I'm so pleased to introduce a new voice to you today. Solo Travel Society member Bettine shares with you the fears and triumphs of her recent solo trip to Quebec's Mont Tremblant. ~Tracey
It’s a beautiful sunny day, barely a cloud in the sky. The leaves are green, the sky is blue, and everyone is pumped! With a whoop and a rush the platform is left behind. This is the closest you will ever get to flying. It’s one of the most beautiful, free, and joyful experiences of a lifetime…
I think I’m going to pass out.
I arrived in Mont Tremblant the day before my zip lining date with all the eagerness of an 11-year-old arriving at Disney World. I am a lover of all things outdoors, and Mont Tremblant in the summer is an outdoor enthusiast’s idea of heaven. The journey was even more fantastic because the Porter Airlines flight from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to Mont Tremblant International Airport in Quebec is shorter than my hour-long commute to work every day–but much more enjoyable given that one has ever served me a drink or offered me shortbread cookies on the Gardiner Expressway.
Most people know Mont Tremblant as a fabulous ski destination located just 120 km from Montreal. What you may not know is that the village is just as active in the summer months and hosts multiple festivals and cultural events.
On this day, I had a reservation for a zip line adventure with ZipTrek Eco Tours. With relish I jumped into the cabriolet, a gondola-style lift that whizzes you from the bottom of the village to the top of the village, passing over the fairy tale-colored hotels and boutiques which flank winding cobblestone pedestrian-only streets. The cabriolet ride provides a great opportunity to look around, get your bearings, and drink in the natural beauty of the area. As I began my ascent, the sun was shining, barely a breeze was blowing, I saw happy people all around–and suddenly my knees started to shake. I white-knuckled it for the entire 2 minutes it took to get to the top. I felt dizzy, my throat was dry, but worst of all: I was mortified.
What is happening to me? This can’t be right – I’m the person who goes canoe camping alone! I swim in Lake Ontario in May! I went to Australia with $20 to my name and didn’t know anyone in the whole country! I’m brave, impulsive, occasionally bordering on crazy. And I have just been brought to my knees (quite literally) by something that isn’t causing anyone around me to bat an eyelid.
I’m sure we can all relate, right? Surely everyone has a traveler’s Achilles heel buried somewhere in them? Solo travel is all about pushing boundaries and doing things you wouldn’t otherwise do. For me, a trip is not a good one unless I have challenged myself, had a scary moment, tested my own limits.
But at what point does challenging yourself cross over into ruining your holiday for yourself?
Apparently, for me, it happens when I lose physical control of my body. As soon as I realized this, I immediately cancelled my zip line tour.
I have to confess, I’m terribly disappointed that I couldn’t do it. The ZipTrek Eco Tour is one of the safest zip line adventures in the world. There are 5 zip line runs of varying lengths that take you from the top of the mountain back down to the base. You are accompanied by a trained guide who shares information about the landscape and the geography while you walk from one zip line to the next. In theory, it’s right up my alley–except for the whole “hurling yourself off a platform” part.
I didn’t waste time regretting my decision. Instead, I set myself a new challenge, and the next day I climbed the mountain. I climbed that mountain right up into a cloud! I saw deer so tame that I could touch them, encountered delightful waterfalls, and passed a small lily pad-fringed lake. The path is steep in parts and level in others. It’s not too difficult and it is very well marked. The trick is to just go at a pace that suits you. It took me a good 2½ hours to reach the summit, and toward the end of it I could hear the zing of the zip-liners overhead as they whizzed through the mist. I was wildly envious of their ability to do it, but not for a moment did I wish I was the one up there.
I spent the rest of the weekend in Mont Tremblant packing as much into each day as I possibly could. I could have stayed a week and not tired of that place. There is so much to see and do, including paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, climbing, go-karting down the mountain, great restaurants, shows, live music, shopping, an amazing spa, and the highlight of my trip: a lesson in falconry from Birds of Prey Mont Tremblant.
I had heard about the practice of hunting with birds. I like to think my imagined aristocratic British ancestors practiced this form of hunting in Medieval times, but never did I think I would actually get a chance to try it! A real bird handler and I went into the woods with a Harris Hawk named Phoenix and – while channeling my very best inner Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones fans will know what I mean) – I learned to call this magnificent winged hunter to my gloved hand over and over again. Every single time was a rush. At one point Phoenix turned to look at me and in that one heartbeat I swear he saw straight into my soul.
I was so impressed with that bird and the Apprentice-Falconer Walk that the next day I gathered up my courage, swallowed half a bottle of an herbal stress remedy, and put myself onto the gondola for the trip up to the summit of the mountain for the Birds of Prey show.
The show is set amidst a magnificent backdrop of rolling mountains and glittering lakes. A lone skeletal tree sits right in the middle of the scene, which provides a breathtakingly beautiful spot for the birds to land and be admired. Every bird I saw, from the small hovering kestrel to the enormous and intensely serious eagle to the wide-eyed owl, was magnificent.
I don’t know if it was because I had spent the morning at Le Spa Scandinave getting super zen, or if it was because I was so in awe of these magnificent birds, but – believe it or not – I actually enjoyed my journey back down on the gondola.
Maybe if I keep at it, keep pushing myself a little bit at a time, I will get over my acrophobia. I will look out the window during take-off on my next flight, I will practice actually going out on balconies, and I will definitely make more trips to Mont Tremblant.
But until I’m confident that my legs will cooperate, I’m going to leave the act of flying through the air to the birds.
Thank you to Tremblant Resort for making this trip possible. As always, Solo Traveler has full editorial control, and all opinions are our own.