Seeing Niagara Falls is on many people’s bucket lists. It has a ‘you have to’ quality equal to the Grand Canyon or The Pyramids. Whilst some might claim there are other waterfalls to rival it, I suspect they know deep down they’d lose in a gush off.
Niagara Falls bends your brain by its magnitude. If you have a bucket list and it isn’t on there, I’d suggest you let it bump a few other things.
But if you can, I would recommend that you visit it on your own.
MY EXPERIENCE OF NIAGARA FALLS
When I visited this tourist hot spot it was because it happened to be convenient. It was on my travel path, it would have been rude not to. That was the level of my motivation. There was no burning passion. In truth it was a strategic stop on my way back from Toronto to New York City that let my bum have a rest from a bus seat. So I’d hopped on a jolly little shuttle bus on a day trip that many do in that part of the world. Our tour guide had agreed that I could travel on and not be brought back to Canada, which I would do after an overnight stop overlooking the horseshoe.
There is an important tactic I would use often when I was in corporate project planning: ‘managing expectations’. Stood at Niagara’s edge, I really wished someone had managed mine. I felt giddy. The pull of such an immense mass of water was deeply unsettling. The sense of the earth wanting to swallow me up had me stepping back in case I toppled. It felt like I was in a scene from the original Ghostbusters.
I regretted drinking so much ice wine on the tour’s 1st stop that morning.
Given the nature of the tour group (mostly couples and non-english speakers) I spent the whole day alone. I did Niagara Falls my way. This was part of my solo venture in The Secret Girl, so it was perfectly fitting and I wanted it that way. Some things are not best experienced alone (Christmas events, weddings and hospital stays) but I am sure that my experience of Niagara was better because I was on my own.
Here are the surprising reasons:
1 – YOU CAN FLOW FULLY WITH THE INSANITY OF IT
If you’re not watching for your partner’s reaction or busy grasping toddler’s hands to keep them away from the edge, you can more fully flow with the power of this freak of nature. It is freaky. It is meant to mess with your head if most of your life is lived at a desk or in front of a screen. Let yourself feel the risk of it, the challenge of it. Go with the sense of being dangerously small, that nature could flush you in a split second.
Standing by Niagara Falls is like the ocean at tsunami point just letting you stand in the middle of it for a minute to get a sense of its power.
Don’t miss the power of that feeling with no-one to distract you from it.
2 – YOU CAN EXPERIENCE NIAGARA FALLS – YOUR WAY
When my group re-grouped they had all done the boat that takes you up to the Falls. The lady next to me in my local pub where I’m writing this just told me she did that too and even remembered the name of it. Everyone aspires to the helicopter trip for the photo opportunity. There’s a tower you can climb to go panoramic.
No-one I have spoken to simply walked behind the wall of water. Yet this had far more attraction to me than either the boat or getting air-bound. It may well not have appealed to travel companions. And I was super lucky: there was hardly anyone in the tunnel behind the waterfall so I could get up close and near as touch that power. It wasn’t meditative, it was awakening – like being inside an ice volcano erupting.
It was other-wordly. Those moments, when you get them, are best uninterrupted.
3 – YOUR MEMORY WILL BE OF ITS MEANING TO YOU
The risk of not visiting this freak of nature on your own is that your memory may end up being of something that happened to one of your group. You may be with a guy who gets engineering crazy at the hydro power or a friend who wants to shop and souvenir more than stand and gawp and get soaked.
There is a combination of energies at Niagara Falls that appeal to our deepest psyches: falling, flowing, cleansing. At least one of these is likely to trigger some meaning in you.
Visiting Niagara Falls has been nothing less than life pivotal for me. The memory of it now has the meaning of a turning point in my adult thinking about going with the flow of life. A day that was just a convenient day trip turned life-changer because I happened to visit it at a point when I was very definitely trying to force life. I was busting my gut trying to swim up a waterfall. Plus, I happened to visit it alone.
I might have missed that if I was focused on keeping my kids (or partner) out of the water.
4 – THE PAST CAN FILL YOUR HEAD WITHOUT A PRESENT PULL
I like to time travel. It’s a hobby. My Netflix watch list is full of historical dramas or futuristic fantasies. I’m less likely to be playing on the current stats apps at tourist sites than anyone. I can’t imagine what I’d do with a selfie stick.
It so happened that in the tunnels behind the wall of water walk there are old fashioned posters telling the stories of those who have survived the Falls. They are old-school posters, the stories getting older by the day. Some souls have intentionally gone over the edge, others less so. The story of a 7 year old boy who was swept over in 1960 had me. The boy survived, despite crazy odds. The tourist boat hooked him out of the water when he bobbed up. He still tells the incredible tale today.
The stories echoed around the tunnels with my footsteps. I wasn’t pulled back to the present, not even for dinner. I snacked in my room watching the sunset.
It is no exaggeration to say that by the time I left Niagara Falls, I felt I had resurfaced too.
5 – YOU CAN IGNORE THE VEGAS ASPECTS
Nothing wrong with Vegas, don’t get me wrong. If Elvis was still alive I’d be there in a flash. But it is an undeniable clash to be viewing Niagara Falls with the neons of the flashing casino slap bang in your view. It is a collision of one of the most beautiful points on earth with brash man-made enticements for you to risk your money.
In the company of others you might find the neons shine brighter. Or you may have to hold tight onto someone in case your life savings are swept over the edge like a 7 year old boy.
For me, the neons warn of the risk of being swept away at that point in nature.
Neons and nature can work together, weirdly.
I must stress that I am not anti-family or a cynic about couples or a sociophobe, despite some who think so. But there are many trips I could list where simply I have felt profound relief that I was alone so that I could relish them to the full.
If you’ve never done that, give it a whirl, let yourself flow with it.
I’d bet you a large ice wine there’s no better place to find that feeling.