A Jump Off A Cliff – It’s More Than Just for Fun! It’s about building connections. I promise.

In last week’s blog post, I talked about the chemicals of connection – those crazy hormones that make us feel good like …

  • Dopamine – a pleasure chemical that produces a feeling of bliss.
  • Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important.
  • Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and helps build healthy relationships.
  • Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression.
  • Adrenaline causes people to have a fight or flight response and is released during situations of high-stress, danger or physical exhilaration.

Now let’s talk about putting these happy hormones to work to create connections!

In August of 2017, I took my son back to his birth country, Guatemala. We had a great adventure. We climbed an active volcano and even roasted marshmallows in a lava vent; we visited a shaman; we kayaked; we taught a class at a girl’s school and helped cook and serve them lunch (to all the young girls, Jac was as close to having Justin Beiber at the school! – the giggles were tremendously satisfying!); we spent a day with a typical Mayan family, cooked with them and learned how they live day to day; and we took Spanish classes. But the biggest adventure of all was jumping off a 30-foot cliff into Lake Atitlan!

It was my son’s idea.

We had seen the cliffs a couple of year’s prior when we were at the lake but no one was willing to take the leap. Then, a few weeks before we left for Guatemala my son went camping with his cousins at a lake in Oregon. There was a great cliff jumping area (adult approved) where the kids took turns scaring the begeebers out of themselves, each other and the adults by jumping, at increasing heights, off the rocks into the lake below.

Scary right?

Well, the last thing in the world I am interested in doing is purposefully tossing myself off of a 30-foot cliff into the water below. I’m 55. I do not need that kind of excitement in my life but …

The day had come and I had to choose.

It was a magnificent day in Panajachel and our guide met us right on time. We left our quaint hotel with its spectacular gardens and flitted through town on our way to the public boat dock. The walk consists of trying to avoid collisions with the scurrying street vendors preparing for their day, tuk tuks speeding down the main thoroughfare and the mass of pedestrians either heading to work or out for breakfast. The walk was the perfect distraction for my jitters!

The boat dock is always its own adventure and if you don’t speak good Spanish, it can be intimidating chaos. The sidewalks are lined with food carts – the smell of tortillas, eggs and beans this time of day is heavenly, loud music is always playing on radios and loud-speakers, conversations in Spanish coming from every direction, bright colors everywhere and throngs of locals carrying their goods either into Panajachel or back to their villages across the lake. It’s a spectacular sight but can be overwhelming at times. On this day, it was a calming distraction. And thanks to our fearless guide, Pablo, we managed to make it to our boat effortlessly!

The boat ride was lovely, although a bit bumpy because of the wind and we were packed together like sardines. The sun was shining bright, the blue skies were filled with big puffy white clouds dancing in the wind, and the water was spectacular – warm and inviting.

Knowing what I know about adventure activities and stepping outside the box to try something new was not working to calm my nerves. I was scared to death!

The boat pulled up to the docks in San Marcos and a short five to seven-minute hike through the dense foliage on the outer skirts of town brought us right up to the platform from which we were about to jump.

Geez, looking from the top was even scarier than I had anticipated. I was shaking like a leaf.

I looked around and I was BY FAR the oldest person here. Most of the people on or around the platform were college kids. All were travelers. I know college kids are not thinking clearly, they are all convinced they’re indestructible! I know better!! I’m 55 (did I already say that?). So I’m thinking to myself, “what have you done, you idiot”?

Our guide, who had done this before, took the first jump – ‘to show us how it’s done’ or in my estimation, to get off the platform quickly because my jitters were catching!

Then almost immediately after, Jac leapt! It was exciting and terrifying to watch my 12-year-old boy jump 30 feet off a cliff into the lake below. I was so proud of him! The smile on his face was the biggest I have ever seen! He was thrilled and breathless! From the water he yelled up to me that it was ok and I should try it. He told me he was going to wait for me. He insisted. He begged and finally, he cajoled me. He yelled up, “Mom only cool people can do it”. I had no choice.

OMG – I ran!

From the back of the platform to the front edge is about 10-12 big steps. Basically, I figured that if I got a little speed up, the forward momentum wouldn’t allow me to stop when I got to the edge – I was tricking myself. As I leaped off the platform I made sure my body was as straight as a pencil so nothing would slap the water, and I DID IT!!!!!! I landed and a ton of water went up my nose, but I DID IT!!

Coughing, laughing and high fives were in order. Wow – what a thrill!! Our dopamine levels were surging!

Jac and I climbed the rocks out of the water and back up to the platform. When we got to the top I was still shaking like a leaf. Adrenaline was pumping through my body. I definitely had a huge endorphin and serotonin rush and Jac grabbed me, he squeezed me, we held that hug for several seconds. We celebrated each other and jumped up and down. It was unbelievable!

Jac leapt off the cliff 5 or 6 more times. I only did it once more — just to say that I had done it of my own volition rather than being coerced by my son. But I did it.

When we left San Marcos and headed back to Panajachel we were, soaking wet, filled with joy and had an amazing sense of accomplishment. With permagrins on our faces, we must’ve high fived each other 1000 times. Our oxytocin levels were at a premium and we connected like never before.

The moral of this story, however, is that you do not have to jump off a cliff to engage your happy hormones – those chemicals that help you build deeper connections. But if you can step outside your comfort zone and do something exhilarating, and celebrate your successes, it really does make a difference.

Jac still talks about that big adventure to this day. His mom leapt off a 30-foot platform! Not sure I’ll ever need to do that again, but wow, what a rush!

I hope next time you have an adventure with your child, you’ll consider stepping outside your comfort zone, taking a sensible risk and celebrating your successes with your child. It’s the perfect way to build connections – and self-esteem!

If you want to read more about building connections check out my blog post on Transformative Travel at https://motherlandtravel.com/family-travel/transformative-travel-might-want-give-try/ or this one on Family Adventure Therapy at https://motherlandtravel.com/adoptive-family-travel/family-adventure-therapy/.

These are great tools for getting the most out of any family vacation, but especially a trip as monumental as a Heritage Journey!

When you are ready to explore the world with your family, please schedule a 30-minute Discovery Session with me at www.calendly.com/bambi. I’d LOVE to help!

Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >> http://motherlandtravel.com/

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