This Mother’s Day weekend, my husband and my friend Kelly’s husband decided to send us for a three-day weekend getaway to Travaasa, a resort and spa located near Austin, Texas. We had lived in Denver for six years before we relocated back to the Los Angeles area three years ago. I loved living in Denver, but what I missed most about Denver was Kelly. She and I had been talking about taking a weekend reunion trip together for almost a year. I couldn’t believe we were actually getting away together. I’ve never been one to make hoards of friends, but the close friends I do make are spectacular. She is one of these people, and I couldn’t wait to spend some fun girl time together away from home and all of the responsibilities that come with it.
Travaasa was simply beautiful and luxurious. There were several options for what to do as a guest:
- You could spend all day in the most comfortable bed you had ever snuggled into. Seriously, I want their secrets.
- You could eat all day. The Resort had one restaurant that served all meals and provided food service at the pool. It was in a lovely lodge-like building, and throughout the day, you would often see the people you had met, providing a family-like atmosphere. Fire blazing, the food was amazing. I texted my husband, “Be prepared, I am coming home fat.” He replied, “Enjoy!” I needed no further encouragement there.
- You could sit by the beautiful infinity pool and hot tub overlooking endless rolling hills of Texas trees without another building in sight, feeling like you were in the middle of nowhere while simultaneously eating if you so chose. Kelly and I did a fair amount of this. It was so beautiful.
- You could indulge in spa services I could not have dreamt up if I tried. I partook in many spa services and was buffed, massaged, and polished to perfection over the three days.
- You could engage throughout the day in the endless activities provided by the Resort. Some were creative and more were athletic. Kelly is much more athletic than I am and had usually participated in Boot Camp and Yoga before I even awoke at 7:30 a.m., happy in my luxurious bed. They also offered Equine Therapy, which was fascinating. You could learn about yourself through bonding and communicating with a horse. A horse has little memory and never considers the future. Horses exist almost exclusively in the present. They are completely authentic and can gauge your comfort level and personal authenticity and trust you accordingly. An insightful, soulful, sexy cowboy with whom I had a fascinating conversation regarding authenticity and our society’s current struggle to recapture it runs the program. Who would have guessed?
The Challenge Course
On the last day of our visit, Kelly suggested that we try the Challenge Course and I agreed to do so, not really knowing what it was so long as I would not have to run anywhere, and she reassured me that I would not. She had been to Travaasa before and tried it on her own. We joined a group of four other people and walked down to the Challenge Course. What I discovered there was a bit of a shock.
The Challenge Course consisted of four pairs of incredibly high telephone poles standing about twenty-five feet apart, forming a long stretch. Wooden platforms measuring about four feet by eight feet connected each pair of poles. Between the first two platforms were two rows of wooden square planks measuring about a foot in diameter and connected by metal wire. The second and third platforms were connected by two long round logs. Simple high wires were stretched between the third and fourth platforms. Wire running above each of the three challenges made it clear to me that I would be connected to a harness as I traversed each course. The Challenge Course was thirty-five feet in the air, and the harness would be secured around my waist and connected to the wire running above the course in case I FELL OFF. I was also given a small blue helmet, which I assumed would crack like an egg when I hit the ground. Reaching the first platform would require climbing two stories of netting.
I am not fond of heights any more than the average person, nor am I fond of the idea of death, which was running through my mind as a plausible outcome, but I tried to stay calm. The instructors explained that we would we would all have the benefit of watching the people before us to get an idea of what worked and what didn’t before actually attempting the course. In other words, if someone fell off, don’t do what he or she had done unless you want to fall off the crazy thing yourself. We were promised that if we were to fall, we would only fall a few feet and then be able to climb back up. The possibility of dangling in mid air from the wire terrified me. The seemingly small harness around our waists would keep us from plummeting to our deaths.
Leap Of Faith
Everyone was standing around, giggling and tittering about his or her nerves and fear. Trepidation was rampant. Suddenly, the idea flashed through my mind that I didn’t want to watch as the others made it across the course to determine the safest or easiest way to cross, and before that thought had even wrapped up in my mind, I stepped forward and volunteered to go first like the true maniac that I am. I wanted to do this course unaffected by anyone else, simply as myself. Despite the fact that I had perhaps lost my mind, everyone cheered as I stepped toward the net.
The instructor was already on the platform when I made my first mistake. I completely misjudged the depth of the net and fell face first into it, hitting the ground hard. It hurt, but I got back up, found the back of the deep net and started climbing for the sky without looking back or down. When I reached the platform, I crawled onto it like a life raft and waited for Kelly and Joe to follow. We were divided into two groups. Kelly, a guy named Joe and I were paired with one instructor and another married couple were paired with the other.
Once the three of us were all on the first platform, our instructor Lucy explained that I was to step from one wooden square to the next until I reached the second platform. I stood there for a minute. All three of us were terrified, standing thirty-five feet above the ground. Thirty-five feet is about the equivalent of a two-story building, and I can assure you that it seems extremely high when standing on a small platform in the sky. I thought for a moment, “Am I going to stand here feeling the pain of fear, or am I just going to go for it?” My harness was secured to the wire running above me. I took a moment to trust that these people knew what they were doing and then simply lunged a little too aggressively onto the first square. I could hear Kelly and Joe’s exclamations from behind me as I waved around on that thing like a flag in the wind. I had not anticipated that because the squares were connected by wire, as I stepped onto the first, all of them would roll like a wave in response. I held onto my harness, waving around wildly and thought, “Jesus, the wire is going to snap, and I am going to fall to my death. This is it, for sure.” Somehow, I managed to keep my feet on the square, so I never actually fell, thank God. When I regained my balance and pulled myself back upright, I continued. Those squares moved, jiggled and bounced as I stepped from one to the next. I pulled on my harness too hard, which I quickly learned made it difficult to move it across the wire. You know what they say about holding on too tight…. “You get stuck.”
Somehow, I made it to the other side. The others did learn from my mistakes and were more delicate when stepping onto the first block, so as to not upset the course, causing them to cross it like a wild woman as I had done, but I was a pioneer that day and was satisfied with my accomplishment.
The second course was a log that ran on an angle from the middle of the second platform to the outside of the third platform. The wire above did not run on an angle along with the log but ran straight so you could not rely on it as much for balance. I pictured myself as a tightrope walker as I crossed that beam delicately one step at a time, focusing on one spot ahead of me, a trick I had learned in all of my years of dance for balance.
After all three of us had made it across, we looked back and noticed that Paul, the husband in the husband and wife team, was still struggling with his fear, trying to climb up the net. Although his wife Alison was cheering him on from above, we wondered if he was going to make it that day.
Joe’s wife was down on the ground, graciously taking pictures of everyone including her husband. I suspected she might be early in a pregnancy. It occurred to me that both Joe in our group and Paul in the second group were the most fearful. Kelly always followed me, and then Joe would follow the two of us with trepidation, stepping onto the course tentatively and shaking. When he would reach the other side, his handsome face would light up with such pride and relief. It was sweet. I had expected that the men would be all gung ho about something like a challenge course and the women more afraid, but at least in our group, it was the opposite. I wanted to ask Lucy if this was typical, as I found it so interesting but couldn’t risk anyone overhearing or compromising Joe’s big beautiful smile of accomplishment and relief.
Tight Rope Walker
The last course was the most intimidating, as it was simply a high wire. Lucy gave us a couple of options. We could either cross it with our feet straight (which was the most challenging option), walk sideways (making it a little easier) or walk straddling the wires (as there were two running perpendicular to each other). I watched for a moment and then decided to try it the hardest way. I wanted to cross that wire imagining myself a graceful ballerina/tight rope walker in the sky, feet straight on the wire. If I fell, oh well. I would survive. I hoped. Again, I chose a spot to focus upon and started one foot in front of the other. About half way across, my legs started to shake, hard. Lucy called out that my muscles weren’t accustomed to the activity but to keep going. When I reached the other side, I felt fantastic. Exhausted but fantastic.
Paul did finally make it up the net and across the course. We all made it across, and no one fell. We all cheered each other to victory.
Through the Air to the End
The final portion of the course was a 100-yard zip line. This portion was designed for two at a time. Kelly and I were the first to go. Sitting on that platform, ready to jump off really did scare me, and I said something to the effect of, “Now, I am the most scared I’ve been because I actually have to jump clear off this mother-fucking thing.” I was immediately embarrassed because I am this little dainty, feminine thing and then sometimes I open my mouth and…. But everyone laughed. They must have each been thinking the exact same thing. Then, I jumped, and as I flew through the air, I thought for sure I was going to smack straight into the pole at the other end. That was all I was thinking. That, and that the harness was really strangling my ass; however, it was still fun.
Going first was the perfect, adventurous, authentic way for me to tackle the Challenge Course.
I learned something in each of the three activities in which I participated at Travaasa: the Challenge Course, the Equine Therapy and Vision Boarding. In both of the group activities, I volunteered to go first, unafraid to make a mistake, not needing to follow a leader. This is a new development for me. I am doing things on my own terms in my own way, not needing to follow others. It is extremely liberating.
The Vision Boarding — which Kelly stopped exercising long enough to accompany me to — I loved. I was the sole student in the class that day. I had a section on my board for travel on the left, career down the middle and home on the right. I was completely engrossed in cutting and pasting from the magazines, as Kelly sat next to me reading them while I worked. (Not her thing.) When I finished, I looked at the instructor, and he gave me a perplexed look as he surveyed my board and then tilted his head to the side and stated rather blankly, “There are no pictures. You are the first person I have ever worked with who exclusively used words with no pictures on their vision board.”
I looked down at all of the words, my amazing vision board of language. He was right. It simply had not occurred to me to use pictures. It was AmyKate’s authentic expression, and I was only guest at Travaasa to ever exclusively use language as a visual. I am sure there is meaning to be found.
In all three activities, rather than look to others to decide how to proceed, I looked within to decide what was best for me. Do you do look within, or do you follow others? I have been more accustomed to looking to others in my life for the “right answers,” but I realize now that those answers were only “right” for those people. I also learned even if I don’t know what the hell I am doing to remain calm and confident, and the answer will present itself to me. Answers reliably came from within while engaged in each activity, however different they were. I believe this will translate to my life. Upon return from Travaasa, I planned to continue this newfound independent confidence when tackling everyday activities. I am excited to gauge the results. Sometimes, I will fall face first into the net and hit the ground, and that is okay too.
On the way home from the Challenge Course, Kelly told me that it had been easier the second time. Everything is easier the second time. She wanted to go check the activity board. I told her I was going back to the room to rest. I had a facial at two. Exhausting…
The Proof on YouTube: