Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane has become one of those ultimate bucket list items.
Like living to 120 years old or climbing Mount Everest.
Of the three, the most feasible to me was the jump. Which turned out to be a bit odd, because there was no jumping at all on my part – but I’m jumping ahead of myself.
When we first spoke to Tourism and Events Queensland about heading to Australia, they asked if there was something special we would like to do.
Without hesitation, I mentioned that I always like to face a fear conquering event – something that inspires others (and myself) to step outside of our comfort zones.
I should have known better, Australians are — by nature — an adventurous people, and I am not. I’m trying — and growing — but I’m not even close to Aussie level.
When skydiving was mentioned, I wholeheartedly said yes, drawing an evil glare from David. In a bit of role reversal,I was the one chomping at the bit while he was the one hemming and hawing.
Catching on to his hesitation, the gang at TEQ suggested an alternative for David – a day at a spa.
He liked that idea, relaxing on terra firma, perhaps enjoying a massage, while I fell from the sky.
But there was a catch – if he chose the spa day, he would have to partake in a full body wax.
Suddenly, he was all-in for skydiving.
It wasn’t until the night before the Big Jump Day that I started to freak out. Not terribly, but just enough that my panic mantra (people do this every day and don’t die… people do this…) was necessary. I slept, but barely.
With the moment at hand and panic mode setting in, I could certainly appreciate some humor, and the folks at Skydive Ramblers didn’t fail to deliver.
While getting harnessed in, my supersonic onslaught of questions (what happens if?… why do we need that?… how come you just?…) was cleverly answered or jokingly deflected by my tandem instructor, Julian.
My first jolt of actual terror came when I saw the plane.
For some stupid reason I had envisioned a huge cargo plane full of enthusiastic jumpers standing in a large doorway while Ride of the Valkyries played in the background.
A semi-military situation with white chutes drifting over the target zone.
Nope. Instead a bright yellow Cessna 182 was on the runway. There would be no standing up in it, sitting was even tight.
Once we were in flight, I mentioned to David that six years ago – prior to my decision to face my fears head-on – I would have NEVER gotten into this kind of plane at all.
See how brave I am?
Or not, since I was (not so) subtly suggesting that maybe the flight alone was enough to get me off the hook. Maybe I should just fly around a bit and that would be plenty for the day.
There were two problems with this strategy.
1) If I didn’t jump, David would be stuck, unable to get around me to jump, or more accurately fall, out the door himself.
2) David had, all of the sudden, become really excited about the prospect of hurling himself out of the plane. Damn.
So when we reached 10,000 feet, I jumped. Or dropped. Or fell. Whatever it was, I did it.
WATCH: I am visibly terrified.
I can’t really explain the feeling of free-falling. There is nothing natural that can prepare a human for the sensation; I don’t think we’re mentally equipped to process plummeting to the ground at 130+ miles an hour.
It isn’t like a roller coaster. I didn’t feel the sensation of the ground coming up at me. My brain must have gone into something akin to shock, because the entire thirty-second free-fall portion took on a slow-motion, dreamy quality.
The opening of the parachute was my favorite part (mostly because I was pretty sure it meant I was far less likely to die by the end) and, for me, the biggest rush. That is where the roller coaster feeling happened, and I like roller coasters.
Once I let go of Julian (I had somehow clawed onto his arm) and realized that my white-knuckled hanging-on to the harness made no difference safety-wise (not that I stopped doing it), a peacefulness set in. It really was beautiful and serene up there.
But not calm enough to truly settle a panicky person such as myself. So I began to fire off questions about the landing. Seems I had to have something new to freak out about. Sorry Julian – it’s how I roll. Man, Julian’s a good guy.
Landing was mercifully uneventful, I simply stood up when Julian said “stand up.”
Then the news crew came racing over.
We had no idea they were going to be there and I was too wigged out to do anything but babble.
Luckily, our segment was short, David quickly came to my rescue and the reporter was really, really nice!
WATCH: I am introduced to the Australian public by way of the amount of saliva I don’t have in my mouth. Classic Veronica!
Fear conquered. Will I do it again?
Ask me again on my 120th birthday.