I never forget the words of some strangers.
The words just sound so nice that it’s hard to forget them. Even after several years, I think of the significance of those words whenever I get a chance. But what I really do wonder is whether those people will ever know how much their words mattered.
And so it happened on a holiday in the spring of 2009. It was my first river rafting trip. But it’s not the adventures of rafting that lingered on.
We stopped at a bustling corner of the river and noticed people climbing up the top of the nearest cliff and jumping into the river. It seemed fairly simple, and I followed the crowd enthusiastically despite the concerned frowns and reluctance of my friends.
On finally reaching that point on the cliff, I look down at the river, 60 feet below, and shuddered. The designated guide at the cliff — and I’m sure he’s dealt with many nervous people – tried to reassure me. He smiled and said, “There’s nothing to be afraid, you’re wearing a life jacket.”
I couldn’t focus on his words as I continued to have second thoughts about jumping into the river. And that’s when he said, “Don’t look down; don’t look anywhere around you; just look straight ahead; keep looking forward.” I did as he said and looked ahead. There I saw lush green trees carpeting the entire mountain range in front of me. I could see the clear blue sky and the sun shining through the clouds. The birds wandered through the blue skies, carefree. Happy tourists cheered and clicked photographs. As I took a deep breath, the guide said, “That’s good. Keep looking ahead. Take the plunge. Feel free. Be free. You’ll be happy.”
And I did. I didn’t wait to acknowledge what he said or look back. As I jumped into the river with the positivity that radiated through my surroundings, I felt a sense of immense freedom, even if for just a split second. Everything seemed timeless, and through the water, the warm sun rays penetrated into my soul.
I often think of the guide’s words, even after five years, and it reinstates my belief that the most meaningful words don’t necessarily have to be the fanciest ones. In those few words, I learned that sometimes the best you can do is taking a leap of faith for your own happiness and peace.
Whenever I find myself torn between choices, I about being up on that cliff, and the advice I received there. Whenever I find myself mulling over something, I remind myself of the exhilarating feeling of taking the plunge and not worrying about what will happen next. Because life surprises us sometimes. In those chances we take and the choices we make, we realize that we are not bound to anything and we learn to define ourselves.
Sometimes, the most meaningful and truthful words come from strangers we don’t know and will never meet again. But that’s what travel does to you sometimes – you meet people who share the same zest for seeing the world, and you catch a glimpse into something beautiful they’ve learned along the way and have a heart big enough to share it with the world.
Everything looks serene from the edge of the cliff. And it is, only if we try to climb on to that cliff every now and then. Sometimes the cliff is just a few steps away from crossroads that confuse us. At other times, we’re standing right there but are too afraid to look straight. We are often too embroiled in our thoughts to realize that we are standing on that edge, because it’s safer to not have to worry about the consequences of taking a deep plunge.
As the years have passed, I’ve never thought twice before taking the plunge. I wouldn’t trade the feeling knowing I am an individual entity coexisting within so many elements of one big universe — I wouldn’t trade that joy of realizing how simple it is to remain happy sometimes.
I wore a life jacket when I jumped down the cliff five years ago. But the real life jacket is simply embracing life and plunging into sometimes.