“At 1.30 PM, I arrive at the river crossing. Parked on the side, I observe the situation. This is it, this is the 100 metres of rocky, bouldery, crocodile-inhabited challenge I have both feared and looked forward to for the past 1000 miles.
It is almost the end of the Gibb River Road in Western Australia, if the bike and I don’t cross this river, we have to go back 400 miles and detour another 500 miles…Distances double the size of the country I’m from… When I see the first cars going through, back-tracking all of a sudden seems a splendid idea. Their entire wheels disappear as the water floods over the bull bar. These big 4x4s are bouncing around on the boulders like little bubbleheads. My little 250CC bike will be near drowning while desperately trying to buck me off…And then there are the crocodiles…”
For a few seconds, close your eyes and imagine yourself in this situation. See the river in front of you, feel your hands on the handlebars, read the sign about crocodile safety and imagine it’s you on the edge of the water. What would you do? Would you ride through fearlessly, head held high while your right hand firmly holds the throttle? Would you find a truck to put the bike on and hitch a ride? Or would you doubt your abilities at first, but push through anyways?
Then determination kicks in. I didn’t come all this way to just give up. This river crossing is a hurdle like I’ve never faced before, yet even the idea that these murky waters are inhabited by crocodiles can’t stop a woman on a mission. I sit down with my eyes closed. In my head, I envision riding across the water. Every time I hit an imaginary boulder, I tell myself not to open the throttle, but instead to keep going steady. In my mind, I keep playing the video until I can feel the relief of making it to the other side. Then I get on the bike, my hands still shaking but my focus on the far bank.
Whether you ride or abort the mission will be largely influenced by your previous experiences. How far out of your comfort zone are you? And how far do you dare to go?
The first bit isn’t deep at all, a piece of cake, then after the middle it starts getting deeper. 50 meters to go. ‘Keep breathing, keep going! Slow and steady, slow and steady…’ The bike has some serious drag with the panniers touching the water. The engine is roaring in first gear. ‘I’m sorry my poor bike, just hold on a bit longer!’ Eyes on the bank at all time. ‘C’mon you can do this, slow and steady, don’t do anything stupid….’ 10 yards to go and it starts getting shallower… A tricky last rock nearly sees me tipping the bike over. But then, as I ride up the bank, relieve washes over me. I actually did it! I yell out my loudest and deepest victory scream. ‘Woooohooooo!!!!’ This was by far the hardest, most nerve wrecking thing I’ve ever done.
So what gave me the confidence to cross that crocodile-inhabited rocky death-trap? It wasn’t one thought or one experience. It was learning to ride a bicycle as a kid, going on my first solo motorbike trip, falling of my bike, riding thousands of kilometres of gravel roads, meeting new people… And everything else I did up to this point. It was a lifetime of pushing my own limits.
Confidence can be defined as the belief in yourself that you can successfully complete the task at hand.
But confidence doesn’t just appear. You can’t order it through Amazon, you can’t give it to someone for their birthday. You build it. You build confidence by, knowingly or unknowingly, challenging yourself. You build confidence by learning new skills. Because the more skills you have, the better equipped you are. You build confidence by talking to strangers who turn out to be nice people, by riding a tricky gravel track even if it scares the living daylight out of you.
Confidence is a verb, like love is a verb. It is something you have to work on to get it, to grow it and to keep it.
If you regularly take trips beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone, you will learn that you are capable of much more then you ever thought possible. It is at this point that your mindset will catch up. It is at this point that you are no longer scared of the unknown.
So go out there. Challenge yourself. Find things that scare you. But don’t let the fear stop you. Instead, step by step succeed at them. Ride bikes, sail boats, climb mountains, do what you love doing. Find where your comfort zone ends, and take a step or two beyond that line. Because the next time you find yourself in a challenging situation, you will have your own version of being able to say:
‘If I can cross a rocky, boulder-filled, crocodile inhabited river on a motorbike, I can also…..’
Intrigued? Grab a copy of Chantal’s book, “She’ll Be Right”, and enjoy her tales of adventure in Australia: