Climbing the Matterhorn -a discussion about conquering one’s fears

Thrill seeker or control freak?

It is not that I have a death wish but I do enjoy feeling fear just so I can continue on doing what I’m doing despite that crippling sensation that causes most people to freeze up and hide. Don’t get me wrong, no one likes to be scared but the feeling of accomplishment that you get after succeeding in beating what you are afraid of is addicting and it helps you grow. So yes I admit that I have a problem: hi my name is Tiffany and I am an adrenaline junkie. People who are thrill seekers are often referred to as Type-T personalties(yes I googled why I am the way I am lol). I will try to break down the psychology behind these “crazy” individuals by looking into my own mind and discussing my motives for seeking heart pounding sensations that may deter some people.

Conquering one’s fears is one of the quickest ways to grow into the best version of oneself. Fear is natural. It is something that our ancestors developed in order to survive and the evolutionary significance of being scared has benefitted our species since it allows us to sense danger and to either activate our freeze, flight or fight responses. In order to get the correct reaction for a situation where one’s life is in danger, we need quick reflexes; to hone into these instinctual processes that are wired into our DNA, we need to put them into practice. In my opinion, the best way of doing this is through the practice of continuing on despite being fearful. To keep moving and to be calm on the outside even though you are losing your shit on the inside. If someone tells you that they are fearless, it is not that they do not feel fear but they continue on anyway despite the scary situation that they are facing. Feeling fear is an integral part of being a human being. We do not have the physical strength or speed that some animals have and it is our sensations/emotions that help keep us alive.

Conquering your fears is similar to working out. You need to consistently lift weights in order to grow stronger and in order to lift heavier you have to start small. Choosing to be brave is a similar process. You have to take baby steps to build up tolerance and ultimately fear is just a feeling that could potentially keep you from accomplishing tangible feats. You are essentially in total control of the situation and how you react to it by learning how you react to scary/life threatening situations. If you are familiar with the enneagram, those who have the need to be in control are usually type 8’s; I am a type 8 wing 7 which means that I need to be in control but I also seek adventure and love to explore new places and value experiences. This can be contradicting since new experiences are not exactly the most controlled environments.

If you have never heard of the Enneagram, it is a version of a personality test similar to the MTBI but I find it to be more accurate than the MTBI in my case. There are 9 personality types and they are influenced by how you were raised and the childhood traumas that you may have experienced. The emphasis is on how certain individuals deal with their environments based on the personalities that they have developed. It is worth researching if you are interested in learning more about yourself and the people in your life.

Now that we got that out of the way, we can focus on the task of climbing the famed Matterhorn– one of, if not the most dangerous(but breathtaking) peaks in the world. So what does climbing this mountain have to do with anything?

It is personal for me because I have always been afraid of heights. I have tried to overcome this by skydiving and parasailing but it is different because both of these things do not require perseverance and continuous work in convincing yourself to take the leap. Yes, you still need to literally convince yourself to leap off the plane and it takes bravery to jump out of a moving plane thousands of feet in the sky but it only requires one second of decision making in order to do so. It is not a constant decision to be fearless unless you jump out of the plane multiple times. Also, all the point of references that you would have in regards to how high up you are are basically nonexistent so it isn’t really about heights in this situation. It is mostly you convincing yourself to jump. You do not need to train your body in order to jump out of a plane, it is instant and it is all in your mind. You are not in control after you make that jump. Whereas, climbing a mountain is a grueling and long journey, where you will have to endure multiple obstacles both on and off the mountain and be extremely patient. The timing, weather, how fit you are, your level of experience and many other factors come into play when you are a mountain climber. Every detail can mean the difference between life or death. Most of these details, however, are in your control. The only ones that aren’t is weather and falling rocks/avalanches. Your mind can be both an asset and your enemy in these situations and it is up to you to decide which. However, I want to point out that preparation is crucial in any dangerous task in terms of lowering your risks. Taking the least risky option is how most adventure seekers stay alive to see another day and conquer another feat. Impulsivity can be deadly and should not be confused with seeking novel experiences.

My first attempt to climb the Matterhorn was mostly a test of my patience but I learned a lot from it. One of the things I learned is to not attempt to climb when there is snow. I planned on getting to Zermatt and finding a guide that same day and leaving in the morning the next day to climb but my plans did not work out due to the weather and the season I visited in. This was a couple weeks ago in December and there was a whiteout in the mountains, especially on the Gornergrat where visibility was close to zero. This situation could be deadly for climbers as I soon learned since you need to be able to see where you are climbing in order to not die. Who would’ve thought? Second thing I learned was that you need a shitload of mountain climbing experience to even convince someone to take you up there. I did not have Everest or even the local rock climbing gym under my belt…I had literally no experience whatsoever. Third, people usually train months in advance for this shit and I trained two weeks in advanced because that was when I decided to book the ticket. Okay, so as you can probably tell I was not prepared and would most likely die if I attempted to climb the Matterhorn on this trip. Good news is I have until summer of next year to train because that is when they open the peaks to climbers and I got to snowboard on the swiss alps which was cool and super fun. Highly recommend. Side note, the intermediate peaks in Switzerland are actually the black diamonds in America. I learned this the hard way and slid down on my butt a good portion of the peak.

Monaco

Whenever someone asks me what my most favorite place that I’ve traveled to is, my response is always Monaco. Why? Good vibes and poker.

I wish vibes could be transmitted through a computer screen so I could show you the feel good energy mecca that is the city of Monte Carlo. For the moment being–at least until we can figure out a way to administer sensations through technology screens–you would probably need to physically go to Monaco to experience this euphoria. I have had a couple people ask me if Monaco is worth visiting, if it’s safe and whether there are a lot of things to do so I figured it was about time to spill the tea.

When one thinks of Monaco, the images of Casinos and Yacht parties usually are the first things that come to mind and for good reason; this place is known for high stakes gambling and luxurious parties. But that is not to say these are the only two things to do here. This small country boasts a glorious yacht filled harbored coastline as well as majestic twinkling mountains that one can admire from the water at night. The combination of both of these contrasting landscapes creates a balance that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Although the city itself is quite gorgeous, it is the people that make this place so fun to hang out in. Everyone seems to be in a good mood and appears to not have a care in the world which makes you chill out a bit too. Energy…It’s contagious.

If the good vibes aren’t enough to convince you, there are a couple other reasons why this place should be on top of your bucket list. I am not the biggest aquarium enthusiast but the Musée Océanographique de Monaco is the nicest aquarium/museum I have ever seen. It is unforgettable. I think I might’ve found Nemo here, along with the cast of shark tank(holla to Mark Cuban).

Another reason why this place is so cool is because of the architecture. There are plenty of castles and churches to admire if you get bored of boating or playing poker.

It is how a place makes you feel and this influences your memories when you look back and remember that place and Monaco gives me warm fuzzy feelings sans champagne. You have the option of chilling on the beach or hiking up the hillsides as well as hitting the town to shop and people watch all at once without having to venture out of the city. The coast features one of my favorite drives along the french riviera and if you get the chance I would highly suggest taking a mini sight seeing road-trip around the coastline of Southern France and Monaco.

Portugal- Lisbon

Vibe checked in Lisbon- The European San Francisco…sorta

Of course I had to visit the Land of egg tarts!

I am drooling as I am writing this and reminiscing on the warm egg tart sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon that I had in Lisbon.

Portugal is a charming place… the buildings are covered with art–both in the from of tiles or graffiti(the good kind!)– and the city of Lisbon has an old school rustic hipster vibe. You are a short drive away from rad surf spots, everybody is friendly/chill and there are yummy egg tarts(better than golden gate bakery in SF’s Chinatown dare I say). It reminded me of SF in a way; the 25 de Abril Bridge is almost an exact replica of the famed Golden Gate Bridge(one of my favorite bridges). In fact, the company that designed the bridges in the bay area(including the bay bridge) also designed Portugal’s red bridge. The main difference is how inexpensive it was here! Compared to her European counterparts, Portugal is one of the most affordable countries.

first Impressions

As I arrived from the airport on an early Sunday morning, I noticed that the city was different from other European cities in that there was literally no one outside. It freaked me out a little. It was a weekend but the streets were almost completely empty, very uncharacteristic of European towns. I began to question if I was in the right place, the pictures I saw of Lisbon featured lively crowded cobbled streets with plenty of culture and people. My experience was different. All of the shops were closed and there was no one in sight. I thought I happened to be caught in the aftermath of an apocalypse that I was unaware had occurred somehow. A bit creeped out, I texted a friend that had been to Lisbon before and asked him what the eff was going on. He explained, that Portugal is a weird place but you learn to love it; people here do not go outside until after noon and businesses do not open early. It’s chill, and clearly, I needed a vibe check. If you want to learn how to truly take it easy, visiting Lisbon might be a good idea. People do things on their own time and at their own pace. Coming from a place where things were pretty much open all the time and there were always people outside as soon as the sun rises, this was quite the shock for me.

Accommodations: i stayed at an adult themed hotel so you don’t have to

I ended up choosing a boutique hotel which was walking distance from the main attractions I wanted to see. I stayed at the Maxime Hotel which features Burlesque themed rooms and a cool bar(they give you a free drink ticket as soon as you arrive). Now we’re talkin’. The hotel also included a free breakfast which had tons of options and even egg tarts! Just another note, I was unaware of the Burlesque theme and figured it out the hard way… I thought I had managed to accidentally book an “adult activity” hotel since there were bondage rooms, ect. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, I just minded my own business and explored during the day and came back to sleep at night, there was no issue. It was an overall comfortable stay and in the center of Lisboa which was convenient. I would recommend it for couples! If you are traveling as a family or with children I wouldn’t say that this place isn’t an option but be aware, I was completely oblivious and had to get another vibe check.

Attractions:

“If I listed spots that you could just google without offering any other value then I would be guilty of wasting your time

Honestly, I could list a couple places that are worth visiting and I will do that as well but I wanted to mention that the entire city itself is worth seeing, not just these specific popular tourist attractions. I did not intentionally set out to see any sight in particular but managed to see all the significant spots by just wandering and getting lost. If I listed things that you could just google without offering any other value then I would be guilty of wasting your time. I will include my own opinions of these places and try my best to accurately describe them so you can feel like you were also there with me. The element of surprise increases the awe you will feel when you see the spots spontaneously and you can judge for yourself if certain places are worth the hype or not 🙂

  • Belem tower: It is similar to a moat since it is surrounded by water but it’s built like a small castle. There is a bridge that allows you to enter the tower and get a view of the 25th de Abril bridge.
  • Castelo de Jorge: I only had a chance to peak in from the outside because the lines to get in were ridiculous…be sure to come early if you want to go inside. From what I could see, it features a view of the entire city but you could also see that from the viewpoint for free sans lines.
  • Santa Justa Lift: I have to admit, the history behind this one is pretty cool and quite informative. The lift itself gave off gothic mid century vibes.
  • Miradoura de Santa Luzia: Breathtaking view of entire town
  • Museum de Patriarchial: You won’t miss this one, it is quite a looker.
  • Pink Street: Like the red carpet but pink LOL
  • Ancient town: Reminded me of Cinque Terre(I’ll link it here if you haven’t checked out the post https://tiffanypham.me/2019/11/17/italy-cinque-terretranslation-five-lands/https://tiffanypham.me/2019/11/17/italy-cinque-terretranslation-five-lands/).

Egg tarts hehe

I sampled all the egg tarts so you don’t have to and I narrowed it down to two of what I consider to be the best egg tarts I have ever had in my entire life.

  1. Manteigaria
  2. Pastelaria Santa Antonio

Gonna end it here and keep it short and sweet:P

Iceland(or Mars, same thing)

Ever get the urge to travel to outer-space…more specifically Mars? @ElonMusk yes I’m talking to you.

I have a solution for you, Elon. And I think you’re going to like it. It doesn’t include buying used rockets from Russia or launching Teslas into space because you can literally just hop on a plane and have pretty much the same experience with like half the effort.

Jokes aside, Iceland is out of this world and if you are a nature fanatic you’ll be smitten. It doesn’t even feel like you are on Earth anymore at times because some of the sights were just unreal. Think Lord of the Ring or Game of Thrones vibes. I’ll support my claims with substantial evidence in the form of pictures, do not fret my friends.

Logistical stuff: We landed in Reykjavik airport and decided to drive to the Blue Lagoon right away to rejuvenate after the long flight(I flew in from San Francisco so it was about a 9 hour flight). I think renting a car in Iceland is absolutely necessary since there are not many options for public transportation and I would relate the entire experience to an epic road trip with stunning sights everywhere you look. With that being said, it is a lot of driving; if I were to go back(and I am planning on doing this!) I would consider renting a camper van and ditching staying at hotels altogether. You have the option of literally just parking anywhere and sleeping.. don’t worry, Iceland is extremely safe and more often than not there are no other people around to bother you. The convenience of getting a van is that you do not need to go through the trouble of finding your hotel and then going back and forth to see sights like we did. It’s easier to keep with the momentum of your road-trip. If you aren’t about that van life, I suggest spending the extra money to get a jeep or a 4×4 because you are probably going to end up on dirt roads and rough terrain at some point during your time here.

This place is a force to be reckoned with and being there made me feel like a small insignificant human(in a good way). The wind has been known to cause car doors to fly off completely, just a warning for those of you who like to keep the door open to put on your layers or to take pictures. Going off tangent, being in nature forces you to feel like your everyday struggles are small because it is unpredictable. How does one prepare for the unpredictability of life? Proper planning. One minute you are chasing rainbows and the next you are driving through a hail storm. Just as you wouldn’t go to space without the right gear, going into Iceland unprepared could be quite dangerous.

Depending on the season you find yourself in, it is probably going to be cold with the exception of summer–when it is 24 hours of daylight, cool right? I would suggest visiting in the summer is you are a fan of long hikes because you can literally hike the entire day and it will still be daylight out. There were certain hikes which led to hot springs that I could not do at the time I was there because there weren’t enough hours of daylight and it would require camping out in the cold. This is not an issue you would be facing in the Summer. However, if you are adamant on catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis(I am coming back JUST for this) then you will find yourself there in either the fall or winter. Fair warning, it feels colder than New York even though temperature wise it might be the same(the wind is quite strong) and for my friends who keep up with me on social media, you know how much I complain about how cold NY is. In addition to this, bring waterproof clothing; extremely important, especially for those of you who are not fans of hypothermia(for you hypothermia fans, feel free to skip this part). You will also need a good pair of waterproof hiking boots or snow boots and layering will be your best buddy. I was pretty much in my snowboarding gear for most of my time here with the exception of when I would go into the hot springs. Yep, you heard correctly. There are natural hot springs here and they are the bomb dot com. The blue lagoon is included but it is man made(still super cool)…so don’t forget to bring a swimsuit, a quick dry towel, and flip flops. You do not want to get your boots wet(mine still smell like wet dog).

Now that we got the boring stuff out of the way, we can finally go over the amazing natural wonders that you can check out. Where do I even start? Let me include a map of Iceland and that might make things easier to understand. Most likely you will be coming from Southern Iceland and then either make your way east or west. The west fjords are a must see in my opinion, but then again, you will probably notice me saying everything is a must see because it is! Lol.

The amount of destinations you are able to visit not only depends on the duration of your trip but also on how much you like to linger/take your time or if you like to see it and move on right away to the next cool thing. I would say plan on being here for at least a week if you can if not two weeks. I wish I stayed longer. I was there for 5 days and it was definitely not enough and I am ashamed to say but I was speeding the entire time because we were the only ones on the road for miles. I still was not able to make it to the Northern part(which I heard from friends is where the coolest craters are). It is also the coldest part. The southern portion has numerous waterfalls whereas the Eastern part features glaciers and iceberg filled bodies of water. In the west, you’ll find the viking villages and the town of Vik. This is where you’ll see vast grassland and hills and sheep and black sand beaches. I am only giving an idea of how dramatically different each area is and how you can find yourself in a completely different landscape in such a short drive all on one island. The west fjords feature cliffs and ocean landscape like you’ve never seen before. The mountains had waterfalls that flowed straight into the ocean, my description does not do it justice. And as you are driving, you will find the most epic landscapes as you look to either the left or right. There were fields of moss that looked like you were in the film The Hobbit and then would find hilly red surfaces and made it feel like you were driving on Mars.

Attractions I recommend visiting:

  1. Kirkjufellsfoss: I made the mistake of booking accommodations here my first night and had to drive the southern part twice–which I didn’t mind–but it was unnecessary and time consuming. We did get a sick view of the famed mountain from our bedroom. For the accommodations, we opted for the Kirkjufell Guesthouse and lucked out since we got the front room with the most amazing view; they also have a kitchen and shared work area.
Kirkjufell is on the western part and we drove past the southern attractions because it was getting dark and we didn’t want to drive at night.

2. Southern part: The Golden Road

This portion is the most touristy and crowded in my opinion but for good reason. There are a plethora of sights to see on the south coast and most of them involve waterfalls! It is a lot to go over so I will list out the most memorable things I saw here and include photos 🙂

  • Gullfoss Falls
  • Geysir
  • Skogafoss
  • Seljalandsfoss
  • Barnafoss
  • Solheimasandur airplane wreck
  • Reynisfjara Beach
  • Vik

3. Vik and Black Sand Beaches

4. Eastern Coast: Features lots and lots of glaciers as well as a diamond beach.

  • Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon
  • Diamond Beach
  • Jökulsárlón
  • pretty much the entire thing…highly suggest you make as many stops as your heart desires, you won’t regret it. The road might seem to look the same the entire time but if you get out and walk a bit, you will find amazing glacial views like the one below.

5. Dynjandi: My favorite waterfall. Although getting there was quite tough due to the windy mountainous road, it was definitely worth it.

6. Tjoruhusid fish restaurant: The best fish buffet style.