Kalin’s Chronicles: Throwing caution to the wind – Adventure Travel at 40

North Georgia Canopy Tours 002 Editor’s Note: All week we’ve been tackling our deepest fears – rejection, failure…weddings. Last week Kalin faced a fear of another kind. If you’re afraid of heights, speed and potentially falling on your face in front of a group of people, then maybe adventure traveling is the thing that will help you conquer those fears. Kalin’s done a lot of it, and last week she added ziplining to her list…

I was watching CBS This Morning this past Sunday and there was a story on the increasing number of women motorcyclists. In fact the reporter said the average female motorcyclist is in her 40’s. It seems to me that women tend to become more adventurous after 40. As a matter of fact, my cousin and her husband (both in their 40’s) recently tried skydiving for the first time and loved it!

I don’t know if I have the guts to try that — I’m more of a “soft adventure” traveler. I’ve been skiing – on the small slopes of Cataloochee, North Carolina. I’ve fought through claustrophobia on a submarine tour in the Cayman Islands. I’ve gone white water rafting along Oconee River, Georgia – the beginners route. I’ve floated in a hot air balloon above the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina and over the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. But you won’t find me scaling a real mountain — a rock-climbing wall is more my speed. That’s why I absolutely loved ziplining at North Georgia Canopy Tours. The tours open to the public today, but I got a preview last week.

Ziplining is a popular adventure sport where you soar through the air attached to a steel cable that runs from one set of trees to another. Most ziplines or canopy tours are in Costa Rica and the Caribbean. “My wife and I are afraid of heights, but when we went to Costa Rica in 2007 and did a zipline, we knew we wanted to do it in Georgia. So we decided to build it,” says Kirk Watkins, who co-owns North Georgia Canopy Tours with his wife, Leah. It’s located in the town of Lula, and is one of only a few in the United States. It’s open year-round during daylight hours. The minimum weight to do ziplining is 70 Pounds, with the maximum at 250 pounds. The minimum age is 10, but there is no maximum age as long as you’re in relatively good health and feel you can handle the physical activity. However, I’m told the average woman who ziplines is in her 40’s.

I was very excited about trying this adventure for the first time, but I was also a bit nervous. I had a fear of falling or slamming into a tree. But with “ground school” you can overcome a lot of those fears. That’s where certified and eco-trained guides teach you how to do the following: get into your harness, hold on to the harness once clipped to the zipline, hold your legs for maximum safety and speed, and how to watch for their hand signs to slow down. Those same guides are the only ones who clip and unclip your harness to the ziplines. It’s a very controlled and safe process. I want to give a shout-out to our guides, Marie Stringer and Bryan Everett, who made this first-timer feel safe and comfortable as they cheered me on!

As I watched each person zip hundreds of yards to the next tree platform, I could feel my heartbeat quicken. But once I lifted my feet for take-off and started moving at about 35 miles per hour, I got a feeling of exhilaration. And once I landed, there was no more fear — I had gotten my “zip legs.” I did the two-hour Sky Bridge Tour with seven other people (mostly women), and it was fun cheering each other on. The tour includes eight ziplines, two skybridges, two nature lines, and a 680-foot dual zip over a two-acre pond as the grand finale. Each zip gets higher and longer as you go along. The whole experience was an adrenaline rush! Forty-year-old Sue Rodman of Atlanta said, “I loved it!  I thought I would be scared of the height but it was more like swinging through the trees.”

The Sky Bridge Tour is at an introductory rate of $69. There’s also an Adventure Tour for $89, which opens April 16th. After completing the tour we all got certificates. Now that’s my kind of reward – something to prove that I did it! J But there’s always an even bigger reward with adventure travel – increased confidence. The more adventures you try, the more confident you become – and it spills over into your everyday life, giving you the confidence to take more risks. I’m hoping to become fearless. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll take the plunge and skydive – but until then, “soft adventure” is the way to go!

For more information go to www.northgeorgiacanopytours.com, or call 770-869-7272. And for information about canopy tours in Costa Rica go to www.govisitcostarica.com. I can’t wait to hear about your adventure travels. Post them in the comment section, or on our Facebook fan page. And remember: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain. (Image: Kalin on her ziplining  adventure)

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.

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