Sun, Surf & Sand

Sun, Surf & Sand

This year, it was my year to have the kids for spring break, and I decided it was time to change things up a bit. I usually opt for tradition over adventure with my children. Maybe this is a sweet gesture, an effort to build some continuity for kids who float between houses. Or maybe it’s a selfish rut, harkening back to the years when travel was more work than fun: car seats, pack n’ plays, double strollers and runaway toddler twins. During those years, it’s easier to go places you already know, especially if you are outnumbered.

But my kids are older now, and traveling with them is a comparative breeze. It felt like the right time to buck tradition and go someplace none of us has ever been. We picked randomly from our family bucket list and chose Costa Rica, thinking it might be the perfect combination of jungle, adventure and beach. Some people have a default setting to mountains, and I like them too…in small doses, but my default is ocean. Give me sun, surf and sand over pines and altitude any day. Luckily, my kids agree.

As with any adventure, I had a few pre-trip jitters. I’m afraid of reptiles, heights, getting lost, the Ebola virus, feeling out of control and falling in love. So I went someplace that had crocodiles, snakes, terrible roads, zip lines, suspension bridges, rappelling, a plethora of monkeys, my three children, my new boyfriend and his daughter. This was getting into the Arena, in the finest sense.

Hopefully by now, you are well aware of the book Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. It started out as a casual read for me that quickly turned into transformation. Word of its power spread like wildflower seeds, and suddenly, lingo from those pages was popping up everywhere. She chose the title for her book from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech Man in the Arena:

It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

So now, my friends and I talk about entering the Arena on a regular basis. We use the term as often and as comfortably as we talk about going to Starbucks, Randalls or Casis Elementary. The Arena is different for everyone, because it represents a personal area of discomfort and growth. An Arena could be taking a bold career step, giving a speech, having a baby, moving someplace new, speaking truth, sticking up for someone—or for yourself, signing up for a race or fitness program, learning a language, pursuing a new client, going back to school, opening your heart to someone or any leap of faith that stretches us, calling us beyond ourselves.

Our trip to Costa Rica was a beautiful foray into the Arena. I got over (okay, dealt with) my fear of heights as we walked across a sketchy- looking suspension bridge that dangled hundreds of feet over a rushing river. I peered down at crocodiles. I clipped into a rope and let go, flying through the jungle treetops on a wimpy-ass cable. I admired monkeys without holding my breath and slathering myself in Purell. I played in the ocean without Jaws music playing nonstop in my head. I went running even though I had no certain idea where I was going or how I was going to get back. I watched our children in the waves and opened my heart and my mind to the possibility that this man we were traveling with might actually be mine (ours).

The best adventures of all involve going outside—outside in nature, and outside our comfort zones. It is impossible to dare greatly when we stay right where we are and do the things we’ve always done.