You can be messy, complicated and afraid. Show up anyway.
Two years ago, if you'd told me that I would one day be sport climbing in Kalymnos, Greece, I would have laughed you right out of the room.
That's just crazy talk, an Instagram fantasy, a complete impossibility... until it isn't.
I'd flirted with rock climbing when I was living in Dallas, TX, but didn't get dedicated until I relocated to Houston for work in 2014. New to the city and eager to make connections, I accepted an invite from random-boy-I-met-at-the-bar to climb at Texas Rock Gym.
At the time, I could at best be described as a moderately active workaholic who spent more hours sitting behind a desk, in front of a computer than anything else. I certainly hadn't figured out how to look even remotely cute in a climbing harness. Needless to say, it was a disaster. The boy didn't stick, but climbing did. I'm not sure if it was passion, or just sheer frustration mixed with stubborn determination. Probably all of the above, but something kept pulling me back and that's where my love affair with climbing began.
Fast-forward to this past May and me, after a lot of sweat, pain, failures and losses later, sitting in the window seat on the approach and landing into Kalymnos. I'm sure people thought I was crazy. Half in tears with the most ginormous smile, completely overwhelmed, ridiculously excited and in somewhat disbelief that this stunningly beautiful island would be my reality for the next seven days.
Kalymnos first showed up on my radar last year with this image in adventure photographer Nathan Welton’s Instagram feed. You can’t explain why certain things speak to you, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to go.
So I do what I do best. I think about it, I talk about it, I dream about it, I research the hell out of it… and still don’t make any solid plans to go.
Until one afternoon when an unidentified number from Greece showed up in my missed calls.
That’s it. Kalymnos is now calling. Literally calling. Time to stop planning, get out of your head, just go.
I traveled with the UK-based guide service, Rock & Sun, led by Trevor Massiah and Desirée Verbeek. My first international trip and my first opportunity to climb for more than two consecutive days. The experience, in a word, was EPIC.
Expectations are my enemy, and I did my best to leave them at home. I knew it was going to be a great trip ‒ after all, there's a reason Kalymnos is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the world ‒ but the gains I made in that seven days have impacted my life, both on and off the wall. Funny how that works. All the crap you struggle with in your regular life seems to show up when you climb, and I credit Trevor and Desirée for teaching this Type A performance-driven perfectionist some valuable climbing (life) lessons:
Take baby steps. Keep moving, even if it’s small, and, remember, sometimes you might have to climb down to get up.
Look for less steep, more featured. Life is hard enough. Relax, stay loose and try not to make things more difficult than they need to be.
Fail, don't bail. Assess your risks, then put yourself out there and be willing to make some mistakes. You’ll learn more from taking the whipper, than you will from yelling 'take'.
So why do I climb? I ask myself that question sometimes; why has the act of pulling on rock become so important to me? Looking back, it’s completely transformed my life. Climbing is a sport that has now become a lifestyle and a vehicle to see the world from a unique perspective. It's brought some of the most fantastic people into my life, and, together, we've had some of the most extraordinary experiences. I am the best version of myself when I’m out there on the wall. Confident, present, in the moment and unafraid.
I’m celebrating my 42nd birthday in June. Guess you could say I got a late start, but I've still got some big goals. As long as I keep moving, keep climbing, I know my best days are still ahead. To begin, begin, and this girl is just getting started.
A short climbing story by Tamara Smith, "Baby Steps"