Overcoming Fear in Your 40’s

15 Comments 05 June 2014

Noosa surfing

Noosa beach in Queensland was perfect place to face my fears.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? A month, a year, 5 years, 12 years ago? Of course as we get older the time-frame seems to get longer and longer. When we were younger – everything was new and a ‘first’ – and then something happens. Are we too busy, have we run out of new things to do, or did we just get scared to try new things? As we age we seldom push ourselves into new activities or things once we reach our 40’s. In fact we are happy about being set in our ways and finally coasting in life. However, I think that staying the course and not trying new things is the quickest way to getting old.

Why all of this talk about aging and fear? Because I recently had a week of firsts where it was all about trying new things and getting over fears. This was the first visit I had made to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia even though I had been to Australia twice before. It’s easy to sit back and enjoy the beaches, food, and wine of Queensland, but I decided to conquer some fears and found myself saying yes to doing things for the first time. Things that many 40 somethings may cringe at trying.

Surf’s Up

surfing lesson australia

Carrying my softboard out to take on the waves.

As I looked out at the crashing waves I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I had taken one beginning surfing lesson before on Maui, but I did not have a break like this. I’m not great with waves, I’ve never been really comfortable in them, yet I’m inexplicably drawn to surfing. In my beginner viewpoint, Noosa’s waves were powerful. I’m sure to any normal surfer they would not even be considered waves, but to me they were formidable. These were the kind of waves that made me feel small…and scared. They looked big and intimidating, and they made me question why I wasn’t just walking on the beach looking for shells. What the hell was I doing out here? But I trusted Tim, my instructor from Tropic Surf, and after practicing on the beach – off we went into the waves. We started by simply trying to surf the white water so I could get used to standing up. It was a sandy bottom and shallow so a good place to learn again.

Tim asked if I wanted to go out to the bigger waves and I hesitated ready to say no, but decided I would use his confidence in me to get out there and take bigger waves on for the first time. Simply getting out past the waves was a whole new experience to learn for this Midwestern girl where any wave looks big to me. I really didn’t know how to take them on, but Tim kept on giving me tips of how to get the board and myself up over the wave. And if it was too big, then he taught me how to dive underneath and touch the sand until it rolled over me. I felt like I was in a boxing match, waves pummeling me, diving down, holding my breath, and then coming up to another immediate blow. Once past the break, it was more manageable. Tim then focused on teaching me how to pivot and turn quickly while on the board and get ready.

surfing noosa

Paddling out to the bigger waves

I was able to get up a few times, albeit wobbly, however my real victory was overcoming my fear of going further out into the surf for the first time. Tim was great at reading people, and determining their eagerness, fears, and abilities in a very short time. And like any good coach, after every attempt – he always had something positive to say to me to keep me going – even if I fell off in seconds!

Horsing Around

horseback riding Noosa

Me and my horse Moose playing in the water along Noosa North Shore

“Do you want to canter?” Nikki asked me as we were strolling along the beach in Noosa North Shore. Being a horse novice, I didn’t even know exactly what canter meant – but I knew that it meant to go faster than I was going now. Previously I had taken a number of standard horse rides while traveling – the kind where the horse just meanders along on the prescribed trail. It doesn’t take any skill and it’s sort of like getting onto an amusement park ride – it leads you around the circuit. This morning however I was with only one instructor, Nikki, and we had the beach completely to ourselves. The Noosa North Shore was beautiful and deserted. We started off on the standard horse ride chatting about travel. It was nice to be back in the saddle – yet I’m not completely comfortable with horses, I do love to be on them. I had never really made the jump into really riding before.

I thought about Nikki’s cantering question and weighed out my desire to try new things vs how painful it may be for my bum and the possibility of falling off. Then I had a flashing vision of Legends of the Fall and the actors in the movie racing across wide expanses of land on their horses looking completely at ease, hair blowing in the wind, and suddenly out of my mouth came a “yes!”. Nikki gave me pointers on where to position the stirrups, where to put the pressure in my feet, and how to control Moose, my beautiful brown and white spotted horse, and his speed. I was nervous, but figured what the heck, I don’t get one-on-one one opportunities like this very often. We first had to start with trotting and getting into a rhythm. Once I got the rhythm, Nikki told me to give Moose a gentle kick, adjust my feet, and my body sort of fell into place naturally. We were cantering. It felt like the first time I ever put my foot on the accelerator of a car. A bit jolting but exhilarating! I imagined I was going much faster than I was, but I do recall there being a little wind in my hair! There will be no more simple trail rides for me going forward – I have the bug!

Drivers Ed

In all of my travels I strangely have never had to drive on the opposite side of the road. I’ve traveled to many countries where they drive on the left side, but I’ve never driven there. I got a small taste of if in India on the rickshaw, but It never really felt like left side driving since I was on more of a motorcycle than a car and there seems to be no rules in India. People, animals, bikes, and trucks could honestly go any way they wanted on highways or streets.

When Queensland tourism asked I was willing to drive myself around Southern Queensland I hesitated for a second thinking about the left side driving and decided that it was about time I get over my fear. How hard could it be to relearn everything I know about driving for the last 28 years? The first day I was completely befuddled – everything was opposite. I wanted to turn right and I’d turn on the windshield wipers instead. I wanted to check my rear view mirror and I would naturally look to my upper right and realize there was no mirror there. I was basically starting the process of reprogramming my brain – and that’s never easy in your 40’s! I did feel 16 again though as I inched along, checked my mirror, and double checked and triple checked before I changed lanes. I found myself verbally repeating my mantra aloud “Stay in the middle, stay in the middle”. It was the only way I could remember which lane to turn into. I didn’t turn on the radio and I had both hands on the wheel at all times – I needed complete concentration. But our brains adapt pretty quickly, even in our 40’s, and after a few days I was singing along to the radio instead of repeating my mantra.

Sunshine Coast Backdrop

Sunshine Coast Noosa Beach

Australia’s Sunshine Coast

Surfing in bigger waves, cantering on horseback, and driving on the left side were all new adventures for me – someone who is normally fearful of everything. Each day I had a little doubt of “I don’t think I can do this.” And then each day I found myself deliciously embracing the new – sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. The Sunshine Coast of Queensland had me trying new things. I think they put something in the water in Noosa to make people overcome their fears and push themselves to get our of their comfort zone. Sure, it helps that the views are gorgeous and maybe that’s what makes you feel like you are in a movie and are invincible. Whatever it was to make me feel bold enough to try new things – I’m pretty sure that I took years off my age. I feel younger already.

If you are ready to try these activities for the first time or just improve upon the skills you already have then head to Noosa and check out my instructors:
Tropic – The personalized coaching aspect of Tropic Surf was really beneficial. It was the one-on-one instruction which actually made me say yes to this opportunity to surf the waves of Noosa for the first time.
Equathon Horseback – It just was luck that I was the only one riding that day so I got Nikki’s instruction all to my self.  But the groups are normally small and the beach is remote – so you have plenty of room to practice and try new skills.
Zoom Zoom Zoom Car


Disclosure:  I was invited to enjoy Queensland by the Queensland Tourism Board via the #Room753 project.  However all the opinions expressed her are solely my own!

Your Comments

15 Comments so far

  1. Brian says:

    This strikes me as an important Public Service Announcement for those of us of a certain age. Most of us do get more timid as we age. The really scary thing, though, is that becoming more fearful is a gradual, continual and cumulative process. If left unchecked it can render ever larger portions of our world scary and off limits.

    We really do need to actively push back against those fears so that instead of aging into a shrinking world, we rediscover the wide open one of our youth.

    • Sherry says:

      So true Brian about leaving it unchecked. Even just a few months back in the U.S. for me I become more fearful of traveling again!

  2. Melissa Falk says:

    Brava and Amen! As a 48 year old woman who has been enjoying solo travel and other adventures for the last 20+ years, I applaud your willingness to try new things, especially things outside of your comfort zone. It’s how we continue to learn about the world and the true nature of ourselves. I agree that having many “firsts” is what keeps us young. Well said. I am always amazed at how brave I get when I am outside of my own country. It’s like I having an alias (HA!)

  3. Good for you, cantering on the beach in Queensland! I’m glad you’ve been bitten by the horse bug.

  4. Penelope says:

    The first time I went out, the waves beat the crap out of me, but I loved the challenge regardless. Congrats on getting out there and trying surfing … just a lovely sport!

  5. I am glad you decided to try out all these things and take up the challenge. I also went horseback riding once and felt like in the Legends of the Fall:). I took few lessons as a child, but never galopped on a horse. But this one time in Ecuador just at the end of a half a day trip around the Cotopaxi NP the horses already knew the way home and all started galopping. At first it was a bit scary, but at the same time such a great feeling. Too bad that the next day I had the biggest muscle pain I’ve ever had in my life!

  6. Mik - UDrive says:

    After seven years of a mudane life and basic routine, I had more or less given up and was trying to accept age gracefully. Then a series of mishaps caused me to rethink. I agree, that we should constantly try new things and enjoy them to keep young at heart

  7. This is a year of firsts for me, too. I’m not quite 40 (just turned 36), but I’m experience a lot of firsts. I just did my first marathon two weeks ago. I’m training for a triathlon and a Spartan race. And even though I have almost 1,200 skydives, I took a year off. I got back out there this past weekend and I felt like a student with all the same nerves. So, I count that as a first, too.

    And when I was in England, I drove my boyfriend’s car to a village 12 miles away without him in the car. It was the first time for me and boy howdy did I need a breath and a beer when I parked after a successful attempt.

  8. I found this article very inspiring. It is way too easy to get stuck in our comfort zones.

  9. Michelle says:

    I sold everything I owned and moved to Bangkok when I was 42. Still living there 11 years later, and highly recommend doing something so different :)

    Age means nothing. It’s what you do that’s important.


  1. #NGTRadar: Travel Lately – Intelligent Travel - June 11, 2014

    […] can help keep us young, and help us grow as individuals, too. If you’re a doubter, check out this affirmative ode to travel’s triumph over fear set in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. […]

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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