When I first traveled to Transylvania, I made a promise to myself. Throughout the trip, I would say yes to opportunities that I would normally decline —- due to fear of failure or looking like a fool. After all, saying yes to going to Transylvania was a first step. I soon discovered the practice of saying yes was both liberating and transformative.
Take a moment today to notice all of the opportunities that you reject or decline. What made you say no? What do you think would happen if you said yes?
These days our group has a mantra: In Transylvania we say YES!
When traveling to foreign lands, it is difficult to say yes. Inevitably we grow exhausted or cranky. Just the experience of sleeping in new places, eating new foods and speaking new languages pushes us out of our comfort zone. Nevertheless, this summer our partners planned a trip for us where we opened ourselves up to transformative experiences.
During our two days in the forest, with 40 people in one house with three bathrooms, we road horse-drawn carts, caught and ate our own fish (trout), tried our hand at Hungarian archery, and sang karaoke in the wee hours of the morning. There’s nothing like karaoke to move you beyond your fear of looking like the fool.
However, one of our last games proved to be the test. We divided into two different groups with a good mix of nationality and gender. The females were tasked with dressing up the boys and given a limited supply of options. Once dressed, the group had to choreograph a dance in which everyone participated. Each group had to accomplish these tasks in 25 minutes. Needless to say, there was a lot of grumbling in both English and Hungarian. Grumbling is a part of the process, but it shouldn’t stop you. The result was one of our most favorite moments of the trip.
My most challenging day was Friday. We were up and out at 8 am. By 6 pm, we had toured a beautiful castle, shopped for Dracula items, eaten McDonald’s (quite similar, better fries), and toured the idyllic city of Brassov. But the day wasn’t yet over. The schedule read adventure park. I assumed this would be rides and roller coasters. I was wrong. Adventure Park in Transylvania means an extensive ropes course. There is one small problem: I am truly, honestly, quite deeply afraid of heights. (I spent my entire trip on the London Eye crouched in the center trying not to give into vertigo.) Do I give into my limits? Do I say yes? We were given instructions and broken into groups. I started low to the ground, on the easiest course I could muster. Idon’twannago
Gaining confidence and knowing that our time was running out, Hayley says, “Emilie, let’s head for the red course.” What do you say in Transylvania? Yes. We jumped two course levels, and I soon found myself three stories off the ground. It pushed me to my limits and beyond. There was a moment when I turned to Russ and said, “I don’t think I can continue.” He replied, “Just try the first rung.” So I did. Moment by moment, rung by rung, I made it across. At the end, I was tired and exhilarated. I had stared into the face of fear and proven myself worthy. In these moments, I feel myself growing.
Where in your life have you had to stare into the face of fear? Who has encouraged you to keep going? What inner strength did it require?
By far, the best day of our trip (besides every day) was taking the long road into and up the Carpathian Mountains. It is called Transfăgărășan or Ceaușescu’s Folly. All the way up the mountain the views were breathtaking. As we ascended, rising above the tree line and heading into tundra-laden vistas, we spied flocks of sheep and goats in cracks of the mountain, attended by their herder. Little alcoves were lined with tents of hikers. One couple was even cycling up the road! From our bus windows we cheered their stamina; our smiles were reflected in their faces.
At the top was a lake. The road led through the mountain, but this is where the bus stopped. There were still more mountains above our heads. Out of the bus (our metal traveling tube), many of us scrambled on foot up the mountain. We would first pick a spot in the distance: “Let’s make it to there.” And then, begin, step-by-step. With each new spot, we wanted to go farther. Rising until we could see the valleys on all sides. We could have spent a week on the mountain. Time today, however, was not on our side. Eventually, we had to turn back. From the highest point, looking down into two valleys, we hatched a plan – a dream in the making – to return to Transfăgărășan.
Saying yes to a trip, a pilgrimage like Transylvania is not one only for the body. It shows that life has more lessons to offer. More challenges to face. We are not finished growing. But first, we must say yes.