The power of yes-saying (or the story of how I ended up in a meltwater river in California)

You know how sometimes the most boring pictures contain the best stories? This is one of those pictures.

Pretty boring right? But albeit not being either well-lit nor well-framed this picture contains one of my all-time favourite travel memories:


Saying yes to life can get you into the strangest situations. Generally I’m not very good at saying yes, I really have to make an effort to not just blurt out my usual “no” when I don’t feel 100% in control.

I first became aware of this about a year ago during my education at YRA. We were given an assignment to say yes 25 times in a week, especially to the things we would normally say no to (provided it didn’t cross our ethical boundaries) Also we couldn’t tell anyone about this or we would have to do it over again. This was, of course, to get us out of our comfort zones, and boy did it get me out of mine!

I discovered that I really liked the assignment and as it coincided with our road trip to California I quickly decided to prolong it to the whole month. Luckily Jonas has this habit of asking me random questions all the time (I suppose it’s because he just expects to get a no), so when I started to notice this I had every opportunity to ace the assignment.

Most of the yes-es let to harmless things such as an otherwise passed viewpoint or an ice cream break, but one yes led to a rather more dramatic event.

We were headed north along the river through Sequoia National Forest (one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen btw.) when we passed a small inn. The inn consisted of a few huts and behind it an idyllic looking white bridge crossed the river. I had already passed by it when Jonas let out one of his usual: “wanna go across the bridge?”

I actually said no at first, but then I remembered my assignment, turned around the car and stopped at the small parking lot. We found the lady who owned the place and asked if it was okay for us to cross the bridge. She said yes and off we were.

The water was passing slowly under the bridge, the air still had a bit of its February chill, but the sun was shining and all in all it was a beautiful day.

We decided to play a game of Poohsticks and as I leaned down to pick up a suitable stick i noticed a movement out of the corner of my right eye. In the long second that followed I realized that I had just dropped our only car key in a melt water river while hearing the taunting ghost of 3-weeks-past-me saying that “no, of course we don’t need insurance for the car key, that’s just silly.”

Needles to say, I freaked out. I ran over to the railing and looked down in wild search of the key. And there, 3 meters down, it peered up at us from a convenient location between some rocks at the bottom of the river. I started crying in despair “I have to go get it, I was the one who dropped it, it will flow away if we don’t get it, we have to get it NOW!”

Jonas tried to calm me down, saying that the water was freezing, and the key wasn’t going anywhere, but I was beyond reach and already headed for the river side.

I started walking into the water wearing all my clothes while Jonas watched me from above and guided me towards the key.

It went fine at first. Yes, the water was cold, but the current wasn’t too strong and it only went up to my thighs. I continued and gasped as the water reached my stomach – it really was freezing! – but now I was only two meters from where the key was supposed to be. One meter further however and the water rose to my neck – I would have to dive to get it.

Only problem is that I’m blind as a bat and I was afraid I would loose my glasses if I stuck my head in with them. The current was stronger on this side of the river and all of a sudden it didn’t seem so idyllic anymore.

So I went back in to take them off, meanwhile Jonas went to find the lady that owned the place to see if she had anything that could help us. They came back with some sticks and fishing poles, but I knew it wouldn’t work – as soon as I got in, I wouldn’t be able to see anything for the gravel that whirled up in the water every time I took a step.

I asked the lady if she had any goggles I could borrow. She went looking and I went back into the water with the stick (I didn’t dare waiting out of fear that the key would disappear or stop working – (it was an automatic key))

Having been out of the water for a couple of minutes the water seemed even colder the second time. Shortly after I started to feel numb, which obviously felt better but was also a dangerous sign that my body was starting to cool down. After a few failed attempts with the stick, which only led more gravel to whirl around and block my view, I went in again.

This time I got lucky. The lady had found an old pair of goggles in my favourite colour (I don’t know why I remember this random fact, but it meant a lot to me at that moment) and I put them on while preparing myself to get into the icy water once more.

As I went in for the third time I was shacking, unable to control my voice as I yelled up to Jonas on the bridge: “c-c-can you still see it?!” “where?” “I c-c-c-can’t see anything”. I went as close as I could without getting my head under and stood still waiting for the dirt to settle so I had a clear view. I was shacking uncontrollably by now.

“This is your last chance” Jonas yelled down from the bridge, “after this you are getting out of that water!”

I took a deep breath, dived and flapped my arms and legs to resist getting carried away by the current. All that was going through my head was the words “last chance, last chance, last chance”. I reached out for a shapeless black thing (I still wasn’t wearing my glasses) and finally closed my hand around the key.

My hand was the first thing entering the surface in a triumphant gesture followed by my head letting out a loud “YES!” as I kept thrusting my hand into the air. “yes!, yes!, yes!” I repeated all the way back to the riverside.

By some miracle the key still worked and after a bath, a and hot cup of tea and a hair-dryer, all kindly offered to me by the innkeeper-lady, we were off again. We went back the same way we came as we found out from the innkeeper that the pass was closed further north due to snow.

Some might say that this was all a series of very unfortunate events, and that this should in no way encourage you to say yes to things. But as I look back I can’t help feeling like the luckiest person alive. So much could have gone wrong; the key could have fallen a little to the left, the the lady could have not had any goggles, the key could have stopped working or we could have just driven by continuing for another hour only to find out we had to go back the same way. None of these things happened however and in addition I got a good story to take home with me.

I guess all I’m saying is, if you ever drive by Mc Nally’s, do drop in and do say hi from that crazy girl that dropped her only key in the river.

What is the craziest place a “yes” has ever taken you?

Also I wanted to let you know that we are at the airport right now ready to head out on our next big adventure!  This time Vietnam is up for exploring, as I’ll backpack my way through the country for 5 weeks. Jonas will be with for 3 out of those weeks, but unfortunately he had to get back to work, so the last two weeks I’m on my own – witch is both very exciting and very terrifying, but more on that later. 

I’ll try to update the blog on the go – but you know we’ll see how it goes 😉

Until then!

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