I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. Today was the day I was going to check off one of the most adventurous items on my bucket list – Skydiving! Australia seemed like the perfect place to do it and luckily there are plenty of companies offering skydiving here. I was jumping with Skydive Australia, one of the oldest and biggest skydiving companies in the country, with 5 skydiving locations on the East Coast of Australia.
I was jumping alongside a few friends that I made on my trip. On one hand, it was great to be able to share the experience with others, but looking back it was perhaps a bit detrimental. Skydiving has been on my bucket list for years. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and, that morning, I was really looking forward to the experience. Those butterflies were the kind you get before a date: a mix of excitement, anticipation, and thrill. They were not the anxiety type. I wasn’t panicking, I wasn’t scared, and I surely wasn’t dreading the experience.
But as we piled into a minivan on our way to SkyDive Australia Cairns location I realized that a few of my friends were in a different state of mind.
We were taken inside the SkyDive Australia Cairns office to watch an intro video and fill out some basic paperwork. You know, the kind were you sign your life away and take full responsibility for anything that might happen during the jump. Yikes! And of course, your basic travel insurance will probably not cover you in case anything does go wrong during the jump (unless you are insured with World Nomads, whose Level 3 insurance does cover one Skydive per trip). But back then my knowledge of travel insurance options was zero and so was my coverage. Sigh!
As I signed my life away, my stomach started churning. But the SkyDive instructors were quick on their feet and within minutes they were chatting away with us, infusing us with their excitement and their passion for Skydiving. Each one of them had completed hundreds if not thousands of jumps before, a statistic that made me feel a lot more comfortable about trusting them with my life at 14,000 feet above the ground.
Shortly after, I was harnessed up and ready to board the plane. The others were starting to panic.
The flight up felt like the longest 15 minutes of my life. About 5 of us along with our instructors piled into a tiny plane. We were told that different people were going to jump at different times, depending on what they selected during registration. At the time, you could jump from 10,000ft, 12,000ft and 14,000ft, although it looks like now SkyDive Australia only offers the 14,000 feet option.
As we started to climb up above the clouds, the panic inside the plane grew. We were told that at 8,000 feet the instructors would attach themselves to our harnesses, and then slowly start getting us closer and closer to the door. I was one of the few people that selected to jump from 14,000 feet, meaning that I watched all but one of my friends set off in complete and utter fear and get pushed out of the plane. Within minutes I started to panic. Looking out the window was a bad idea, but listening to the others swear and question whether they really want to do it, didn’t help either. There were swear worlds…a lot of swearwords, as I was shuffled closer and closer to the opened airplane door.
“OMG! What was I thinking? I can’t jump! This is a bad idea. Really bad idea.” – I kept mumbling under my breath.
“No, it’s all good, you’ll be sweet. Don’t be scared. ” – my instructor yelled into my ear. Shit. I guess he heard me… and here I was trying to act all cool and pretend like I wasn’t scared at all.
“Can I please not jump, I really don’t want to do this” – screamed a girl behind me, almost in tears. “Yeah, if you really don’t want to, you don’t have to” – said her instructor. SHIT. She was backing out, should I back out too? But I knew I wasn’t going to… I simply couldn’t let myself chicken out.
“Ok, we are up next. Shove your bum along the bench and get as close to the door as you can” – I heard my instructor yell into my ear.
“Ok. Can I just ask you one last question? Has your parachute ever malfunctioned and didn’t open?” – I asked, hoping that his answer would calm my nerves.
“ Yeah! Heaps of times!” – he said and pushed us out of the plane…
I couldn’t even finish digesting what he had just said and before I knew it I was free falling at 120km/h, screaming at the top of my lungs.
The wind was blowing the skin off my face and within seconds I was out of breath. I closed my mouth and allowed the experience to take over me. The free fall lasted for about a minute… a really long minute! Once I got over my fears, I quickly realized how incredible this experience was. It’s rare that you have the time to really digest and reflect on the amazingness of an experience while you are in it, but I guess when you are free falling for 60 seconds there is nothing left to do but relax, sit… or in this case, hang back and soak it all.
Shortly thereafter I was jerked up by the pull of our chute, which opened up on command without any issues. My instructor would later explain to me that while he has had a number of parachute malfunctions in the past, they never ended in any injuries or fatalities, after all, that’s exactly what the spare chute was there for. And the chances of both of them failing at the same time are absolutely minuscule.
So there I was, fears aside, flying above the beautiful scenery of Cairns, overlooking the fields and the hills. After a while, the instructor taught me how to steer, letting me feel like I was truly flying like a bird!
The landing was easy, I tucked my knees in, as instructed, and once close to the ground I made the running motion with my feet allowing us to land on our feet without hitting the ground.
I was overwhelmed by joy and the first words out of my mouth were “LET’S DO THAT AGAIN”
Everyone that jumped with me that day thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Some, let their fears take over them and didn’t allow themselves to open their eyes (literally), missing out on the beauty beneath them. But most, trusted their instructors, trusted the equipment, and were able to fully appreciate this incredible experience.
Truth be told though, no one is going to be able to prepare you for this experience. No matter how many posts you read about what to expect or what you need to know before signing up, no one will help you understand the feeling that takes over once you are inside that plane, or even more so, once you are free falling at 14,000 ft in the air.
For me, jumping out of a plane was a lot more than just a thrill. That night, when reflecting on my experience, I was truly inspired. Inspired by my own bravery, and my own ability to see this through, something that many people don’t have the courage to do, or something that at one point in time, I didn’t think that I had the courage to do either. Conquering my fears and jumping out of that airplane that day in December 2010 kick started my adventure.
“Karen”, I said to my friend as we sat in the SkyDive Australia’s office waiting for our DVDs of the jumps. ”I’ve been wanting to skydive for as long as I can remember and I finally did it! I’m so incredibly happy!”
“Well, maybe you should do more things that you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t done yet?”
“I really should” – I said, already miles ahead of her.
“So what are you going to do?” – she said, seeing the grin on my face
“I’m going to move to London…”
… and 7 months later, I DID!
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Have you ever been Skydiving? What was your experience like?
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