You might think I wouldn’t be afraid to go canyon swinging and ziplining in Queenstown, New Zealand – ya know, since I’ve already mastered skydiving at 15,000 feet, bungee jumping in the Alps, and ziplining between two mountains in southern Italy. But nope. You’d be wrong. I was still pretty darn scurrrd.
It didn’t surprise me, though. Being scared. I knew I would be the instant I booked the Shotover Canyon Swing & Canyon Fox online – two whole months before my trip. Two months of knowing I’d be simultaneously terrified and thrilled to leave the safety of a ledge and freefall into a canyon… twice.
Yup. Twice. You’d expect the canyon swing to have a freefall, right? But the Fox zipline has one, too. It’s the only zipline of its kind in the world. So, I had to do both – especially when I saw the combo deal: book the Canyon Swing & Canyon Fox together, and it’s cheaper. Frugal me was sold.
The Fox was up first. Whew. Starting with the easy one, I thought. Just a short, 16.5-foot freefall with a zipline. No big deal. But. Uhhhhh. When you’re 597 feet above a river, standing next to the platform you just agreed to RUN OFF, your brain doesn’t care how minimal the freefall is. It’s convinced you’ll be falling all the way down. And, the longer you wait, the more you start to believe it.
Tom Petty was right. The waiting really is the hardest part. Caught in a limbo state of eager anticipation and doomsday dread, I silently wondered how I’d convince my legs to run forward off the edge – and yet, I knew that I would. Because I also knew I wanted to be airborne.
Friends, I’d love to say I sprinted off that platform with wild abandon. But, the truth? My run was weak. More like a waddle. Still, every step was progress toward the end, where I leaped into the void.
And here’s the thing about a leap. It’s the thinnest, yet boldest line between fear and fearlessness. The moment I crossed it, all my fear was gone. I felt alive.
I also felt ready to take on the canyon swing. Let’s do this thang.
Except… ya know that saying, “Pride goes before a fall”? Yeah. That sort of LITERALLY applies here. Despite having just thrown myself off the equivalent of the Seattle Space Needle, my brain betrayed me again. It didn’t matter that the swing platform is only 358 feet above the river; just knowing that the freefall would be 197 feet this time – vs. the Fox’s measly 16.5 – brought the nerves right back for a second round.
Again with the waiting. Again with the How’m I gonna will myself to fall off this platform backward? Oh. Right. I forgot to mention I chose the backward option because it was scarier. Yes. You read that right. Because it was scarier. Twisted, I know.
Thankfully, the guys working the canyon swing platform are full of energy and life and kept me talking and distracted while they prepped me to fall. I smiled for the camera and reminded myself over and over that the moment I was airborne, I’d be fine. More than fine. I’d feel alive again!
This time, I didn’t need to run. Just fall. Still, I asked for a countdown – which I also asked for with the Fox. Last year, when I bungee jumped, the crew automatically counted us down, and I realized that it helped. It gave me a ready-or-not end goal, so I wasn’t just standing there, waiting to be ready. I knew I’d never feel ready enough. I just had to go.
3… 2… 1. Go. And once I fell – once again – no fear. I felt alive and free. It’s a freedom that comes only when you’ve soundly slaughtered all the scared-ness. Well, that mingled with the freedom of swinging through the air, Tarzan-style. There’s no other freedom feeling like it.
But don’t take my word for it. Take the leap.
And, watch my full canyon swing video here:
Mucho thanks to the Shotover folks for giving me the opportunity to live fearless and free!