Adventure Stories

On Taking Risks, Travel and Feeling Alive

Written by Wendy Altschuler

I’m a big advocate for finding ways to feel alive—really alive. Exposing yourself to new situations that make you uncomfortable, get your blood pumping or light your brain on fire are effective ways to defibrillate your life.

I relish perseverance feats of strength like half marathon training, for example, just to see if I can actually do it…once, twice and now three times. Running requires me to build up my endurance slowly over several months. I tenaciously train in order to pull the full 13.1 miles off, and actually enjoy the race. Experiencing the roller coaster of emotions and positive and negative self-talk, hitting milestones and goals, and then crossing the finishing line is something I know I’ll be proud of when I’m old and no longer able to push my body in the same way.

Chicago Half Marathon, Credit: Wendy Altschuler

In the past, I’ve tried extreme sports like roller derby, urban rappelling, rock climbing and sky diving as well as more “tame” ones like trapeze, skiing, snow fat bike riding and white water rafting. All of these thrill rides reminded me of just how alive I really am. Shrieking in fear, throwing your head back in laughter, gasping for air, challenging your flight or fight response—all of these reactions are good for the soul, for life.

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” – Mohammed

I feel alive and happy when I travel. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to learn about how other people live and love, struggle and succeed. Filling up my senses with the sights, sounds and smells of a new country gives me a charge like no other.

Things you see in Bali, Credit: Wendy Altschuler

This past September, I visited Bali, Indonesia for a women-only surfing, spa and yoga retreat with Goddess Retreats. I had the insanely lucky opportunity to go surfing every morning, practice yoga every night, and bond with other solo female travelers from around the globe. Midway through the adventure I went on a lengthy biking “bliss day” excursion—Eat, Pray, Love style—winding through small villages, dodging roosters and chickens, and cruising around fields of rice paddies. I got to meet local families, visit ancient temples and watch my guide make offerings of incense, palm fronds and flowers along the way to appease the Balinese gods.

Every village was preparing for the Galungan celebration, the battle of good vs. evil and when the ancestral spirits visit the earth. Credit: Wendy Altschuler

Biking around Bali with new global friends. Credit: Wendy Altschuler

Goddess Retreats, Credit: Wendy Altschuler

Lunch, thoughtfully prepared, at Goddess Retreats. Credit: Wendy Altschuler

Before leaving for Indonesia, I was anxious. I was setting out on an epic solo adventure around the world—literally. I traveled 16 hours from Chicago to my extended layover in Hong Kong; then five hours to Bali. (My return trip would give me the chance to see Dubai for the first time.) The rewards outweighed the risk—in spades.

If I didn’t take the chance, didn’t make space in my life for adventure, I would never have met the amazing female travelers I spent a week with at Goddess Retreats, or learned how to surf or have been able to meet Ingela, a steward for yoga and meditation with Under the Banyan Tree. I would have never met Gursia, the happy fellow (who couldn’t believe how spicy Trident gum was when I handed him a piece) with Bali Res Centre that drove me around Indonesia for an entire day, post retreat, so that I could explore the country further.

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest, Credit: Wendy Altschuler

We should do things that scare us, whatever that hope may be, and ignore that naysayer voice (or person in your life) that says, “this dream is not for you.” We should learn a new skill (try surfing!). We should travel, because it helps us live in the present moment and have a balanced life—it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important when we’re stuck in our own bubble. We should let ourselves be vulnerable and exposed, giving way to new ways of thinking and growing. If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen, no matter how long it takes or how hard it seems.

After all, don’t we all deserve to feel alive, really alive?

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

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About the author

Wendy Altschuler

Wendy Altschuler is a seasoned writer, editor and adventurer with over a decade's worth of publishing credits. She writes regularly for several publications (web and print), churning out indelible lifestyle, travel, dining, spa and parenting articles on the regular. Wendy spent over four years as a contributing writer and special correspondent for Sun-Times Media and while there she developed and wrote her own parenting column: Wendy City Mom. Wendy's stories have been published in: MSN, Tribune Brand Publishing, Modern Luxury, Make it Better, Red Tricycle, The Daily Meal, Spafinder, Chicago Parent, Blood and Thunder, Five on Five, Yoga Magazine, Yoga Chicago, Chicago Now, The Listen to Your Mother Show, The Association of Writers and Writer's Programs, Eluxe Magazine and more. Fun facts: Wendy was born and raised in Montana; while earning her undergrad in Chicago, she studied abroad in India; formerly, Wendy wrote itineraries and travel tips for a luxury, boutique travel company; and Wendy, A.K.A. Drew Grit, was an athlete and writer/editor for the Windy City Rollers. She's always looking for an adventure — hello skydiving, trapeze, road trips, urban rappelling and parenthood — and she seeks out stories to write home about.
Follow Wendy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @wendyaltschuler or visit her website: www.wendyaltschuler.com

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