Not for sissies. Not for wusses. Are you too old for this?
We'd been moving at speed for about forty minutes, all well above ground. We swiftly clipped and out of multiple metal contraptions which prevented us from hurtling towards the forest floor.
Those didn't keep us from falling off our obstacles, however, if we didn't mind where we were in space and paying close attention to the challenges afforded by the complex ropes and swinging footholds which marked our traverse from tall tree to tall tree.
At that point I stepped on to a wobbly skateboard which was attached to a thin line of tight rope, the only way to get to the next tree. My guide was already halfway across.
Phuket, Thailand. May 2015. Low hundreds even in the shade. Not high season, at least not for tourists. I was interested in something to keep me preoccupied in the afternoon, as I'd already gone horseback riding that morning.
My taxi driver had recommended Jungle Xtrem Adventure Park not far away in Phuket. He gave me a side-eye. He knew I was no teenager.
Not my problem.
The adventure park was wilting. Just a few chatty, sweaty young male guides sitting around in the waiting area near the harnesses, hoping for a busload of giggly teenage tourists.
What they got was me. I was sixty-two.
I had to hand over my passport for a ticket. The boys all looked at each other, then at me, then sniggered.
The entire course is supposed to last three-and-a-half hours. You work your way through nets, swinging walkways, ziplines and a variety of challenges which involve focus, balance, and, if you're scared of heights, not looking down.
The poor sot who pulled the short straw set me up in a harness. His English was better than passable as he walked me through the safety instructions. Always ALWAYS clip in, here's how, never EVER take off without double-checking that your overhead line and you are connected.
I could feel the disdain roll off him.
"Old lady isn't going to make it past the first tree."
My taxi driver settled in to watch with the others.
GOD I LOVE BEING IN THE AIR.
I did precisely what he did. Hands here, feet there. Use your body this way and that, swing this way, that way. Grip this rope, then that one. Trust your body, your balance, your instincts.
Besides, I am very, very competitive. I've got that grrr inside me when people have already decided that I can't do whatever it is they have decided I can't do. That translates into a competition with myself, not them.
He had done it a thousand times. It isn't hard to emulate an expert if you're focused- but for something like this you really do have to be in shape. Besides, I love being in the trees. If I lost my grip, I'd simply swing out in space and get roped back in to keep going. And, there were safety nets.
What on earth isn't fun about that?
The guy could feel me right on his butt, so he sped up. So did I.
I barely looked down. I focused on the nets, the ropes, the tiny dots we had to step on as we sped from tree to tree. My eyes were locked on his form. I did what he did.
The guys in the waiting area were watching. Then as they noticed how close I was on my guide's tail even as he sped up, they started cat-calling.
Of course they did.
If you were twenty-something, in a highly patriarchal society, and some ancient lady was right on your ass on a very difficult ropes course, you'd be sweating it, too.
He was the one in the nightmare.
My guide was pissed. Marginally polite, but pissed. It showed in his face every time we landed at the next tree seconds apart and clipped in for the next challenge.
I lost my balance on that makeshift skateboard on a tightrope. I stood too tall. The moment my body stiffened I wobbled, teetering almost off, but not quite. I breathed in deeply, relaxed and bent my knees like a skier. And skated to the tree.
Still made it to the zipline seconds behind my guide.
We finished the course in less than an hour. The 3.5 hour guideline likely assumes you've got folks in front of you, gassing out over the height, forgetting how to clip in and not having a clue about how to use their bodies, especially that high in the air.
Stopping for selfies and giggling to be cute and acting helpless.
Not my thing.
The guide said nothing to me, just stiff-legged back to the waiting area, where my taxi driver had been waiting. After I got out of my harness I asked my driver to take a photo.
This says it all:
You can accuse me of being a compulsive showoff.
First, why would anyone say or think that? I'm just an aging woman who has decided to push herself, and in doing so, a great many doors opened.
What about that is being a showoff?
The bigger question is what part of us isn't willing to do our own unique version of of the same thing?
I do what I do for myself, my own joy. But by sharing it I dearly wish to invite all of us, especially as we age, to challenge the lies which cripple us as we pass fifty.
Your badassery is not my badassery.
If you can ski black diamond runs, you kick my butt to the curb. That's your badassery. I want you to keep right on doing it until you can do it no more, and it's time to find a new definition of badassery.
Are you too old for this sh*t?
That depends, doesn't it?
If you and I are willing to do the work to be in shape, if we are willing to eat well and take care of ourselves, our level of physical ability can take us just about anywhere.
The real nightmare is NOT being able to do this- or anything else you want to do as you age.
It's people's ageism which slows us down, but nowhere near as fast as our believing this life-killing lie:
"I'm too old for this sh*t."
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