Sadly, I have never been one of those people, earning what I call the “Worst Coloradan Ever” award.
I’m what some would call an indoor cat — preferring a hot tub to the slopes, a hotel to a tent, and a great new restaurant to anything cooked over a camping stove.
I don’t hate the outdoors – not by any stretch. I’ve just never experienced the wonder of Colorado nature in a way that made me understand people’s passion for it. Or at least I hadn’t until recently.
Two weeks ago, I went to Colorado for my best friend Kelsey’s bachelorette party. It was my favorite kind of weekend – good food, great wine, my best friends. But there was one particularly irksome activity penciled into the otherwise perfectly restful itinerary.
We were going tubing down a creek in Vail.
For most people, this would sound like no big deal. Most of the girls even seemed excited. But not me. It wasn’t in my normal repertoire of activities which made me think that: a. I was going to embarrass or hurt myself or b. I was going to really hate it.
Either way, I would have rather stayed home.
Unfortunately the weekend wasn’t about me, and I wasn’t about to tell our beautiful bride-to-be that I didn’t want to tube. So I took a deep breath, slipped on my suit, and grinned the whole stinkin’ way down to the creek.
Standing at the water’s edge, I gingerly dipped in a toe, trying to gauge what I was getting myself into and just as quickly yanked it back out. The water was freezing. I couldn’t believe we were actually going to put our bodies in it. I couldn’t believe people thought this was fun.
But ever the team player, I saddled up a double tube with my best friend Michelle and off we went, the current carrying us through a slightly dialed up version of a water park’s Lazy River ride.
I was doing fine until I saw the first rock.
We were heading straight towards it and there didn’t seem to be a way around. The water level was too low, and the creek was a minefield of them. Sometimes we managed to avoid the rocks, sometimes our tailbones gave them a solid high five, and sometimes our tubes got lodged up on top of them, forcing us to wiggle and scoot until we could finally break free.
When we first got in the water, I have to admit I was scared. But then it started to feel like an adventure. “Butts up!!” we’d yell to the tubers behind us, all of us reaching our hips towards the sky to avoid the butt/rock high five. Other times the current would take us straight into a fallen tree branch, hanging over the water off the shore. We’d have to make ourselves as flat as possible, shielding our faces and closing our eyes, trying to limbo our way underneath it.
Tubing was everything I was afraid it was going to be, but despite myself, I was having a blast.
I liked being on this adventure. It required something of me, quick reflexes, balance, some amateur navigation skills. It was so different from my everyday life which was, to my amazement, a good thing!
Between the rocky patches were long stretches of deep water. We got to float, the current slowly turning us around, giving us a 360 degree view of the mountains that nestled us close. I had forgotten how beautiful Colorado is. Or maybe I had never noticed in the first place.
And while we floated on these long stretches, Michelle and I got to catch up. With our cell phones safely in the car, and surrounded by nature, we got to have conversations that unwound slowly in a way that phone calls and text messages never seem to permit. We talked about deep things and silly things, interrupted every few minutes by a whoop of laughter from someone in our group, or a loud, “Butts up!”
In a quiet moment in the conversation, I surveyed my friends, in various positions on their tubes, talking, laughing, trying to wiggle themselves off of the rock they were stuck on, and genuinely having a fantastic time.
My heart was warm and my cheeks couldn’t stop smiling.
I took in the sights and the smells in a way I hadn’t in so long, breathing deeply and allowing the warmth of our friendship, and the peacefulness of the water, and the zing of adventure to re-light a place in my heart I had completely forgotten about.
I felt alive and whole and happy beyond words. Maybe this is why people like the outdoors, I considered with sudden clarity.
Those few hours we spent on the creek will go down in the history of our friendship as one of the most fun things we’ve ever done together.
It was unexpected, and out of my comfort zone completely, but I think that’s why I loved it so much.
Because that’s what I think we need, you and I, as we grow up and become real life adults. We need more adventure in our lives.
We need more situations where we’re not quite comfortable, and not quite in control. We need a change of scenery to shock us awake to the reality of the beauty all around us. Adventure re-lights our souls in a way nothing else can. It helps us move beyond our comfort zones and let life flood in.
Have you ever done something you unexpectedly loved? What might be hiding just beyond your comfort zone?