In the sixth episode of Will Smith’s streaming show, “Welcome to Earth,” the action star gets scared.
Alongside his guide, polar explorer Dwayne Fields, the Oscar nominee rappels down a cavernous ice hole in the Icelandic wilderness. As the couple descend the frozen walls, they hang in complete darkness. “Now hanging over a bottomless pit isn’t exactly my bag but, man, as scary as that sounds, it’s liberating,” Smith says in a voiceover.
During National Geographic’s six-part Disney Plus show, which debuted in December, Smith travels the world and partners with experienced adventurers to engage in gripping shows. Part cinematic adventure series, part science lesson, “Welcome to Earth” contains an abundance of information about the natural world. But the show has a surprisingly relatable lesson to teach.
Seeing Smith overcome his reservations shows viewers in real time what we stand to gain when we use an adventurous journey to face our fears.
Smith, who is afraid of water, dives 3,300 feet under the ocean in a submersible, where he and his guides watch technicolor sea life displaying bioluminescence. He crosses a crocodile-infested river on a rope in Namibia to get a better view of the waterfalls, joking: “In a movie, my stunt man would have done that.
By the time he arrives in Iceland, he is kayaking – for the very first time – on white water, eventually ending the trip on a serene black sand beach. There is a reward every time.
Smith takes the idea of facing your fears on a journey to the extreme, but the idea can be applied to less intense circumstances.
For example, I once hiked to Snooper’s Rock in the Prentice Cooper State Forest. The lookout is located about 30 miles from downtown Chattanooga, TN, and 400 yards from a nearby parking lot, but it was way outside my comfort zone: I’m terrified of heights.
I reluctantly followed my more adventurous boyfriend in the dark for a weekend, and refused to stand near the edge. I sat a few feet away, however, which was a big deal for me. But when the sun rose, I saw the fog-covered Tennessee River Gorge bathed in late July morning light.
On the surface, my little triumph pales in comparison to Smith scaling the crater of the Mount Yasur volcano in Vanuatu, surrounded by “splinter bombs” of molten lava. But in the end, I was glad I ignored my nerves long enough to understand the scene. I think about this morning all the time.
In the season finale, Smith takes stock of his adventures. “My mission at the start of this journey was simple: get out of my comfort zone, connect with the planet, and hopefully inspire others to do the same,” he says.
“It can be terrifying to leap into these unknowns,” he continues, “but sometimes the only thing you can do is let go. Let go of your fears.”
Whatever your fears, wherever you are, whether you’re hiking in a Tennessee state forest a few hours from your hometown or, like Smith, tracking wildebeest in the Serengeti, confronting them could offer a view. magnificent.
Maybe next time I visit Snooper’s Rock I’ll sit a little closer to the edge – at a safe distance, of course.