Escaping My Comfort Zone
Madison. Age 13. Doylestown, Pennsylvania

The rubber tires scraped and skidded on the hot asphalt. The thin and old steel walls of the bus clattered incessantly as we made our way down the old road. The small air conditioner at the front wheezed, futilely battling the strong heat and humidity of Cancun, Mexico. We zipped past streets of dense forest with the calm tropical ocean only miles away. Palm trees swayed in the light breeze as unfamiliar animals climbed up their trunks. As we drove down the winding gravel road, I knew our journey had begun.

Five hours later, we arrived at our first stop. Thankfully, it had started to drizzle; each drop of rain felt like jumping into the cold ocean on a hot summer day. I clumsily ran down the bus steps, and raised my head to see something more beautiful than I could ever imagine. Chichen Itza, a Mayan pyramid and one of the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World, stood grandly before me. The pyramid seemed a thousand feet tall as it towered over me. Each stone, tan and worn from thousands of years in the hot sun, was perfectly placed; it must have taken centuries to build. Most werenít that surprised by it; they took one snap with their cameras before moving on to the next temple with the tour guide. Rain pouring, clothes soaking, I stared at the pyramid; everything about it fascinated me. I stared at the old and worn stones placed by the hands of people from thousands of years ago. After looking at myriad other temples, we boarded the bus for the next stopóthe sinkhole.

After descending exactly 1,000 wet spiralling stone stairs, we arrived in a giant sinkhole deep inside the Earth. Above us, a huge circular hole lead to the world above. Long green vines with small pink flowers cascaded down creating a thin curtain. A jagged rock ledge stood on the right side of the hole filled with water. Vacationers shrieked and giggled as they flung themselves off the ledge into the deep water. I strapped on a blindingly bright neon-orange life jacket and took a deep breath preparing to jump in the water. I couldnít wait to be surrounded by the refreshing natural water, but I was terrified of what was beneath the surface. I decided to put my fears aside and go for it. Flying through the air, I prepared myself to land in the over 150 foot deep natural pool. The water was a deep navy blue, as dark as the sky in the middle of the night. The pool was a bit cold, like an early November morning, but so refreshing after our long day. Thousands of bright yellow and orange catfish twisted around my legs, their long whiskers brushing up against me. After about an hour of swimming, we boarded the bus again to go back to our hotel.

As I rested my head against the hot window, I thought about our amazing trip. I had had the time of my life, but needed to take risks to experience the amazing things that I did. When I went out of my comfort zone, thatís when I truly lived. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I would have never experienced what I did that day if I didnít take risks. Once again the old bus rattled down the gravel road, but this time we were headed home.

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