I can remember it like it was yesterday; I’m 12 years old at a school wide bonding day and we’re in groups of 15.The point of this day out was for it to be a fun interactive group experience where everyone goes through this ropes course and works as a team to get through it, easy enough right? There were multiple teams so of course we were out to win. We were all winding our ways through the ropes, laughing, and sliding around and before I knew it we were almost near the end. As I’m looking ahead through the trees I notice each person disappear over the wooden ledge one by one, maybe they’re climbing down. I somehow manage to wriggle my way to the back of the line as the ledge comes closer and closer. Finally, I near the edge of the tree line and realize actually how high up I am, and that we were not going to be climbing down. Before I knew it I was the last one up there, standing over the edge looking down at all my classmates screaming “JUMP!” Everyone was having a blast, high on the fact that our whole group had almost successfully completed the whole obstacle course before the other teams.The only thing left was for me to jump. I was connected to a harness, everyone had just safely done it, and there was a large group of people at the bottom cheering me on because the only way we could win was if I jumped. I kept telling myself it was fine, I could do it but my legs weren’t moving, I was frozen; physically and mentally. Almost 20 minutes pass and I’m still standing at the top occasionally looking over the edge, backing away, and repeating. After about 5 more minutes the encouragement to jump changed to encouragement to give up and climb down the back. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t jump. I climbed down the back and was greeted by looks of pity and disappointment. No one would laugh it off with me, I let everyone down, that moment stuck with me.
14 years later and I find myself on a trip to visit my younger sister In Australia while she's studying on the Gold Coast. A few weeks before arrival she casually decides to tell me that she's planned a skydiving trip for us. My heart sank, I love adventure but there is no way you were going to get me to jump out of a plane, it seemed absolutely ridiculous. My thoughts quickly went back to that day 14 years ago where I wouldn't jump and ruined everything for my whole group, why was I afraid? Everyone else had done it, why did I have to be the only one to chicken out? At that I decided to do it “sign me up” I texted my sister and the plans were sorted. I forced the thought to the back of my mind for the next few weeks and even throughout the beginning of the trip. A few days prior it started to loom on me. I can’t do it. I stood on the balcony of my hotel looking down and realized that in just one day I would be 10X higher than that … and jumping. I can’t do it. My internal freak out started to manifest psychically. I texted my sister that I was out, not doing it, no way, done. All I received back was an “okay, I’ll cancel yours.” No joking around, no cheeky jabs, just the same disappointment I experienced 14 years ago on that platform in a tree. Suddenly this had nothing to do with what anyone else thought about me, it was how I felt about myself, this was a fear that had to be overcome, a fear I had let bother me for years and the only way to overcome it was to jump. I woke up the morning of the dive to realize my sister never actually cancelled it for me, I took that as a sign. Cramped up on the bench in that tiny plane I braced myself as they slid open the side panel exposing all of us to 14,000 feet of nothingness, just the sweeping views of Byron Bay beneath me, and in one swift slide across the bench, I jumped.
Need some tips on how to successfully not back out of your skydive? Read on:
Look at The Facts
Feeling afraid to take the plunge? It’s normal but if you want to feel better about it just do some research. Driving a car is statistically more dangerous than tandem skydiving. Same with hiking, boxing, and bike racing to name a few. Australia and New Zealand have some of the safest records in the world so you are sure to be in good hands.
Don’t Read The Waivers
Just like joining a gym, you need to sign a few waivers before skydiving. I probably shouldn't encourage signing your life away without reading, but this is different! Legally they have to exhaust every option of things that could go wrong because with any activity there is always some risk involved. When sky diving you are literally just strapped to another person, you don't have to do anything, so reading the forms will just freak you out and give you more reasons to be afraid.
Showing Up Is The Hardest Part
Sounds cliche but its true, you’ve already booked it, you know you want to do it for one reason or another so just show up. Once you are there you meet people who have done this thousands of times, everyday, for years! There is something oddly comforting about being around people who do this like it is no big deal, all the time. Show up and talk to the instructors, their nonchalant persona will make you feel a little silly for kicking and screaming the whole way to the drop zone.
Peer pressure can be a good thing when you are trying to overcome a fear. Everyone is jumping out of a plane so why don't you? When you see all your friends doing it it becomes a lot easier to convince yourself.
Choose a Place You Love
If you’re afraid of skydiving then you will probably only be doing this once so make the most of it! Do you want to skydive over the ocean in Byron Bay, above The Remarkables in Queenstown, or maybe land on the beach at Mission Beach. Whether you are a mountain person, lake person, or a beach person, there is surely a place that will make this already incredible experience even more special.
Just Do It
Easier said than done, I know, but sometimes you just have to commit and take the plunge. The feeling when you are floating during your free fall then soaring through sky to the landing zone is incomparable. Also, absolutely nothing can trump that feeling of accomplishment when you land safely on the ground and realize you did it.
Anxiety has a funny way of disguising itself as a bad gut feeling when you’re afraid of something. Face the fear and do something different for a change. Once you successfully complete your first dive I can assure you the first thing on your mind will be; what fear can I overcome next?
*This article was originally written for Peterpans Adventure Travel, all opinions are my own.