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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone
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Tuesday, December 4,2012

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  
To celebrate our 20th anniversary, my husband and I booked a trip to Italy with friends based on a New York Times article we read titled, “Thirty-six Hours in Cinque Terre.” It was truly a vacation to remember, not just for the gastronomical delights and the sensory overload, but for what we’ll call the “thirtysixth hour” in Cinque Terre.


On our last day, after hiking about 20 miles the day prior through vineyards, olive groves and lemon groves, and dining on the fresh catch of the day in each of the five medieval towns, we decided to find the “secret beach” that only the locals know about. The Times article directed us to hike down behind the train station and “walk through the 10-minute-long path to a private vineyard overlooking two phenomenal beaches” (N.Y. Times, 8/5/07).

Well, either the author of the article was going merely on hearsay or things have changed a lot since 2007. The 10-minute-long “path” was actually a 13-minute-long kilometer walk through a pitch-black tunnel with no light at either end from the middle, as it curves along the coast!

It was complete, absolute darkness. Thirteen solid minutes of darkness. How do I know? Because we snapped pictures with our cameras to catch glimpses of the ground and the walls to “see” if we were headed in the right direction. The timestamp on the dark photos illuminated that fact for us. Now, let it suffice to say that in the throes of darkness, the imagination is a powerful weapon that can be used for either good or evil, and the only one who can decide how it is to be used is the imaginer. I like to think of myself as The Imaginator that day because every time a terrible thought worked its way into my head, I terminated it with a force of optimism from whence I know not which it came. Fortunately, we all kept our dark sides to ourselves, only later revealing the demons that we were combatting along the way (snakes, bats, bad guys... bodies!!!) Once we were through, I have to say, the beach was awe-inspiring. (There was, however, no “private vineyard” overlooking the beach, lending to my theory that the person who wrote the article might not have actually done this gutchecking trek).

There was one other what to expect and made a plan to avoid the few missteps that occurred the first time. Then, my friend realized he could person there and he was, very apparently, a “naturalist.” So, as they say, when in Rome (or in Guvano, as it were)... Whether it was the grime that had accumulated on us as we clung to the damp, dark walls of an abandoned industrial tunnel, or our deep, dark fears that had not been realized, or the triumphant jubilation at having overcome our dark fears, each of us peeled off our inhibitions along with our clothes, ran into the warm, foamy waves and cleansed ourselves in body and mind.

The day was truly unforgettable and very special, but as the sun began to go down, and we reincarnated from Our Time in Eden to Our Time to Catch the Train, it occurred to us: There is no getting around that tunnel. This is where one has to dig deep. We talked about how lucky we were to already know download the flashlight app to his iPhone for the way back!

Lesson learned? While you might think it would be to do a little research before embarking on an excursion (especially if your source is four years old), for me, it was actually this: Fear of the unknown is the same whether in light or in darkness. And the antidote to fear is faith that all is as it should be.


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