Peering over the edge of a jagged, 30-foot cliff into the calm, pristine waters of the Mediterranean Sea, my stomach twisted and turned like a roller coaster. I was frozen. Unable to take a leap of faith, I preoccupied myself by reflecting on the unforgettable chain of events that culminated with this epic test of will in the beautiful town of Positano, Italy.

As I stepped off the tour bus, the blissful landscape of the Amalfi Coast overwhelmed my senses. Breathing in the fresh sea air, I strolled through the scene of an Italian postcard: Tiers of pastel blue, red, and yellow houses lined the mountainside, radiant violet flowers dangled from the overhang above the cobblestone walkway, and the welcoming, crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean enchanted me like a horde of sirens.

When we arrived at the black-sand beach, I spotted a vendor selling inflatable rafts, and inspiration struck. The man had only one left, bright pink and covered with beaming yellow flowers. Refusing to let these flashy colors prevent my relaxing day in the sea, however, I bought the float.

With a huge smile and my flowery raft held triumphantly above my head, I plunged into the cerulean blue water, ignoring the mocking calls of my friends. Then I floated. Alone with my thoughts in the middle of the Mediterranean, I floated. Suddenly, however, in the midst of perfect relaxation, I no longer floated. Recovering from the unexpected capsizing of my vessel, I emerged to find my roommate laughing in my face.

"It's time to cliff-jump," he said.

As the boat we boarded pulled up to a secluded beach 10 minutes away from the main area, our tour guide pointed to a serrated mountainside 30 feet above the sea. "This is where we jump."

After a grueling climb, we finally reached the top. Looking down, my heart sank. From here, the cliff seemed even higher, and sharp rocks protruded from the edge, blocking a clear path into the water. Glancing back into our fearful eyes, the guide issued a brief set of instructions. Then, almost instantaneously, he leaped off the side of the mountain.

So there I was. In an attempt to regain some of the masculinity I lost when I purchased a pink flowery floaty, I had positioned myself directly behind the guide; I would be the first of my group to jump. I immediately regretted my decision. What if I don't make it? This question haunted my mind. I longed for the serenity of my raft. But then, I thought: What if I had never come to the Amalfi Coast that weekend? If I had never taken that initial leap of faith, giving up the stability and comfort of my home for the risk of living independently in a study-abroad program, I would have missed out on the greatest time of my life.

"Jump!" my friends shouted, stirring me from my thoughts.

And I jumped.

Brian Remondino writes from Ardmore.
To comment, e-mail TravelTalk@phillynews.com.

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