Fear of Heights Makes Adventure Travel Tricky

 In Travel Tips

Many thanks to Cheryl from Kids On A Plane for this honest look at how our fears can effect our travels, no matter how hard we try to conquer them. 


Ziplining isn’t always just about the view.

I have a fear of heights. For as long as I can remember I have been terrified of roller coasters, riding ski lifts (yup, a Canadian mom who stays on the bunny hill just so she doesn’t have to sit in that chair!) and ferris wheels.

As you can imagine, for someone who likes to travel, a fear of heights can be extremely restrictive. And sometimes a bit embarrassing. There’s plenty of attractions and sights around the world that are really high. The Eiffel Tower, Space Needle, Capilano Suspension Bridge, CN Tower, and endless amounts of rides that take you high in the air and bring you back down in a matter of seconds. Maybe milliseconds.

I haven’t had issues walking around the Space Needle and standing on the glass floor in the CN Tower. I did relatively well on the suspension bridges in Vancouver too as long as I ran really quickly across them and didn’t stop to look down. My fear rears its ugly head when I’m high up and there are no walls surrounding (or in my opinion, protecting) me. Just air hitting me from all directions. It’s not good. It makes me very nervous.

I’m fine on airplanes but not good on roller coasters. Love ferris wheels where the capsules are completely enclosed but hate the ones where you’re in a seat rocking back and forth praying that birds aren’t going to fly by and poop on you. Although I guess when you have a fear of heights, poop is the last thing you are thinking about.

My fear of heights got the best of me recently when I was invited on a trip after a travel bloggers conference (TBEX) in Toronto this past June.


Getting Excited for Ziplining

One of the activities on this particular trip was ziplining through the treetops. I was so excited as it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I talked about it the entire week leading up to the trip with my husband. “I’m finally going to conquer my fear of heights! I’m going ziplining! In our own backyard! Can you believe it? So close to Toronto. I will take you there for your birthday! Or Father’s Day!”

Practicing Like a Pro

When we got to the practice area, I was psyched. We were probably only 3 feet off the ground and with my helmet and harness on, I zipped through the practice course with lightening speed. I was ready to go pro!

The Real Deal

After the rest of the group practiced (there were maybe 10 of us or so), we headed for the obstacle course. It was not a beginner’s course by any means. Climbing ladders, jumping from log to log hung from branches with ropes, and a whole bunch of other stuff I didn’t really pay attention to after I saw how high we had to climb.

When they said treetop they meant really tall trees. As in TWO platforms you had to climb up to before starting your ziplining adventure. Two ladders with oh maybe 30 rungs each.

I let everyone go ahead of me before I mustered up the courage to climb up the first ladder.

My heart was racing, my palms were sweating and I was telling myself “You can do this! Look at all those people in front of you! They’re smiling, they’re having fun!” And then I felt a breeze hit me. I looked out into the forest and panicked. I made it up to the first platform and felt really scared to be so high up with just a few polyester straps and metal carbiners holding me to a tree trunk.

The second ladder was made of wire and wood. Not 100% wood like the one I just climbed. It was shaky. I was petrified. I climbed up three rungs and gave up.


Cheryl hanging on for dear life despite the smile

Missing Out

I turned around and climbed down the ladder. Happy to be back on the ground but also hating myself at the same time because ziplinging has been on my bucket list for a very long time. Now I will never be able to go with my husband. I will have to watch him from the ground and take photos just like when he goes skiing or snowboarding.

I may never overcome my fear of heights and am slowly learning to accept that some of the things on my bucket list are probably never going to be crossed off. Would I like to know what it’s like to ski down a mountain instead of a bunny hill? Go parasailing in the Caribbean like you see in the commercials and magazines? Yes, of course I would, but until I figure out how to control my fear instead of it controlling me I guess I will never know.

KidsOnAPlane.com is a family travel blog written by Canadian mom of 2, Cheryl. The blog focuses on family travel in North America and the Caribbean and covers a range of topics including Disney with kids, hotel and attraction reviews, cruising, delicious food finds and travel gear product reviews. Cheryl’s goal is to encourage parents to get out there and travel with their kids – across the globe or in their own backyard – while not losing their mind or their money!

What do you do when your fears get the best of you?

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Showing 7 comments
  • Sarah

    Hi Keryn! Im sorry that your fears won this battle, but fortunately for you there will be many more opportunities to overcome this obstacle.

    Back in 2010 I had the opportunity of a lifetime to swim with a whaleshark in Panama and I didnt get out of the boat because of my fears. Since then, I have created opportunities (that I now call my whale sharks) to re do this and one day, I plan to find a whale shark and hop right into that water with them 🙂

  • Traci

    I tip my hat to you for making it as far as you did! I wouldn’t have even put the harness on! 🙂

    • Cheryl @ Kids On A Plane

      Haha! I never looked at it that way – high fiving myself for putting on the harness and making it up one ladder! 🙂

  • The Traveling Fool

    I can relate. Me and heights do not get along well at all.

  • Alouise

    That enclosed thing makes sense to me. I have a fear of heights too, but going up to a tall building (like the CN Tower) doesn’t scare me at all, but yeah a ski lift up a mountain totally freaks me out. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve never really been a skier, despite the fact I’m only a few hours away from The Rocky Mountains. Still I’d love to go ziplining, and it’s great to know someone else with a fear of heights like me can do it too.

    • Cheryl @ Kids On A Plane

      Alouise, I think feeling safe in an enclosed area is pretty common amongst people who have a fear of heights. It’s probably the whole “wind hitting my face and body” thing that makes us scared.

      Hurray! Found another fellow Canadian who does not like skiing! I don’t think there are many of us 🙂

  • n

    Don’t even worry about it. I have a fear of heights. But to make it sound less chickeny, I call it a “fear of falling down and dying.” It’s very real. I lose it on ferris wheels with gondolas. Safer, but still oh so scary.

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