There was this one time, in college, when I decided I would jump out of an airplane… and did.
My older brother and I had first decided to jump out of an airplane a year earlier (when I was 18) in Wisconsin, and I was all amped up for it. We drove out to the skydiving place, our grandparents came to witness the spectacle, we signed all of the ‘if I go splat and die, I acknowledge that my ghost can’t legally haunt you forever’ paperwork, and then… it was too windy (or maybe there was a storm coming in?) and they couldn’t take us up. Man.
So fast forward to the end of my sophomore year in Colorado. My older brother had flown in so that we could drive to our aunt and uncle’s house for a visit before I left for my study abroad semester in New Zealand (this was an exceptionally exciting time in my life!), so this was the golden opportunity.
I vividly remember driving the hour to the skydiving spot, gripping the wheel and thinking things like: “Why would anybody pay to go up in an airplane that won’t take you back down?”, “I might be sick”, and “Why am I still driving? Really why?”
And then it was more paperwork and a video on what to expect. I’m sure they walked us through some gear stuff too (what a blur!), then we put that gear on and were on the plane going up up up.
I want to take a moment to mention a key difference between our original plan to skydive in Green Bay, Wisconsin and our current ascension into the skies of Longmont, Colorado. In Wisconsin we were going to jump when the plane was at an altitude of about 8,000 feet. In Colorado, it was somewhere closer to 14,000.
At some point as we cruised up into the air, my brother and I each got attached to our tandem pros and my brain went blank. I don’t mean that I blacked out, but rather that all active thinking got paused. My tandem guy must have told me when it was time to go, because suddenly we were standing right at the edge of the open door. Staring down at a world of miniature everything. And then we were out in the air, freefalling for half a lifetime. It must have been loud, but I have no memory of hearing anything. Just the massive pressure of air against my face and arms as we plummeted down.
And then we were floating, our parachute calmly billowed, my brain reactivated, and I realized I had no feeling in either of my arms. My tandem guy asked if I’d like to take hold of the parachute toggles to steer, and I croaked out a ‘Nope nope nope’.
Gently soaring though the air, the adrenaline pumping through my body, every sense ratcheted up to full alertness, the Rocky Mountains laid out around us… it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I realize that there are a lot of people (maybe you!) who never even want to consider doing something like this, but really. My mind and body went through some kind of chaos and crossed into calm and it was just so… fun 🙂
If you do it, though, pay them to take a video/photo set of you. I didn’t (it seemed so expensive!) and I wish I had. Luckily I had a friend who stayed on the ground and caught some moments for me 🙂
So I skydived for real at 19, and ten years later was invited to go ‘indoor skydiving’. Let me tell you, they are both very cool but oh so very different.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, indoor skydiving is meant to sort of mimic the freefall feeling of skydiving by putting you in a giant tube in which air blows powerfully upward. Plenty of ‘real’ skydivers use it to train for fancy moves.
To get into the tube, you just sort of hop in for a bellyflop, splaying your arms and legs wide. As an amateur, you have to be really careful to hold all parts of your body in just the right ways to stay in place. One little twitch and bam! Into the wall. Well, not really – someone stands in the tube with you and does their best to keep you in control(ish). Another person outside the tube adjust the speed of the air so you don’t float straight to the top Willy-Wonka-style.
Everyone in our group got two rounds of about a minute each in that tube, which gave us the satisfaction of feeling like we improved slightly. Here’s a video of my second attempt:
If you watch it to the end, you’ll see the super bonus bit where I shoot to the top!
I’d make a terrible adrenaline junkie, but there are things in this life that just can’t be passed up. My whole family came to this conclusion at various times, and as of a few years ago all of us (both parents, my two brothers, and me) have all gone skydiving. Which I think is pretty cool, particularly because at least half of us are typically chickens 😀
The conclusion? If you feel tempted by an adventure, do it.