It’s funny to think back to my very first trip to Switzerland. It seems like decades have passed when in reality it was only 6 years ago.
Is it just me or just time seem to change when you get older? I thought it was supposed to be the other way around; I’d be beginning this story instead with “it seemed only yesterday I took my first trip to Switzerland….” but nope, backwards as usual.
But this is a story for another day, in fact something I’ve touched on before – sometimes I think my travel memories lose significance and value over the years because I’ve seen TOO much. As if my brain has reached maximum pretty capacity and can’t handle ALL the landscapes and ALL the foods and ALL the adventure sports, causing me to forget things.
I think that’s why Switzerland feels like so much further in the past than it actually is.
My BFF while studying abroad and I booked a last minute long weekend trip to Switzerland together. So poor we slept in the airport for 2 of the 3 nights we were gone and shared a dorm hostel bed in Interlaken. All we wanted was to see the Alps!
While deciding what crazy adventure sport to do while there, we ended up booking bungee/canyon jumping in the mountains because it was cheap. While exploring the mountains nearby in the morning waiting for our jump, we ended up making friends with 2 California girls studying abroad in Germany.
On a total high, they gushed to us about how they went skydiving, showing us pics and videos. Their exuberance and enthusiasm was contagious and I immediately regretted not booking skydiving instead.
Then they mentioned that is was over 500 bucks to jump, and my regrets immediately melted away into a poor college girl’s reality.
So N and I went canyon jumping instead, had the best day together, and firmly cementing my budding love for Switzerland and big-ass mountains. But also at the same time I had the idea of skydiving in the Alps in the back of my mind.
I promised myself that one day, when I wasn’t broke, I was going to try skydiving, and I was determined it would be in Interlaken over the mighty Swiss Alps, not in some boring place like New Jersey (sorry to any Jersey folks out there!)
Over the years I had several opportunities pop up here and there to skydive around the world, but I always turned them down, wishing and dreaming that the day it would happen would be in Switzerland.
Fast-forward 6 years and I was back in Switzerland for the upteenth time visiting my childhood best friend who had moved to Neuchatel. This was my chance.
Up at the crack of dawn, I started my multi-train journey from Neuchatel to Interlaken with Eurail. Have I mentioned how awesome Swiss trains are? They’re so good they make the Germans look sloppy, which is an impressive feat in and of itself. 4 trains in a row with under 10 minutes change time between them and I didn’t miss a one.
I LOVE Swiss efficiency!
Checking in with Skydive Switzerland, it turns out the guy I was jumping with was good friends with my BFF’s housemates in Neuchatel. Small world!
They all were in the army together in the parachuting unit or whatever that’s called. It turns out a lot of the guys who work at the skydiving centers learned while in the army, which means they’re pros. Some of them have well over 10,000 jumps under their belts, which is pretty comforting to a scaredy cat like me.
So it was reassuring to jump with someone I sort of “knew” in a bizarre way. Oh, and did I mention he was smoking hot?
This of course meant that I had to keep it together and not do anything embarrassing like cry, barf or pee my pants. Pretty good incentive, right?
Climbing into the tiny plane and getting strapped in, my nerves finally started to emerge.
But I’ve found the best thing to do when you start to get terrified is self-distraction. Gazing out the windows of the plane, I took in the beautiful Alps, focusing on the snowy peaks and thinking about how a dream I held onto for so long was finally coming true, then I would look down, say to myself “fuck that’s high…oh pretty mountains.” Basically how my mind works.
Then the door opened and I started to freak out, mentally, you know, had to keep it cool as a cucumber on the outside, except for the occasional “what about this strap?” and “are you sure this is attached right?” or “there’s a back-up parachute, right?” from me.
I’m pretty sure I was the most annoying person on that plane.
Being in the back of the plane meant I had to watch everyone else jump before me. Not a fan, though it did help morale to see a woman in her 50’s scream “yipeee” as she went out first.
Ok, if they can do it, I can do it.
The last ones out of the plane, we crawled towards the open door where I immediately stared straight up at the sky avoiding looking at the ground at all costs.
Asking me if I was ready, I just responded screaming at the top of my lungs as we fell forward out of the plane. Pretty normal reaction I imagine.
I mean, my god, that poor guy is probably deaf by now from all the screaming girls he has to jump with. I definitely yelled the whole way down and then some.
Freefalling with the wind whipping around my face I was in awe. It’s hard to capture those feelings into words here. First off you’re so high up it almost doesn’t register the speed or fear of heights. You are quite literally forced to just enjoy the moment, flipping and spinning around above the mountains while the skin on your face flaps around in the most unflattering way possible, though not for my guide it seems – maybe it’s the beard.
But I mean, my god, what a way to see the world.
All too soon (or not soon enough) the cord gets pulled and the parachute pops up, yanking you upwards and slowing down your freefall, giving you time to breathe again and actually register what is happening.
At this point you’re on such a high you’re not scared of anything anymore, even when your guide starts making the parachute spin around and around along the valley. Just when you thought you were done hollering…
For me, this was the best part of the skydive because you had the time to check out the landscape without it rushing past you, fighting space in your mind between “wow this is the coolest thing ever” and “jesus christ I’m going to die screaming!”
But hey, when you don’t die is when you realize just how awesome the experience really was!
As we got closer to landing, I started to get nervous again. What if we crashed and I landed on my face or something?
Luckily the jumpsuits they give you to wear have little holders on the outside of the pants for you to grab onto and lift your legs up so that you gracefully slide into a landing on your butt. And if I did hurt myself – be it a badly bruised butt cheek or a broken coccyx – I had my ass covered (ohh!) by World Nomads travel insurance. Their plans are awesome. You can customize them and alter them any time you want!
Of course the solo jumpers who photograph people can land running and make it look all sexy and daredevil-ish, but that’s not for us girls who are more than happy to land on our asses.
But now I’m going to tell you a big secret about skydiving – it’s actually really easy and not that scary.
Wait, hear me out! Skydiving is so much easier than any other adrenaline sport owing to the simple fact that you are NOT in charge. You don’t have to do anything. The hardest thing you have to do is put on the suit and get on the plane. Once you in, you’re strapped in and the guy you’re jumping with is the one who throws you all out of the plane.
Trust me on this, it is a HELL of a lot easier when you don’t have to look down and take the leap of faith all on your own.
Just do what I did and look up instead.
So if you want my advice, go skydiving before bungee jumping or any other crazy adventure sport – it’s the easiest and the most badass.
Oh, and do it somewhere pretty.
Yup, skipping popping my skydiving cherry in dirty Jersey was the right decision! I will never, ever forget what it felt like jumping out of a plane over the Alps.
Not to mention there is something to be said for making a 6 year dream finally come true.
Have you ever gone skydiving? Would you like to try it one day – where do you have in mind?