There was a time in my life when I swore I’d never go bungee jumping. Never ever ever.
I was open to skydiving, but falling head first, hooked to a cord, with the ground so close and no parachute? Noooo thanks.
That was my solid stance on the matter until two years ago. Until I went skydiving. And skydiving made me want to do all things sky related. I guess after jumping out of a plane, bungee jumping seemed slightly less terrifying than before, so I put it on my list – but with a major caveat. It had to happen in some remotely beautiful place, like Costa Rica or New Zealand. Maybe I thought that’d buy me some time to work up the courage. Or maybe I thought a stunning view would take my mind off the jumping part. Idunno. But it was on the list.
When planning my May 2018 trip to Switzerland, I knew I wanted to do something extreme. Something adrenaline rushy. Since I’d already done the skydiving thing AND ziplined over a valley in the mountains of Southern Italy, it had to be something different. Something new. My initial thought was paragliding since it’s so popular in the Alps. But then, while researching paragliding companies, I noticed that several also offer bungee jumping – and something inside me said, Now’s the time, James. (Uhhhh, yeahhhh, I call myself James.)
On a scale of 1 – 10, my fear of paragliding was 0. Absolute zero. Fear of bungee? Solid 8. So, it’s only logical that I went with bungee jumping, right?? Natural instinct, begone.
When I mentioned my plans to IG friend @_life.of.ty_, he steered me toward Outdoor Interlaken’s bungee site over a lake in the Alps. One look at his mid-air jump shot and I was sold. And while the location is indeed STU-NING, I gotta say that the entire experience with Outdoor Interlaken was beyond my expectations – from the van ride to the site (with sweet tunes and free beer) to the contagious energy of the staff (who clearly LOVE their jobs).
But alright. Alright. On to the real reason you’re here. You wanna know what it was like to actually jump out of a gondola – 40 stories high! – overlooking a small, Swiss lake surrounded by mountains.
Well, lemme tell you. I was literally shaking up there in that gondola – partly from cold, but mostly (let’s be real) from that level 8 fear. Or maybe from reality. The reality that I was going to jump. That the next time my feet touched the ground would be AFTER my feet left the solid safety of the cable car floor.
But it wasn’t about my feet. Or my shaking legs. Or anything physical, really. It was purely mental.
I was third to jump. Third out of eleven total. And when the moment came – when it was my turn to stand in the doorway and listen to my peers count down from five. four. three. two – THAT’S when I had to stop thinking and just do it. Just jump.
And once I did… once I jumped… I was fine. No more fear. As with so many experiences in life, the anticipation was the worst part.
We were instructed to jump out – not down – with arms outstretched. That gave me an ohhh so brief moment of hang time, which I used to scan the horizon and soak in EVERYTHING. Snowy mountain ridge. Jagged lake outline. Pointy pine tops. Then, downward toward that blue alpine water.
Strangely, the downward part didn’t feel like falling. I guess I expected something like an amusement park ride that drops straight down and makes your stomach drop, too. But my stomach didn’t drop. Instead, I felt like a superhero flying “faster than a speeding bullet” to save the planet. For real. I did. But in more practical terms, I felt powerful. Fearless. Alive.
Since I bungee’d over a lake, Outdoor Interlaken had a row boat ready to haul me in. Dangling upside down, I climbed down a pole and grasped the boatman’s hand as he lowered me onto a mat. And as I laid on that mat and waved to the gondola high above, those powerful/fearless/alive feelings were replaced with triumph. With the sweet joy of victory for soundly defeating my fear.
You see, I decided to go bungee jumping because I was afraid. Sure, I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and love crossing things off my list. But, in this case, fear was my primary motivation because I couldn’t let it win. I couldn’t let it keep me from the life-changing experience that I knew awaited me just beyond the jump. So I took a leap of faith. Literally.
That leap taught me two things: First, never say never. And second, do the things that scare you.
What is it that scares you? Do me a favor and don’t let fear win. K?