When I was younger, my mom would try to confirm I had a backbone by asking: if all your friends decided to jump off a cliff, would you jump too? The answer is no, of course not, Mom. I’ll pay an outdoor adventure company in Slovenia to take me to a cliff and only then will I jump off of it.
A couple days ago, my hostel roommate popped into our room with flushed cheeks and a huge grin. “I just went canyoning!” she gushed, somehow still out of breath. “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” It was a ringing endorsement. Immediately, my interest was piqued.
Gearing Up and Heading Out
Let’s pause and acknowledge that most people have no idea what canyoning is, and that’s totally fair. Personally, I’d imagined someone, well, climbing a canyon. Turns out that’s only part of the experience. Canyoning is a little bit of everything. There’s some canyon climbing, for sure, in addition to rappelling, rock climbing, swimming, and—here’s the kicker—jumping off of cliffs and into rushing waterfalls.
Back home, I’m not one to propel myself off of great heights. If I’m tumbling down a canyon in the States, please alert the authorities, because someone definitely pushed me. But you know what they say: when in Slovenia, live out your outdoor adventure dreams. (Okay, no one says that, but they should).
I booked my canyoning experience through my hostel. Justin, the guy at the front desk, walked me through the process. “If you end up being too scared to jump at any point,” he said, “they’ll always give you the option to climb down.”
One of his colleagues gave me a wink. “No, no, she’s definitely an adrenaline junkie,” he said. “She won’t let us down.” With the weight of my hostel’s honor resting on my shoulders, I prepared myself for the next day’s jumps.
The Actual Adventure
All I had to bring was my swimsuit and a towel. Everything else was provided by the adventure company. My guide pulled up to the hostel in the early afternoon. He was a very tall, very broad-shouldered, very serious Dutch guy. I also met my fellow canyoners: an Australian guy working in Prague as an English teacher, and Belgian couple in their 60s who are more active at their age than I have ever been. Together, we became comrades in jumps.
We drove for about thirty minutes until we reached the entry point for our hike. There, we suited up: first came the wetsuit, then the protective jacket, then the harness, the boots, and the helmet. Now that we looked like a crew of poorly costumed villains from The Incredibles, we were ready to start our trek upwards. Under the Slovene sun, heaving as the Belgian couple breezed past me, I began to question whether I was cut out for the canyoning life.
Once we got to the top, though, I was galvanized once more. I could feel the cool air radiating from the chilly ravine, and I started to get excited as I gazed down at the vivid turquoise waters. After the heat of the hike, I wanted nothing more than to submerge myself into the clearest streams I’d ever seen. Luckily for me, that was precisely what I had signed up for.
Our guide coached us through our moves. We rappelled down cliffs, nimbly navigated mossy rocks, and did our very best not to slip off of super slick surfaces. With lots of guidance, I made it up, down, and around the canyons. About every five minutes, we’d arrive at another ledge. From there, we’d be instructed to make the leap. Put your foot here, swing your arms back, and aim for the middle. And then we’d jump.
The adrenaline rush was intoxicating. The jumps got more and more challenging as we went on, and my screams grew louder and louder—much to the chagrin of my companions, I’m sure. I’d propel myself through the air, and for a moment, I’d be flying—up until I came crashing down into the ice cold, rushing waters. And then I’d swim across, ready to do it all over again.
My mom may not approve, but turns out that jumping off a cliff isn’t such a bad idea. Of course, it helps if you do it with a skillful guide, helpful companions, and a gorgeous Slovenian canyon to explore. My landings weren’t always ideal, and my technique could use some work. That’s fine, though, because I’m already planning my next canyoning trip. I’m in luck, because there are plenty of insanely beautiful canyons to jump off of in Slovenia.
Lydia packed two pairs of shoes for her travels in Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro. She is counting on her well-worn, well-loved sneakers to carry her through coastal markets along the Adriatic, majestic ruins of ancient cities, and Balkan national parks. She also packed a pair of festive sandals, intended for long walks on the beach and questionable hostel showers alike. She considers this an exercise in versatility. When she isn’t carefully curating the most austere of packing lists, Lydia enjoys crafting incredibly niche Spotify playlists and reminding people that she is from California.