In 2012 I embarked of a journey of a life-time and spent 6 months traveling, studying and working in Australia. As part of a student exchange program during my undergraduate degree (more on this later!). Just before freshers week, international students were invited to an Extreme Adventure weekend in Byron Bay to get to know each other.
My parents paid for the $299 trip as part of my 21st birthday present that’d I’d be spending away from home, which was sweet. This covered All transportation, 2 Nights dorm accommodation, 2 Breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners, a traditional Aussie BBQ, sea kayaking, learn to surf lesson, a day at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and plenty of time to enjoy the beach! We had the option to do a sky dive and a hang glide as well, at an extra fee.
After meeting some friends for life from the United States, I somehow managed to get dragged into a sky dive. Believe me, I’ve been scared of heights since I can remember. I had no interest in having my feet off the ground. Once everyone was signing up I felt like if I was ever going to do it, now was the time. I would kick myself if I wanted to do it in the future and passed up the opportunity to do it in one of the best countries in the world.
Our sky dive was the following day and we had to meet at 6am to get ready and have a lesson, but alas! We woke up cloudy skies and it was drizzling. We were told that if sky diving was still on, we would be given a phone call and would be able to go. The skies never cleared and we didn’t get to jump; I figured it was fate. Now I had the buzz for it though, and I couldn’t wait to get up there, and was actually disappointed we couldn’t go anymore(I’d also especially gone and bought some lace-up vans especially for the sky dive because apparently flip flops aren’t okay 😉 !).
We headed back to the Gold Coast after an exhausting weekend of sea kayaking, surfing and lots of drinking and carried on with our insane international exchange adventure. The guys decided they still wanted to go, so I rung up and booked us in – again! Another 6am start, we headed in a mini bus shuttle down to Byron Bay. I don’t think the reality of what was about to happen had kicked in and I just listened to music and had a nap. My friend Don looked terrified but I was just more concerned about getting a sandwich.
Once we arrived and signed up, we realised there were tonnes of people in front of us in the queue and only two planes, so we knew it would be a wait. That’s when the nerves started kicking-in. It was so exciting watching everyone else having a ‘lesson’ on what to do once you jump out the plane etc;. Finally, our names were called and it was our turn to go through the motions of the ‘banana’ pose and landing safely. We were told to take off our watches, given a harness and some sky diving trousers to wear over our shorts.
Don’s harness was so tight around his shoulders, yet mine was just falling off my shoulder. I asked the instructor if he would tighten it and he said that it was as tight as he could make it and just to hold on when I jumped, and gravity would pull it tight during the fall. This was NOT reassuring! At this point, Don has a huge smile on his face and his nerves are gone, and I’m absolutely terrified thinking that it’s a ludicrous idea and ready to jump on the mini bus back home. Next thing I know, I’m being shuffled into a plane!
My instructor was so lovely! He asked how old I was and I accidentally said 19 (I was 21!), and then he asked what university I went to and I said “One in Australia!” I was so nervous that I just couldn’t concentrate – it was such a bizarre feeling trying so hard to focus whilst completely sober and not being able to control myself. I asked him how many jumps he’d done and I can’t remember the number he said now… but it was at least a 5-digital number. This put a little bit more confidence into me, and then everyone started jumping!
Don was soon a dot within less than a second, and I was the last one out of the plane to jump. I shuffled across the bench in the plane along to the door with my instructor stuck to my back. Ready to hold on for my life, I suddenly felt his tighten the straps so hard I was wrenched backwards. The relief I felt, I could have jumped out of the plane that second! He could have told me that they tighten the straps before you jump!! Head back, deep breath and we rolled out the door on the count of three.
The rolling and upside down part was a bit of a blur. The 60 second free-fall was nothing like I expected. I didn’t feel like I was falling, but I felt like I was suspended in peaceful, mid-air in sheer silence. People asked me afterwards if you can breathe – Yes, easily actually. It doesn’t make a difference, however we were told to close our mouths if we did have trouble and then breathe through your nose. I screamed most the way, and my jaw was dropped open with pure astonishment the rest of the time (I wasn’t even thinking about my breathing!). Another question was, does it make your stomach feel funny? Nope! You fall with gravity pulling you, unlike a roller coaster that unnaturally pulls you down.
After the free-fall was over and the parachute had been deloying my instructor loosened my straps to make me more comfortable. He didn’t tell me this though, so I thought he was having a bad day and decided to kill us both (me going first, without the parachute!). I screamed and grabbed the harness, I bet he thought I was completely mental haha! The parachuting went on for quite a while afterwards and it was nice to just feel the buzz and enjoy the scenery as we glided over Byron beach <3.
I’m so glad I didn’t chicken out and did my jump in Byron Bay with some super special people. The feeling I had when I hit the floor, then saw my friend and gave him a hug was indescribable. It’s something I’ll never forget xo
PS: The video is about triple the length that the above clip is. My free-fall was 60 seconds but I cut the video down because it’s just me mouthing words can shouldn’t be repeated, screaming, and my nose being pulled up like a piggy by the pressure 🙂