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On Climbing a Cliff

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On Climbing a Cliff


I went for a walk with Mira down to the sea near Milfontes, Portugal. Only my body moved towards the rolling waves, as my mind was still tangled in a web of thoughts about computers, writing, and irate university professors. When I looked up from my confusion to find Mira tenderly, yet very nimbly, scaling a cliff that rose one hundred feet above the jagged rocks of the coastal surf, I realized that my invitation was sent; that I too would have to scale that cliff.

The Cliff


I did not feel like climbing on this day. I would have been more prepared to just run down the coast to a deserted little beach and build a stick hut to live in, where nobody would bother me and I could just get old without all the world- this could be possible on the Atlantic coast of Portugal. But the challenge was set, and I could not box my manly pride up long enough to not take it.

Mira was already at the top of the towering rock outcrop picking up crystals or bird shit or whatever it is she picks up off the ground these days. I knew that I had to take my heavy head up their to join her, no matter what. My own spurious sense of pride and athleticism rested upon me doing so. Though I really did not want to. But I have not yet turned down a climbing challenge to this day, and I was not prepared to set a new precedent.

So in hiking boots I softly made my way out over the edge. A matter of an inch and a half of fragile shale separated me from the being impaled by rigid rocks one hundred feet below, though all I could think about was how my website still does not work and how I have to somehow appease a stubborn university professor. I could not even concentrate on the tenuous handholds and footholds which preserved my very life. I was too deep in to my frustration come out this easily. But as I climbed, I knew that I had to snap through or potentially slip away off into the sea. To tell the truth, my heavy head was not absolutely oppose to this notion, I say now with a slight chuckle.

You cannot climb with a heavy head. To get up a cliff or a mountain or whatever, you can not even think of the climb itself. Your mind must be blank, and full trust has to be put into your body instinctively making it to the top on its own volition. Somehow. But I could not get into this state of no-mind. I was weighed down with the frivolous problems of the world that are usually foreign to me.

But I made it to the top of the rock spire. And back down. I did this is a slow, uncoordinated, and sloppy fashion. It was not pretty. Mira joked about the shaky way that I climbed: “I thought that you were not going to make it. I was scared.”

Her analysis, which I took for insult, just made me angry. But she was right.

Wanderjahr Jill climbing the cliff


You cannot climb with a heavy head. But my heavy head would not go away, so I trudged back to town to my computer and faced the world that I could not escape once again. An hour passes, and another. I make no progress, am frustrated, and still stuck in a cloud of burden.

Mira calls to me from across the room to come and watch a video on a website. With a huff and a puff I leave my own computer damnation and grudgingly oblige her. I think to myself: “No matter how good this is I will not think it is funny right now.” For perhaps the first time in my life, I realized that I had no humor.

The video took a long time to load. I get frustrated that I am kept from my precious work for so long.

The video loads.

I burst out laughing and I cannot stop.

My heavy head vanishes. I am free again. I keep laughing.

This is what she showed me:

This is from the Where the Hell is Matt website. I have not had a good chance to really dig into his site, but it seems really good and his shtick is hilarious enough to make me forget my technical difficulties. Check it out!


The risk of death is not enough to untangle the nets of a mind, but simple laughter is a fool proof way to ease the knots and clear a path.

If you cannot laugh at anything, at anytime, there is no hope for you.

“That’s sick shit.”

Wade from VagabondJourney.com
Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal
November 16, 2007

More Photos of Portugal on Photographs from the Open Road

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Filed under: Europe, Humor, Portugal, Travel Problems

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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