By Cassi Greenlee
By no means am I an adrenaline junkie. I don’t delight in jumping out of airplanes or strapping myself to a bungee cord and leaping off bridges. So for me, canyoning was something I would have never imagined myself doing. (That’s why I had a friend take pictures; I needed physical proof to remind myself later that the experience was real.)
Canyoning is traveling through canyons by walking, jumping, swimming and abseiling. A few friends casually suggested signing up for of a day of canyoning and I was interested. I wanted to try something new that I could never do at home in Missouri. A couple days later, it was 11 on a Thursday night, and my friend gave me a call. He told me he needed to know if I truly wanted to participate, because if so, he needed my wetsuit size because the group was leaving in the morning at 7 a.m. After a moment of hesitation, I agreed to go.
The next day, seven other friends and I met our French canyoning guide to leave for our trip across the border to Italy. We crammed into a van and were on our way, watching the mountains pass by through our half-open, sleep-deprived eyes. After an hour, we arrived in a small village in Italy.
We piled out of the van and immediately started assembling our gear. Wetsuits tied around our backs, lunches packed in dry bags and money stowed away, we began our ascent up the mountain. The view was incredible: the river flowing beneath us, the rocky mountainside surrounding us, the sun beating our faces. I will not, however, pretend that the scenery wasn’t slightly overshadowed by my laborious breathing and red face as I panted up the mountain.
The workout was over (or so I thought) and it was time to put on our full wetsuits, helmets and climbing hardware and jump in to the flowing river of fresh spring water. As refreshing as the water sounded, I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the “jumping” part at first, but I knew what I had signed up for, or so I thought.
The next five hours were filled with jumping off cliffs with the encouraging chants of friends below, sliding down narrow gorges, rappelling down canyons next to waterfalls and swimming surrounded by growing moss and massive boulders. The entire time we had to pinch ourselves to remind us that it was real.
It was hard, at first, to travel so far outside my comfort zone, but the experience was undeniably worth it. After all, what is study abroad besides a chance to discover yourself, your likes, your wants and your limits?
A few days later, my friend’s teacher summed up the experience in a very different manner, “So, you mean to say, you a met a man you didn’t know, got into his van, let him drive you an hour to a remote location in a foreign country, and jump off cliffs when he said jump?”
I guess that means I am an adventurer now.