the reward is in the risk: my 2014 trip to atali ganga

This post is about a year too late, but hey, you know what they say. Better late than never.

We all have fears. Psychologically, they're kind of important- so important that impaired fear sensors/conditioning can actually endanger survival. But they can also be terrible, terrible things because, more often than not, we let irrational fears govern our choices and behaviours within different situations. If you're scared of wasps, you might not go out on a nice summers day because you spotted one hovering by the pool (yes, I am guilty of doing this). If you're scared of gaining weight, you might not eat that tempting chocolate donut in the fridge. While there are situations in which we can avoid doing things we're afraid of, sometimes, we have to face our fears, whether we like it or not. Last summer, I found myself in one of the latter situations on a trip to an adventure sports resort in Northern India.
The absolutely stunning Atali Ganga resort 
One of the many unique aspects of the IB is the CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) programme. In a nutshell, you have to do 50 hours of each component in order to pass the IB. At the end of Year 12, I found that I was - unsurprisingly- lacking in action hours. During the school year, I barely had enough time for all the extracurriculars that were already on my plate, let alone extra sports, so, when summer came along, I decided that I really needed to do something.

My dad remembered a story from a CAS assembly that my school had held a while back: essentially, a student a few years ago had a terrible fear of heights, and, in order to get Action hours, decided to go skydiving. He ended up winning the CAS award. I, too, have a terrible fear of heights and any kind of risky adventure sports; I'm the girl who everyone gives their phones to before they hop onto a rollercoaster. So, my dad thought that it might be a good idea for me to try something that terrified me. Though skydiving was out of the question - I was far too young, too scared, and there was no way my mum would let me jump out of a plane-  it was universally agreed on that I needed to get out of my comfort zone. After a bit of deliberation, we decided that the best way to do that would be to visit Atali Ganga, an adventure sports resort in Uttarakhand, India. Located up in the hills, this gorgeous resort offers a wide variety of activities: from river rafting along the River Ganga, to high ropes courses, to hiking. After booking our three-day trip, I got down to perusing the website, and decided that I had every intention of playing it safe: doing only the activities that had pretty much zero risk involved, and spending the rest of the time by the pool, with a book.

I'm so glad that I didn't.

The trip promised adventure right from the beginning, when we drove ten hours from New Delhi to the resort, traversing the hills and dales of Northern India. Needless to say, it was quite a nerve-racking experience for someone terrified of heights. The sharp turns in the hilly roads had me clutching my armrest, white-knuckled, sure that we were going to topple off the side of the mountain at any moment. But, thankfully, we arrived safely, and were greeted by the friendly, helpful Atali Ganga team, who took us up to the White Water Cafe, so we could begin signing up for activities.

Again, I was totally ready to play it safe, but my family had a different idea in mind. Before I knew what was happening, I was signed up for pretty much everything the resort had to offer: from travelling traverses, to a high ropes course, to the white water rafting. Not wanting to make a fuss after the long journey, I went along with it, figuring that I could just back out before the activity began if I really felt uncomfortable.

To say I was nervous would be a bit of an understatement. Arriving at each activity and seeing the set-up was enough to send worst-case scenarios cycling through my mind. I have a very overactive imagination, and while it can be helpful during nice, sedentary activities like coming up with ideas for blog posts, or short stories, it was quite the hinderance when I was about to engage in risk-taking activities. I kept wondering what would happen if a rope broke, if the raft flipped over in the middle of the river. Luckily, the safety briefings settled most of my fears and assured me that I was in excellent hands- although I was still terrified. The support of the team, and of my family, really helped me push through the initial fear and take a leap of faith.

Yes, that shadow you see up there is me. About fifty feet in the air.

Sometimes, having no option is the best option, because it takes away the crippling indecision. Facing my fears was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, and I don't think I'll ever forget the heart-pounding moments of fear that coursed through my body as I stepped onto the raft, the high rope, or the traverse. But that fear was quickly replaced by exhilaration as I rode a rapid, found myself fifty feet in the air, or elevated above a valley. I'll never forget the thrill I experienced when I jumped off the raft and body surfed on a rapid (totally safe, FYI, the Atali Ganga team kept a close eye on me the whole way through!). While some activities were stunning successes, others proved more difficult. I could barely climb more than a couple of feet on the rock-climbing wall because I didn't have enough strength to pull myself up, and the high ropes made me a little dizzy, but I'm glad I gave it a go anyway. At least I can say that I tried- even if I didn't succeed.

People are always saying that the best way to get rid of your fears is to face them. After facing mine, I can't say that they're completely gone: I'm not likely to go skydiving any time soon, or even jump off the Sky Tower in Auckland (this is a thing that you can actually do), but maybe now I'll hesitate less before I get on a rollercoaster, or look down from the Burj Khalifa's observation deck. After all, even though I may not have managed to completely eliminate my fears, taking the risks I did ended up putting me at an advantage.

Yes, that's me again! Higher up this time! Unfortunately, I don't have any photos from river rafting, which was by far my favourite activity- but of course, you can't exactly carry a camera onto the River Ganga.
Risk-taking is actually very beneficial, especially from a psychological standpoint. As Michael Ungar said, "to grow, we need to experience challenges". Risks open up new opportunities; we become more confident in our own abilities and we learn more about what we're capable of. They make us more receptive to trying new things, to understanding new ideas. Instead of simply staying safe, we can explore a whole new realm of possibilities. They give us what Ungar calls 'the risk-taker's advantage': we do whatever we can to ensure that we're competent, capable contributors to our communities. By testing our limits, we learn how to define them.

So, while we might not all be inherent risk takers (this is actually a thing too: psychological studies have shown that the number of dopamine receptors within your brain can influence your tendency to engage in risky activities and behaviours), we should all move out of our comfort zones every now and then. Whether that's a trip to an adventure sports resort like Atali Ganga (which I totally recommend, by the way- the food, the accommodation, the activities, the team- everything was absolutely top-notch, and I would go again in a heartbeat), or even just doing one thing that scares you every now and then, calculated risk-taking is a healthy activity to engage in- plus, you'll be embodying the IB Learner Profile like a good IB student!

(I realise now that that's not very funny, unless you're an IB student, so let's move on).

As Albert Einstein once said, "A ship is always safe at the shore, but that's not what it's built for". We're always safe in our comfort zones, but we're built to adapt. And the only way we can do that is by moving into unfamiliar situations and putting ourselves out there.

PS: On an unrelated note, please check out my little announcement, entitled 'I need your help!', on the top right corner of the blog. It'd mean a lot, and help me immensely, if you submit! 


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  2. This is a really inspiring piece, I love it. Can't wait to have a look at the rest of your posts. I think it is really important to break your fears. xx

    1. Aw, thank you! I'm really glad that you enjoyed it (:

  3. Oh my goodness! Well done on conquering your fears! And I love high ropes courses, etc. but yeah, omg, that moment of fear before you step on is THE WORST THING EVER XOXO Well done! xoxo


    1. Thank you! It was such a scary moment, but I'm so glad that I did it! x

  4. Wow I am in love with the photos, they are all so pretty! Do you want to support each other's blog by following each other?:) Please let me know if you do so I can follow you right back x



  5. This post is kind of really inspirational. Congrats on conquering your fears. I do try to conquer mine (though my fears are generally less dangerous, like I'm terrified of starting conversations with cute people, so I push myself to do it) and I always feel much better once I do.


  6. Great post! I love your beautiful pictures<3
    Btw, mind following each other? Let me know :)