The Family That Zip-Lines Together, Stays Together


Way back in March, my husband and I sat at a table with a bunch of other couples who had also had too much to drink, at the live auction fundraiser for my kids’ elementary school.  At one point, when a week at a luxurious house in Costa Rica came up, we and another couple decided to go for it.  It was one of those spontaneous, why-the-hell-not? moments you only have when you’re drunk or you’re in Vegas (or drunk and in Vegas), and to our great amazement, we were the last bidders standing. 

When we woke up the next morning, heads foggy and hung-over, my husband and I both looked at each other: did we really buy a week in Costa Rica?  We did, and we had the credit card receipt to prove it.  Five months later (a.k.a. last week), we were on a plane…and then in a hotel in Atlanta for the night, and then on another plane the next morning (because what drunken people bidding in a live auction stop to find out whether there are direct flights from LA to Central America?)

On the plus side, the family we were going with was a good match for us: their daughter and mine are good friends from school, their son and mine are just a year apart and have similar, geeky interests.  Plus, the parents are fun and cool and laid back, and clearly like to drink, so that was a bonus as well.  But still, I was super stressed out about the trip, mainly because of the level of adventure that seems to be a requirement for a Costa Rican vacation.

You see, I am not a particularly adventurous person.  I have no interest in heli-skiing or rock climbing or hang gliding.  I lasted five minutes scuba diving because I am too claustrophobic to trust a tank as my source of oxygen, and I’m terrified of the little roller coaster-ish drop in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  One of my favorite expressions is that only two things fall from the sky: bird poop and idiots. 

So when our contact person in Costa Rica began sending me information about “canopy tours,” a.k.a. zip-lining five hundred feet in the air above the rainforest, held in place only by a fabric harness and a metal clip, I sort of started to hyperventilate.  My husband, who’s so afraid of heights that he refuses to go on the giant escalator at IKEA, was equally breathing-impaired just at the thought of it.  And my poor, anxiety-ridden son, who’s scared of the five-foot high baby zip-line that hangs over a thick cushion of pillows at his occupational therapy…well, I didn’t even mention it to him.  The thing is, though, that Costa Rica is famous for the canopy tours.  Going to Costa Rica and not taking a canopy tour is kind of like going to Italy and not eating pasta.  It’s just not done.  In fact, taking a canopy tour is the reason you go.  Again, something I wish I’d known when we decided to bid on this trip. 

The truth is, if we weren’t going with friends who were not at all afraid and were, in fact, looking forward to a canopy tour, we probably would have wussed out.  But we were going with such friends, and as such, wussing out was not really an option.  Besides, my daughter, who was clearly switched at birth with some other fearless couple’s baby, was dying to do it.  So we sucked it up, and we went.  Twice.  Eleven zip-lines the first day, ten the second day.  Several highly swingy suspension bridges, one forty-foot, vertical ladder, and twenty-one very high, very small, very railing-less platforms screwed into the sides of trees.  My daughter was grinning ear to ear.  My husband was pale and shaking and looked like he was going to cry the whole time, and for several hours afterwards.  I am now in the hole about two hundred bucks due to all of the Lego set-related bribery I had to engage in in order to get my son to even put on the harness.  (Mom, what if the fabric tears?  Oh honey, the fabric is strong, it doesn’t tear on it’s own.  What if a hawk flies up to me and eats the fabric with it’s beak and it tears? Um….).  And I – well, I was a huge baby and too afraid to go by myself, so I insisted on being attached to a guide like the children were (I swear, this had nothing to do with the cuteness of the guides).

And yet, at the end of the day, we all did it.  (And when I managed to open my eyes for a few seconds, it was really quite beautiful.)  We faced our fears as a family, we encouraged each other, we survived, and I am so proud of us all.  I bought the video and the pictures of us zip-lining, and the next time any one of is afraid of something, I will break it out and we will remember: if we could do that, we can do anything.

But still…that night, my husband and I laid in bed, marveling about the experience.  Well, marveling that we actually experienced it without dying.  We both agreed that we were glad we’d come to Costa Rica.  It’s a spectacular country, and we saw and did things we’ve never seen or done before.  We also agreed that at next year’s school auction, one of us will definitely stay sober.



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