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Walking in Tirimbina

The Tirimbina Biologic Reserve, in the humid tropical lowlands of Costa Rica, consists of about

eight-hundred and fifty acres of dense forest filled with some of the greatest diversity in the world; more than three-hundred species of birds, forty species of amphibians, one hundred species of mammals including sixty-three bat species, fifty-three species of reptiles, more than a thousand species of plants including trees and ferns, and thousands of species of spiders and insects.

Among the insects is one that is thought to have the most painful sting in the entire world, the bullet ant. The pain has been described as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail grinding into your heel.” *

To explore the rain forest in the reserve, you cross a two-hundred meter suspension bridge over the Sarapiqui River. A sign at the beginning of the bridge cautions you to space yourself far enough back from the person in front of you. As you stand there looking at the length of the bridge and reading the sign, it's tempting to turn around, find a cup of Costa Rican coffee and a plate of fresh mango and sit outside your room enjoying the sounds of the forest.

Instead, you take the step. With each step you take, the bridge sways high above the river. You don't hold on to the railings of the bridge because bullet ants may be walking there. Step by step, you walk over the bridge.

Once you make it into the reserve, you are on guard. You don’t want to put your hand on a plant or rub against a tree where there may be bullet ants. You constantly watch your feet for three of the deadliest animals in Costa Rica, the fer-de-lance snake, the coral snake and the eye-lash pit viper. Flying over your head might be the tarantula hawk wasp said to have the second most painful sting of any insect, described as “blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.” *

You’re wondering if the journey was worth it. Costa Rican coffee is sounding pretty good right now. Was that walk across the bridge worth it? Is a walk in Tirimbina worth it?

Then you hear a family of howler monkeys calling you. You see spider monkeys and kinkajous in

the trees. Through the leaves you see a chestnut-mandibled toucan and a rufous motmot. Up in the tree, hidden, is a sloth with a baby on its back. You come to a giant tree with buttressed roots that’s part of the primary growth forest.

The guide hears something and steps off the path to catch a poison dart frog and then points out a fer-de-lance curled up in a ball off the path.

You survive the trip in the forest and make it back across the bridge. Without hesitation you sign up for the night hike. You walk across the bridge in the dark, in the rain, scanning the railing with your flash light. You meet the forest in the dark, as alive as it was in the day.

There are lots of reasons why it would be easy to not take the first step on the bridge; indecision, fear, worry, fatigue, laziness, exhaustion, not enough time, the ease of simply not.

It would be easy to not write that book, search for an agent, sky dive, join a dance group, travel to eastern Europe, take tap dance lessons, learn a language, join a climbing gym, do the 5-K rugged maniac course. It would be easy to say I'm not good enough, smart enough, or creative enough so I'll stay at home, check Facebook every hour on the hour, watch some TV, take a walk from time to time.

That’s not the way I want to live. I want to take a chance, stretch my mind, challenge my body, take a risk. I can’t let fear, laziness, exhaustion or indecision dictate my life. It doesn't matter if I succeed. It matters that I take the step. I only have so much time. Why waste it looking at the bridge?

I step on the bridge and walk across. I write that book and search for an agent, I dance and sing, not because I’m great at either but because they both fill my soul. I jump out of an airplane and climb the wall because I want to challenge my body to do something it has never done. I study Spanish knowing I’ll probably never be fluent. I travel to unfamiliar places with unfamiliar customs and language. I conquer twenty-four obstacles and become a Rugged Maniac.

I step on the bridge and I walk across despite the fact that I have no idea what will happen when I get to the other side.

I walk across because it’s worth the journey. It’s always worth the journey.


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