Paragliding Adventure In The Bavaria

“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you’re scared. ” ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

All my life I’ve suffered from a fear of heights and it bugs the hell out of me. It has reared its ugly head when I’m on balconies, scuba diving against walls with large drops beneath them or even on planes (which could be a different phobia). I can’t explain why I have this fear so I can’t justify it. It’s the irrational side of me that I can’t control.

Being the A-Type personality that I am, I’ve tried to cure myself of this inconvenient neurosis. Now I’m not a medical professional, but I believe the best way to overcome a fear is to face it head on. How did I do this you ask? Simple, I threw myself off a plane. What did I learn from the experience? That I came dangerously close to soiling myself AND having a heart attack at the same time.

Learned something new that day.

I was so relieved when I landed, I face planted onto the desert floor and hugged and kissed it like a long lost lover. But this fear of heights was not fixed, it’s like a vengeful partner hellbent on making life miserable. Fast forward 6 years later, I’m in Munich planning a paragliding adventure in the Bavarian mountains.


 

Arriving at the jump site I’m amazed to see dozens of paragliders in the air. The mountain they’re launching from looks intimidating and I could feel my insides squirm. I ignore it and force myself to look around and take in the amazing natural beauty that surrounds me.

I meet up with my instructor,  a short, jovial and loud German. We have a pleasant chat as we took a lift up to the mountain top; a great distraction to keep my mind off what I was about to do. Once we got to the launching pad, my false confidence evaporated and I could feel my knees turn to jelly.

Somehow my tiny brain didn’t realize that we would be walk-running off a mountain side with a parachute behind us. That looks scarier and and a hell-of-a-lot more dangerous than jumping out off a plane.

Why the [email protected]*K do I do this to myself?? Geared up, I walk to the launch zone and get my last set of instructions for the jump.

[email protected]*k it.  I am doing this.  I AM doing this!  We start moving towards the cliff side.

“One, Two, Three …. WALK, WALK, WALK …. now RUN, RUN, RUN!!!” my instructor screams and without feeling it my feet are lifted off the ground as we fly off the mountain side.

No taking this back, I look down and immediately regret it. The height is dizzying. My heartbeats become irregular and I feel like I’m going to pass out. I shut my eyes and try to control my breathing. I do this for 5 or 10 seconds. The instructor feels my fear and tries to comfort and distract me. At least I’m not screaming like a little girl — small victories are still victories.

Slowly I reopen my eyes and try my best to enjoy the experience. Which I did to a degree, as long as I didn’t look down. Whenever my eye sight drifted to my feet my heart started beating to the rhythms of the Mamba.

Paragliding for me was more intense than skydiving. Skydiving was quick. You free fall for couple seconds and then the parachute opens and you are back on Terra Firma in 3 or 4 minutes. Paragliding, depending on the Thermal airways, can mean flying for over 30 minutes. That’s a long time for someone with a fear of heights!

So did it work? Well I didn’t hug and try to make love to the ground on landing this time (again focusing on small victories). But my fear of heights is still there. In the end, I’m proud of myself for feeling my fear, letting it in, letting it go and then jumping. The fear did not stop me from going for it.

Luckily I have a great video of my jump.

 

As an added bonus here is the video from my skydive in 2009.