Have you ever look down from a high perch and feel your stomach fill with dread, your arm hairs prick up and your palms drip with perspiration?
I used to be like this, too. Heck, sometimes I’d get dizzy just looking down while standing (I’m 5’2”, by the way).
It was travel that helped me ultimately conquer my fear of heights, and even learn to love them.
While nowadays I’m constantly hot air ballooning, sky diving and canyoning, I can still remember my first aerial experience: bungy jumping at AJ Hackett Tower in Cairns, Australia. The drop was a rapid 50 meters (164 feet) that had you do in head first into a pool, just barely missing the water. Needless to say, I was extremely thankful there was a bar at the base of the jump.
Once I’d done enough shots to feel that delicious feeling of fearlessness that comes with being intoxicated, I made my way up to do the jump. I felt confident as I patiently waited in line, one person after another taking the daring plunge.
That is, until there was only four people left in front of me...and I completely lost my sh*t!
“Breath, Jessie, breath!” my friend, Kait, commanded. It was to no avail. I’d somehow forgotten how to do this simple task that was supposed to be instinctual. I was going to hyperventilate and die before I even had the chance to jump.
Kait rubbed my shoulders and promised me everything would be okay (also bribing me with victory cocktails at the bottom). In my slightly drunken state, this sounded very persuasive.
I reached the tipping point when I saw the girl in front of me have a complete nervous breakdown. She got all of her gear on, then proceeded to cry and tremble, eventually undoing her ropes and walking down to the tower base, on foot, head down in disappointment.
I did NOT want to be that girl. How dis-satisfying would it be if I came all the way to Cairns and paid to have this thrilling experience, only to back out at the end (no refunds, either). Not to mention all my friends seemed to be jumping no problem, their shrieks of joy heard from miles away.
I was doing this.
I allowed the staff — who looked like they knew what they were doing…hopefully — to put my legs in the stirrups and harness me in. They pulled my straps to tighten the bungy suit and unhooked my carabiner that held me to the platform.
It was jump time. Actually, in this case, dive time.
Immediately all alcoholic effects wore off, as the sheer adrenaline of diving from higher than any human should completely took over my body. I shrieked, screamed and sputtered…until it was over, and I found myself swimming from my feet, laughing manically.
“I want to do it again!” I screamed.
And that’s how my love of aerial thrills started. Once I did it that first time, it became easier to do the second, and third and 30th. Just taking that one small (very big!) step helped shift my mindset a full 180-degrees, reaching a point where I actually enjoy heights and aerial adventure travel activities.