When you’re young, trying new sports and pursuing new hobbies is less intimidating, easier to make time for and it feels less risky. After all, you feel somewhat invincible, and life’s many demands haven’t fully hit yet. Things change over time, responsibilities increase. You may find yourself becoming more risk averse with age. However, that doesn’t mean you have to write off getting into a new sport or finally trying that cool thing you saw but you’re not sure where to begin.
I reached a point where I found myself wishing I could pursue goals like learning to rock and ice climb and someday pursue lofty mountaineering endeavors. I was motivated to try these things because they looked so fun and partly because these were all activities my dad did. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was young, so I needed to find a way to learn on my own. The problem was that:
I didn’t know where to start
It seemed dangerous without proper instruction
I didn’t have friends who were into these things, so I couldn’t ask someone for advice
Determined to find a way, I started brainstorming and eventually landed on a google search for “mountaineering classes near me.” It turns out you can find classes for just about anything you’re interested in learning with a little time and perseverance. I found the closest guiding company, verified their certifications and before I knew it, I was signed up for a week-long alpine mountaineering course and a weekend ice climbing class.
I’ll be honest, part of me was really excited but I was also nervous to do these things on my own. I wondered if I would be the only person in the class who came by themselves. I worried about the other people not being friendly… all the usual social-anxiety type questions we find ourselves going through when we don’t have somebody we know to lean on for comfort. Despite the anxiety, I knew that if I had any hope of trying these sports and learning how to do them safely, this was the best option. So, I took a chance and booked the courses. With no exaggeration, all my fears were completely unfounded.
Rather than looking at a new activity as a scary experience, understand that trying something new is a phenomenal way to meet like-minded people who are excited about the same things you are. That nervous energy makes for a tremendous bond, quick friendships and here’s a little secret – everybody is nervous and that’s alright! My advice to you if you’ve found yourself in a similar situation is to first look for the most qualified, well-reviewed instructor/guide company/organization you can find and reach out to them with your questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask whatever you need to in order to feel comfortable and safe with what you’re considering. At that point, book that class! When you feel hesitant or start questioning your decision, lean into the research you did on how qualified the people you’ll learn from are, lean into the positive reviews you read, and actively shift your mental focus from fear to excitement. Be proud of yourself for taking the first step and have fun out there.
Throughout this process, I’ve learned that I’m far more capable than I thought. I’ve learned that trying new things makes me feel alive and excited for what’s to come. Scheduling these courses, practicing the skills under professional guidance and looking for future opportunities to apply them gives me something fun to look forward to. I didn’t realize the degree to which having consistent plans to be excited about boosted my mental health, but it has been substantial. I’ve made new friends, I’ve spent countless more hours outside than I would have otherwise and most important of all – I feel proud of myself. I feel optimistic about chasing even bigger personal goals, all because I took a chance and pursued things that scared me. I urge you to do the same, you’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try.
Chris Slagle Chris Slagle is a Southern California-based alpinist and photographer on a mission to explore new and fun ways of summiting mountains while documenting his journey. To see more of his photography, he can be found at @chrisslagle_ on Instagram.
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