d make breakfast while Loren walked down to the coffee shop for Thai iced coffees. We’d finish our breakfast and head to the rock.
As you might have already noticed, this is a new kind of post I’m sharing with you today — a “flashback” about something from the past that happened before I started blogging. This particular story involves learning some life lessons while experiencing something extraordinarily scary. It’s also an excuse to share photos of beautiful summer days in Thailand to facilitate some happy daydreaming on this cloudy day. I have a few ideas for this type of post floating around in my mind, so stay tuned for more Flashbacks as I further develop the idea. I hope you enjoy these occasional blasts from the past!
Deep Water Soloing in Railay
One of those wonderful, sunny mornings, we boarded a small boat with a group of climbers in search of an incredible adventure. Headed out to the ocean where huge rocks jut straight up out of the water, we planned to swim over, climb up, and jump off. This type of climbing — deep water soloing — involves climbing as high as you can and then jumping into the water (or falling if you are brave enough to push yourself to your max). For those of you non-climbers reading this, “soloing” means climbing without a rope.
I was scared.
There’s no rope, and since you’re wet from swimming to the rock itself, no chalk. We were also in borrowed climbing shoes. Sheesh!
Some of my favorite memories in the world are of jumping off of rocks and bouldering back up in Pace Bend Park just outside of Austin, TX when I was in college, but this was an entirely different beast. These rocks were completely vertical (some overhanging) and much, much higher. I had to psyche myself up just to get out of the boat! One woman in our crew was completely unable to pull herself up the rope ladder in order to climb the rock at all, just to give you an idea of what we were getting into.
Lucky for me, I have a husband who’s part human, part lizard (that’s him up there!), so after a bit of deliberation, I just sucked it up and followed him up the ladder and onto the rock.
Life Lesson#1: Fear can cloud your judgement and cause you to think less of yourself or your ability. Sometimes it helps to have someone around whom you trust to help push you out of your comfort zone.
Just believing that my brand new husband wouldn’t encourage me to do something he didn’t think I could do was enough to get me out of the boat and up the ladder. I’d been preparing for the climbing portion of our honeymoon for 6 months at that point. That had to count for something! I was still a beginner, but not a bad climber. I just needed to try. That was it. I did it, and it was awesome!
I drew the line on height before my climbing ability was exhausted, however. See that guy at the very top? He got up there at the beginning of the day and literally refused to jump the whole time. He ended up down climbing a bit and jumping from a lower point — a much more dangerous choice than just jumping. I didn’t want to end up in his shoes, or worse, slip and hurt myself on our honeymoon.
Life Lesson #2: Make a new experience your own and take everything there is to take from it.
The way I worded that sounds selfish, but that’s really not where I’m going. How I maximized my experience on this amazing trip was defined by me, and I took from that everything I could. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t climb as hard as some other folks on the trip, because I did what I could and I had so much fun doing it. It doesn’t matter that I couldn’t do everything that Loren did; in fact, I’ll never be the climber he is, and that’s fine. It’s not about comparing myself to others or feeling less than because of a difference in skill or fear factor. I literally didn’t stop being scared the whole time I was on the rock, and it was still one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done in my life. It was a once in a lifetime adventure that I’ll never forget, because it pushed me outside my comfort zone and forced me to face fear. I showed myself what I could do with wet hands and shoes on a wet rock 30 feet above crashing waves in the Andaman Sea. I’ll take it!
At the end of the day, our honeymoon trip will go down as one of the most fantastic travel experiences of my life. We visited ancient temples, rode elephants and bathed them in the river, climbed world class rock, had this amazing soloing adventure off the coast of Railay, watched an MMA fight and fire throwers, and most importantly, we got $6 massages and drank coconut shakes almost every single day of the 21 day trip.