Archived Story

Stepping out of my comfort zone

Published 6:47pm Thursday, May 8, 2014

I set out two weeks ago at around 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night, Georgia bound with my Kia Soul loaded to the gills with fishing and camping gear. The plan was to arrive around 12:30 a.m. and catch a few hours of sleep before driving six more hours to the heart of Okefenokee Swamp.
I wanted to drop off the grid for a weekend and quite honestly, I was ready for a change of scenery from the usual weekend trips to Mt. Cheaha.  For those who have never been to this swamp, it is absolutely breathtaking. Numerous places between our boat ramp and our destination for the night offered views of swamp prairie – small little cuts off the main channel that led to openings with vast expanses of lotus, lily pads and carnivorous pitcher plants and sundew.
Every bend or so in the swamp, you could catch a glimpse of an alligator, who for the most part didn’t seemed bothered by our trespassing. The leathery creatures stared us down, waiting until the last possible moment to disappear into the tea-stained brackish water, leaving only a small ripple on the surface to prove my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. A lot of people wondered why I knowingly chose to spend my weekend on a pier surrounded by creatures who wanted both my beef jerky or my right arm, whichever they could get to first.
Honestly though, there is something intoxicating about taking risks. It is something I learned about myself at a young age. I remember the day I watched my neighbor fall from our treehouse as our makeshift ski-rope zip-line failed, pulling out a column from beneath my parents’ house with it.
I said I liked taking risks, not that I always think them all the way through.
Venturing outside your comfort zone can teach you a lot about yourself, however. I am not necessarily advocating going and jumping out of an airplane or heading out to Acapulco Rock to take the plunge, but I will say this: with great risk usually comes great reward.
For me, throwing away a fear of what lurks below the water allowed me to see and experience things I never anticipated, like happening upon a snake perched in a tree or seeing pitcher plants in flower. I have only read about sundews, a crazy looking but relatively delicate carnivorous plant, but I got to spend some time photographing them at length this trip.
Sure there are hazards in the wilderness, be it in the swamp or on the ridges of Mt. Cheaha, the last thing I want is to cower through this life only to, as Henry David Thoreau once said, “when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Nelson is managing editor for The Outlook.