For a person with a fear of heights; the earth can be an incredibly flat place to explore. At a young age, you learn to take the longer path around and avoid anything that can make you crumble to your knees. You can never see peaks — only mountains of fear. It’s hard to explain the fear of falling or worse — failing because of fear. And while others, scale height as if it were a walk in the backyard; for you, it’s nothing less than climbing your own personal Everest. So, you automatically turn to the sea for a strange mix of calm and turmoil.

Secretly, there’s a part of you that wants to get to the top. There’s an innate curiosity to see how the earth would look from above? Or, how would it feel to let the wind threaten to take you with it? Or, better still, watch the clouds engulf the last stretch of earth you could set your eyes on. Somehow, the reasons for not trying — often outweigh — the longing. And eventually, you come to trust: flat land, the stability of your two feet over giddy spells, and the idea of the earth being equally beautiful when explored — flat.

And then, you move to a new place where everything seems to be uphill. You look at those around you and no one seems to notice. That’s how your flat, one-dimensional world suddenly gets changed into undulating hills and valleys of tar. And then, one day, you think it might not be so bad to try climbing a bigger hill or a small mountain? There’s a voice saying that you might be out of your mind. But, you decide to take that first foot upwards against gravity. It’s spring, and nature seems to be on your side. Reaching the top wasn’t as easy as you expected and you might have looked a little silly in front of your friends. However, something has changed. There’s a strange longing to go back.

The seasons change and the sun doesn’t hide anymore. Walking is hard enough and yet, you want to climb a mountain. On a day when the clouds rule the skies; you take that second step towards the top. You find an isolated route, surrounded by rocky outcrops and panoramic views of the city below. The closer you get to the top, the further away you leave civilisation. And when you’re on the top; you realise: history, modernity, and nature can somehow coexist together.

Soon, the leaves turn and the sun starts to play hide-and-seek. Temperatures dip and there’s a cool wind in the air. It’s time to take that third step. This time, explore a mountain formed out of ancient volcanic activity. You’re not sure if you’d make it all the way to the top. So, you take your best shot at reaching to the next best spot. It’s when you truly realise what it means to make the journey the destination.

Now, the leaves have fallen and the earth is bare. Sometimes, it’s covered under a blanket of soft, white snow. The sun turns into that friend you think you’d never meet again. You have a choice of visiting a snow festival or hiking a mountain known for its winter views. And since, you’re not thinking straight, you opt for the mountain. So, you take the fourth step into the cold. You brave the crowds of hikers and wind to experience a moment of magic. It was never about conquering a mountain. You know you’re too little for that. But, somewhere along the way, you realise: you may have just conquered ‘fear’.




Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

57 replies on “One Foot at a Time

    1. Thanks so much, Arvind. My friends have climbed the Annapurna circuit or hiked/camped the mountains near Manali. I think, you’ve done a lot many treks in the Himalayas yourself. 🙂 So far, my friends have been such a support and that’s what I appreciate about trekkers, hikers — they always support newbies like me. Basil is an avid hiker and it’s great to have him for support. If he had to write this blog, it would take a very different angle! haha! Let’s say we’re poles apart!

      1. You said it well, hikers are generally very supportive and are also nice people. More than Himalayan treks I have been doing weekend treks in Aravali hills, since its convenient and in close vicinity. I’m sure you’ll do well with whatever you can manage. Physiotherapy will help you a lot. It’ll be good to have Basil’s point of view too. I guess in every relationship, this difference brings in some spice and masala. What do you think, Cheryl?

      2. Aravalli Hills sound interesting. Basil’s perspective is echoed through his photography. These days, it’s a mix of the two of us though. Masala! lol! Totally! 🙂 Have a good week!

  1. What a fantastic ending, Cheryl. And it’s true, it’s not the mountain that’s conquered, it’s that lifelong fear of getting off the flat. And aren’t those views a wonderful new perspective?

    1. I totally agree, Kim. The views changed my perspective of solitude and peace and I loved this giant blank feeling you have when you reach the top. Nothing matters when you’re on a mountain top. It’s just this strange kind of ‘zen’ zone you go into. 🙂

  2. I totally relate to this…not so much a fear of heights for me, but a fear of “sheer drops” – which is often a characteristic that goes along with heights. Of course the fear is often irrational but so it goes with fears. Well done for braving it and trying again!!


    1. I’ve tried so much to rationalise and understand fear. And, that’s one way to understand why you’re scared. It’s helped me deal with the situation and just keep going forward. It takes me longer than most hikers, but I think, it’s never about time really. Thanks for stopping by, Peta. 🙂

  3. Very well written again, Cheryl. I like how you have conquered your fear of heights little by little, going out to see places and these are amazing shots from the top. The world is a flat place until we make the choice to rise to the challenge and go where we have never been before. Love your ending. At the end of the day, we are all connected in some way, and I think moving around and going places is what makes us feel that – we may be different, but we also have so many similarities. Both are assets.

    Like you, I am not a huge fan of heights but over the last year have been hiking up some mountains, and taking a ride up some too. Always nice views from the top 😀

    1. Thanks so much, Mabel. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂 I’d love to read your account of your hikes to the mountain top. “At the end of the day, we are all connected in some way, and I think moving around and going places is what makes us feel that – we may be different, but we also have so many similarities”. So true! I totally agree! Travel only makes me more aware that we’re all the same. We need to make the effort to look a little closer. 🙂

      1. Hahaha. Most of my accounts of climbing to the top of hills and mountains involves huffing and puffing 😀 Your write your experiences so well, and I don’t think I could write better that that 😀

  4. I have done so many times, and every time i have padded myself on the back (not literally though 🙂 ). Love your way of putting down thoughts here.

    There is much to conquer in this world, and no obstacle is unconquerable!

    1. Hey, Alok! 🙂 Are you afraid of heights too? I’ve loved your accounts of your trips the mountains. I think completing a hike definitely deserves a pat of the back. In 2015, I couldn’t complete a hike along the Great Wall. It’s something that motivated me to keep going further and building my fitness as well as conquering my fears. 🙂 Have a good weekend.

      1. Not do much for me. I do hike whenever I can, but avoid tricky surfaces.

        Good to know more about your adventures, Cheryl.

        You too have a great weekend 😊

  5. Fantastic post. I hope that you continue, one step at a time, to conquer your fear. There’s so much to be seen. 🙂 Cheers.

  6. Well done. Most journeys are made up of small steps, and it can be handy to know you don’t need to ascend to the peak in one leap.

    Now the question, can you snorkel in deep water?

    1. Thanks, Dave! 🙂 I did try the undersea walk in Pattaya (Thailand). It was a horrible experience. I forgot my instructions and panicked. Fortunately, the diver/instructor knew I was just a little scared. 🙂 Snorkelling is on my list. Paragliding too! Bungee jumping or skydiving are definitely NOT!

      1. Some folks get claustrophobic, so if you got a little panicky you wouldn’t be the first. I haven’t tried paragliding, but I did try bungee jumping (not too high), and I wrote a post about my skydiving experience (The Jump).

      2. It’s all relative. I would suggest it takes a certain amount of courage to move a country where you don’t speak the language and don’t understand the alphabet.

      3. True. The move to Seoul was harder than I expected it to be. As a traveller, not knowing a language can be exciting. Staying here changed that belief. I still can’t read the alphabet and depend on English instructions. Basic communication has improved a lot. 🙂 I’ve also resumed my online Korean course. Korean isn’t really difficult as a language. I need to be more regular.

    1. Shells, you’re right! Even the streets feel like hills at times. In 2015, when I visited Seoul for the first time, I was tired climbing the hilly back alleys of Itaewon and felt every street was a hill. By 2016, I could climb the Korean mountains (the easier ones). 🙂 I still can’t believe it!

      1. Naia just went on her first hike on Saturday. We took her over to Namyangju, and she made it 500 metres up a trail and over some rocks. She has a much higher risk tolerance (inherited from daddy) than I do, that’s for sure! 😉

      2. Wow! I’m not surprised. Especially, if she’s doing push ups at age 1 and half? lol! How was the trip?
        I think you’re quite a toughie yourself. You’ve travelled across the globe and covered more than 50 (I forget the number) countries! Phew! That’s something. Really! 🙂 And you bake the most amazing cake! haha! Something I can never do in this lifetime.

  7. You could have fooled me about your fear of heights. Seems to me that you are always conquering one hill/mountain after another, albeit at a more leisurely pace compared to those who only want to rush and get to the top! Lucky that you have a great partner to hike alongside you! Happy weekend, Cheryl!

    1. Haha! Helen, this post was a reminder of sorts. Maybe, for me, or for those who think it’s not possible to conquer your fears. Basil is quite an avid hiker and after we got married, he stopped hiking because of me. So, in a way, this is something I always wanted to do, and I’m so glad he’s been supportive and never really laughed or complained if I took longer to climb/descend the mountain. I agree, he’s my favourite travel/hiking partner. 🙂 Have a good weekend yourself! 🙂

      1. It was great Cheryl, very relaxing. This weekend we had a big 50th birthday party which I’m still recovering from. Oh, and a very sore mouth. Think it’s off to the dentist for me this week. Yuk 🙁xo

      2. Eeks! Sounds bad. Basil had a severe toothache (the wisdom tooth) two weeks back. And I really dislike dentists. Funny cos my sis is one. lol! Hope you’re doing better though. Hugs!

      3. Haha! I know what you mean. My ‘big’ sis took a long break after completing her course. She resumed practice a year back. But, she’s in NZ and I’m in Seoul. I’m not sure I could go to her. She’s very good at frightening me (call it sibling love/revenge) and I’ve got a baggage of childhood trauma with her ‘big tales’. lol! Hope your tooth is better! 🙂

  8. Beautiful writing about my favorite topic, putting one foot in front of the other to reach a physical goal. I love your “seasons” approach to the post; each step takes us onward both outwardly and psychologically. Unless we are in a race of some kind, I also see no reason to rush up a mountain! I like to savor the climb, watching the changes in the earth as I go.

    1. Thanks a bunch, Lex! While writing this post, especially the title, I kept thinking of your blog. And you’d have rightly guessed why. 🙂 Our feet can take us to wonderful places, as long as our minds can conquer fear. For me, I’ve got to keep reminding myself that I can do it, even if, there’s a nagging voice that screams, “Please don’t!”. 🙂 I’m such a fan of nature’s changing colours and it’s so fantastic to witness it up in the mountains.

      1. Oh, that spell is widely spread I guess. 😀 😀
        Nice to have this platform again for small chat. 🙂
        btw. I am going to South Korea again in few days. but this time for 1 month, mostly will be spent in Busan. I am taking break from work. 😀 hope to see you again. 🙂

      2. Wow! That’s super! I’m still on Kakao. You can get in touch with me when you’re in Seoul. Busan is beautiful and so many beautiful sights. Have a safe trip! 🙂

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