As I clawed my way up the massive trunk, the bark of the tree crunched between my toes. My scrappy ascent was an ungraceful scamper at best. A few grunts and giggles later, I had wriggled my way up. There was a challenge looming atop of the tree; a challenge that would require more mental and physical acuity than climbing those bulky branches.
I wiped my sweaty palms across my leg and cautiously clamped the carabineer to my harness. As I locked myself in, I heard the words of a friend ring true in my mind, “Safety first, danger last.” Fittingly, this saying would soon morph into “Safety first, danger always.”
I’d had dreams of the impending steps. I paused my stride and thought back a few years. Back to when I first felt a rush from an unsuspecting piece of smooth, blue climbing webbing. It was tied between two trees, only a few feet off the ground. As it slid under the arch of my foot, I tried to stand up. My muscles quivered violently, my torso twisted and my arms flailed from side to side. The blue line wavered incessantly. I was slacklining. And I was terrible.
It wasn’t like the textbook image of walking a tightrope. The line was flat, like a skinny seat belt. It was anchored between two points, but it was loose and unnatural.
My muscles said a big “NO” to this unfamiliar sensation. However, with anything new, it does not feel comfortable at first. In response to my muscles, my mind said “yes” and we compromised somewhere in between.
Over time, I taught myself to walk, jump and sit on the line. I also taught myself how to face plant, acquire massive bruises and provoke shin splints. Highs and lows combined, this pastime encouraged me to challenge myself.
Currently, this pastime was firing a challenging set of nerves rapidly through my body. Pins and needles tickled my palms and feet. I kept my thoughts steady, but my heartbeat must have missed the memo. I ignored my vibrating chest, as my foot glided on my first ever high line. Rigged at the top of two trees, this was the highest slackline I had ever attempted to walk. I know I’m fairly short, but my depth perception was valid; this was definitely high.
My harness kept me secure and my mind kept me stable. With each step, I balanced my movements and kept my focus forward. The wind flowed through the leaves and sunlight scattered through the branches. I was in another world; untouchable from the world below and a little closer to the one above. Each step across the line was magic. Intense magic, but magic nonetheless. I felt weightless and free. The end of the line neared and excitement was building inside me. I rushed the last few steps and embraced the sturdy trunk. It was the biggest tree hug ever. Token hippie move…yes I’m aware.
I smiled and couldn’t stop smiling. I was elevated to a euphoric state. It was going to take a big effort to bring my adrenaline levels back to reality.
One of the best parts about walking this highline was that I didn’t have to seek out a National Geographic adventure hotbed. I didn’t travel for hours to a remote location or pay heaps of money for an acclaimed natural wonder.
On the contrary, I was a ten minute walk from my apartment. I was living in Sydney, Australia in the CBD. Although the city tried, I didn’t let the concrete jungle cramp my style. Buildings towered high and public transport zoomed through the streets. The closest adrenaline rush I’d felt there was when I biking and almost got hit by a bus. Needless to say, slacklining in this urban park was exponentially more wholesome, rewarding and safe.
It doesn’t matter where you are, it matters who you are. Travel is amazing and I’ve been living overseas for four years. I’ve found freedom and adventure wherever I have lived in the world. More importantly though, you can find it within yourself and make it happen wherever you may be. I just so happen to find my freedom anywhere that I can find two trees.
About the Author: Living overseas for four years.