This stop on the trip is also famous for its many adventure sports – skydiving, paragliding, hiking, and canyoning (to name a few). I hear we will have the chance to partake in many of these sports. The thought of jumping out of a plane is equally exhilarating and terrifying.My First Ever CR Blog
But after all, aren’t the best things in life described in the same way?
36 days, folks. Let’s do this.
48 days ago, I wrote my first ever Cultural Routes blog on the topic of Interlaken, Switzlerand, which also happened to be one of the places I was most excited to see. Oh how the time flies!
I am currently JOYFULLY writing this blog in the cozy lobby area of a delightful place called Backpacker’s Villa in Interlaken, Switzerland with a cup of peppermint tea and a happy soul.
Seeing the Swiss Alps has been a dream of mine throughout my entire life, and these mountains are more amazing than anything I ever imagined. I am at a loss for words. This place has completely blown my mind with its awe-striking views and fresh mountain air. So much so that I have definitely cried multiple times about how wonderful it all is. In the words of Dr. Pitcock, “Rich!”
During my time in Interlaken, I decided to do something VERY out of my comfort zone and wanted to write about my learning experience on the blog.
I secured my reservation to throw myself out of a plane on Saturday morning in a spur of the moment decision. I told myself in the time leading up to Interlaken that I was definitely going to follow through and skydive, but when the time came to actually buy my tickets, I was COMPLETELY panicking and questioning everything. I knew it was something I would not regret doing, but it was very difficult to overcome the initial fear of something going horribly wrong. The funny thing is – I am not even frightened of heights (…however, I am frightened of hurdling toward the Earth at 125 miles per hour with the slight chance that my parachute will NOT work).
I freaked out all of Friday night and freaked out some more on Saturday morning before a very kind lady named Irene with a calming presence picked 10 CRers up from the hostel to take us to the drop site. As I filled out the waiver forms in the backseat of the vehicle, my heart was RACING. By request of Irene and friends, I sang a couple of songs as we drove through the windy mountain roads to calm my nerves and everyone else’s. “Amazing Grace” and “Natural Woman” were some stress-relievers.
We made it to the drop site and it was beautiful! My nervousness began to slowly subside. It wasn’t until I started to get harnessed up by my tandem skydiving guide that I begin asking a thousand questions about whether or not everything was secured and if the parachute was going to work.
I was very thankful for my guide, Abel from Orange County, California who put up with all of my frantic questions and mile-a-minute talking (I do this when I am nervous) and for my buds who continuously reassured me through the whole process (I love you Lauren Klingemann). For the record, Abel reminded me of MARK RUFFALO so much.
Fast forward a bit, and I suddenly find myself on a tiny plane at the very FRONT, meaning I, the most nervous one, will be the very first of our group to hurl myself out of a flying moving object at an altitude of 13,000 feet. Irene, our driver, apparently told the other sky diving guides that I could sing, and so Abel requested that I sing the National Anthem as the plane took off to calm everyone down.
At this point, I was feeling a mix of pure terror and unbearable excitement. Eventually, we were cruising through the air. I gazed out the window and was taken aback by the view of the Alps, instantly feeling a wave of tranquility. It was serene.
I realized that I was ready to send it. Looking out the window of the plane was perhaps one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever witnessed. Laughingly, I belted out “Space Oddity” by David Bowie and “Bohemian Rhapsody” as my last few songs, especially the part that goes “MAMA, oooooooh, I DON’T WANNA DIE.” Music is the language of the universe!!
The door flung open, I glanced back at the rest of my friends in the plane, and knew it was time. I asked Mark Ruffalo if he was ready and he said yes and asked me if I was ready. I nodded. (Was I ready? Absolutely not. I was terrified). My ears were popping, and apparently my friends and the other skydiving guides were hooting and hollering for me (thanks guys) but I couldn’t hear a thing because of the wind and air pressure. In a surreal moment, I looked out the door only to see white (we were IN a cloud) with cold wind rushing in my face. This is the part where I thought to myself, man, we are REALLY doing this. What?? I prayed really fast, reminded myself of the phrase YOLO, and swung my legs over the side of the plane.
And then I didn’t even think, I just DID it. Banana-ed it, and we were free falling.
The feeling of falling for 8,000 feet was the CRAZIEST thing I have ever felt. For most of the free fall, I could see literally nothing but white, making it equally terrifying AND exhilarating. All of the sudden we cleared through the clouds and I could see EVERYTHING. The peaks were getting closer and closer. Something in my heart told me that the parachute was going to work, and after 40 seconds of plummeting toward the Earth with adrenaline coursing through my veins, the parachute shot out.
I screamed a major scream of relief but also one of pure bliss because the view I was seeing was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. We floated through the crisp air at 5,000 feet and drifted over the snow-topped mountains. The cars looked like ants and the green grass and trees were pleasantly splattered with red and orange rooftops. It was pure joy. Breath-taking (literally). Evidence of a Divine Creator.
We drifted down to Earth in the following ten minutes, and I felt more alive than I had ever felt in my entire life.
Skydiving was just one of the many highlights that has made Cultural Routes absolutely incredible, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to full send it with some of the coolest people ever and conquer my fear of things going wrong every single time I take a risk.
Yes, it was an adrenaline rush, but in my mind it meant something much more to me. It was adventure, it was letting it go and letting it happen, and a huge step out of my comfort zone. Taking the leap of faith reminded me that faith is stronger than doubt, and that often times the greatest things in life with the best rewards are the most risky things. Never in a million years did I see myself skydiving, but it turned out to be a crazy, deeply moving, BEAUTIFUL experience that I will never forget. Although I am a free spirited person, I easily get caught up in doubt and worry. I had to let go of worrying to do what I did on Saturday morning, and I am learning to let go of worrying throughout the entirety of Cultural Routes. Cultural Routes in and of itself is an exhilarating and terrifying thing – we are thrown into cities with different languages and cultures and we encounter some of the best learning opportunities of our entire lives. In the midst of these experiences comes self doubt and fear of failure and the dire need to make sure we “do it right” but excitement, immense intellectual curiosity, joy, and childlike enthusiasm accompany our experiences as well.
Skydiving was also an experience that taught me to not overthink it. In order to throw myself off of the plane into a vast abyss of cold white nothingness, I HAD to stop thinking about it. If I dwelled too hard on the risk I was taking, I would have backed out. I once heard a quote that said “Stop thinking about what could go wrong and start thinking about what could go right.” This has never been more true in my life, in skydiving, but also in flying down a metal slide at the same time with 4 other people in Berlin, or drinking glacier water in an Interlaken valley, or asking the table of yodelers next to us to sing us a song, or going out and kayaking on Lake Brienz even though a storm was totally on its way, or staying up in the Eurostar lobby until 4 AM for deep conversations.
Interlaken, you rock. I love your fondue, and laid back mountain style, and friendly locals, and swiss army knives, and hikes, and lakes, and chocolate, and most importantly the overall aura you give of “Just chill out, man!” Thank you for the reminders to simply be present and take it all in.
In a place like Interlaken, I could sit down and stare at the mountains for 8 hours and be perfectly content. It was a blessing to spend the weekend in such a delightfully pleasant place with such delightful people by my side. The people I was there with were the best part.
Here’s to the things we do that freak us out but turn out to be the best things ever, and here’s to the people in our lives who challenge us and push us to live a little!!! Life isn’t about staying in our comfort zones. 🙂 Life is crazy and life is beautiful!!!!