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Fear Factor

Sarah Mahoney found six trips you can take with your friends—the best support system—to finally cure what scares you.

Petrified of heights?
Miraval, a spa just outside Tucson, has built a number of height-related challenges into its Dare program. On one, Swing and a Prayer, you'll be strapped into a safety harness, hoisted up 35 feet by a rope, and then jump, swinging back and forth. (Oh, and there's no net: You'll end up dangling.) Just as exhilarating is Out on a Limb, during which you'll walk across a pole suspended 30 feet in the air. 800/825-4000,, from $605.

Hate meeting new people?
Group trips are a great way to expand your social circle, because the fact that you're traveling together means you already have something in common. WomanTours takes the bonding a step further on its inn-to-inn bike trips. "We switch roommates every night, so everyone gets to know one another," says director of operations Sandra Packard. This fall, the company has rides through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Pennsylvania Dutch Country. 800/247-1444,, six-day trips from $1,590.

Rather die than give a speech?
Only six women at a time can attend the Speech Fitness Institute, a three- or four-day public-speaking retreat at the Wild Horse Inn near Winter Park, Colo. Run by corporate speech coach Mary Mayotte, the program includes confidence-building exercises—such as a one-on-one session with Mary that's recorded and played back for you—and some fun activities, from fly-fishing lessons to massages. "We took hikes, had yoga classes, and practiced relaxation and centering techniques," says Meredith Smith Van Ness, a social worker based in Denver. "Within that supportive environment, each woman had a breakthrough. It certainly built up my confidence and has even given me some insights to pass on to my own clients." 877/321-8935,, $4,000 not including airfare.

Guns give you the willies?
"That first time firing a gun can be frightening," says James Ross, an instructor at the Orvis Sandanona Shooting Grounds in Millbrook, N.Y. "Until they become used to it, anticipating the loud noise makes a lot of women flinch, which causes kickback." In other words, it hurts your shoulder and your ears. The women-only classes at Sandanona cover shooting basics, gun safety, and some clay shooting. "It's like golf instruction, but with guns," says Ross. 800/235-9763,, two-day course $1,150.

Creeped out by the sea?
The Miracle Swimming Institute isn't your average learn-to-swim school. Attendees have another phobia in common: deep water. The institute's snorkeling trips to Hawaii, Bali, and Tahiti allow women to ease into the ocean at their own pace—even if that means clinging to a pontoon boat a few feet from shore. "I kept thinking, I wish I'd done this sooner!" says Cristina Torres of her trip to Hawaii. "Not only was I not afraid, but I loved the gentle waves and the laid-back vibe of the program." 800/723-7946,, five-day classes from $1,400.

Can't bear to sit still?
The Rancho La Puerta spa's spirit weeks, held in Baja California, Mexico, are all about getting in touch with your spiritual side. That requires a little silence—the idea being that you can't hear what your spirit is saying unless you shut up and listen—so the week includes coaching in how to embrace silence, with silent hikes and silent dinners. "The mind can stray 1,000 times during a meditation, so we bring it back to heel with things like rhythmic breathing and focusing on a single image," says program director Phyllis Pilgrim. 800/443-7565,, all-inclusive packages from $2,795.

Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.



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