The road that stretches before our feet is a challenge to the heart long before it tests the strength of our legs.
— St Thomas Aquinas
In a few weeks, Augustana will greet our incoming first-year students. At the opening convocation, I will recommend that these newly minted Augie students commit to doing a few things during their time at Augustana that take them outside of their comfort zones — perhaps joining the rowing crew, starting a new club, picking a difficult double major or studying in a developing country.
Most students follow this advice and find it well worth their while to move beyond the known and comfortable. They find to their delight that they can do things they thought were impossible. When students get outside their comfort zones, they discover that doing so is less a test of their intellect than of their courage. They find that when they have the resolve to do something, it can usually be done.
I have found it is sometimes easier for younger people to get outside of their comfort zones. Sometimes the older we get, the more cautious and conservative we become.
One of the great things about a wilderness raft expedition is that it provides many opportunities to get outside of your comfort zone. Where that mountain seems unclimbable or that slot canyon looks impassable, there are great opportunities to push yourself.
On the South Nahanni, a swift wilderness river, Jane and I expected to sit safely in a raft throughout the trip. But we found we had the option of canoeing a section of the river in an inflatable canoe. I was opposed to the idea. After all, it had been years since I’d canoed on a river, and even then, it was on a slow-moving one in Iowa. But Jane persuaded me to get outside of my comfort zone. After a quick lesson, Jane and I paddled away in the canoe. What a wonderful experience! Being so close to the river and being totally focused on the river allows you to connect with the powerful river in a special way. Although maneuvering the canoe was not particularly difficult, it was exhilarating.
So we canoed a stretch of this swift river. We climbed a thousand feet up a rocky cliff to a precarious lookout that made me more than a little nervous. We swam through frigid pools in the Chasm of Chills, a granite slot canyon. All these adventures reminded me that a journey, particularly one outside of one’s comfort zone, is a test of the heart before it’s a test of the legs.
(See also Jane Bahls’ Arctic Adventures blog).
Posted on August 2nd, 2012 by stevebahls
Filed under: Canada