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  • Lori Carol Maloy

The Sebring Soda Festival: How Backyard Solo Adventures Can Be Fun and Fearless

he Sebring Soda Festival arrives in Sebring, Florida around the same time every year. Venders unpack their wares and set up shop for a two-day, fun-filled event. Music, Food, kettle Corn, ice-cream, and of course, plenty of craft sodas will have you coming back every year if you can just get yourself there the first time. As of 2021, the Soda Festival is happy to announce its 3rd successful year of Soda fun.

If you’ve been reading my adventure blogs, you know that I’m on a soul-journey to get out there and have solo-fun while getting to know what makes me tick—or not tick. The annual event was another perfect opportunity to stretch myself. After all, I’ve never been to the Soda Festival before even though it is in my own backyard. Of course, I have had plans to go every year, but something always got in my way. This year was no different.

Once the day came, I made every excuse I could to stay home: laundry, dishes, give the cat a bath … paint the house. When I finally headed to the car to drive to the event, my tire was nearly flat.

Well, there you go. I can’t go now.

I headed to the Nissan dealer to get my tire checked out. That took an hour or so. Once my tire was deemed okay to travel, I decided to get on with it and went to the festival. But the closer I got, the more anxious I became. What if I didn’t know where to park? I started worrying that I didn’t know what to expect or what I would do there all by myself. In fact, I realized I had an overwhelming sense of dread even though I had a strong desire to attend the event.

Do you ever get anxious when you go to an event alone for the first time? Maybe you feel anxious every time or not at all. I didn’t like what I was noticing in myself and began to pay attention to my body. I did a body scan from the top of my head to my toes. I noticed every uncomfortable sensation and feeling. As a counselor, I did my best not to judge what was happening or where it was all coming from; my objective was just to notice the discomfort.

Why does this kind of thing happen to us when we go someplace alone? Well, the brain and body are trying to protect us from a perceived danger. Logically, I knew I was not in danger; part of me just didn’t want to go because I was not used to doing things alone. Does shopping count?

At home, I felt a sense of comfort, of calm, of quiet, feelings that I wasn’t experiencing right then but desperately wanted back.

Very soon, I found the parking, and I found all the fun. There were people shopping the vender booths, drinking sodas, and eating ice cream. I walked around a while and checked out the jewelry and honey booths, then sniffed the homemade soaps and candles, and then bought some of the best tasting caramel Kettle Corn I’d ever eaten. Afterwards, I sat near the music and people watched for a while.

I was proud of myself for being there alone. I was having a great time. I suddenly realized it didn’t matter that I hadn’t come across anyone I knew, nor was it important that I didn’t have anyone to cling to, lean against, or talk to because I was drinking in the moment.

Being still and mindful are advice I’m always giving to anyone who will listen. Why? Because living in the present moment, and noticing what is all around you, brings on a state of calm. I sat there a while longer, then took off on another walk around the circle.

After a while, I bought a punch card and started my soda tastings. I sipped on ginger-ale, blackberry cream, ginger root beer, and more flavors that I can’t recall. I watched a little girl dance her heart out and secretly wished I could join her (maybe next year). I did enjoy my own sit-down dance from the comfy park bench.

Near the Baptist Church, I saw a great kids-zone with a variety of bounce house inflatables. I stood for a while and watched the street juggler do his balancing act. There was even a selfie scavenger hunt going on … and that was only some of Friday afternoon’s events. Saturday was the big day of fun, sun, and soda.

What did I learn about myself?

I learned that when I’m too comfortable at home, I might just be in the too safe zone. and I’m unaware that I’m giving in to my fears. I’m not stretching myself.

As I was driving down highway 27 today, I passed the movie theater, and I got this strange flutter in my chest. It wasn’t a bad flutter but a good feeling; a feeling that told me that was where I was going on my next solo adventure. I suddenly had the realization that the world was somehow a more approachable place, and there were lots more adventures in store for me.

I’ll get across the continent alone one day. First, I want to conquer my own back yard first.

My challenge to you:

Get out there and do something small on your own. Even if it’s a one block walk down your street, go for it. Notice how it makes you feel to think about it, to do it. Does it scare you? Would you rather stay home? Don’t! Do it anyway. If you can’t follow through the first time, notice how far you got and go a little farther next time.

Stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV)

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