At the start of my evolution or life crisis or whatever you want to call it, I made some extreme decisions. Yes, there was the drastic haircut, the career move and the change in wardrobe but nothing was more dramatic than the day I decided to jump out of a plane.
It was a Saturday morning. Me and five friends met at the small airport in Grand case, French St. Martin. I made sure to wear the proper attire and I looked the part, I guess. But what was really going through my mind was “will this look good when they pick me up in pieces in a nearby field?” I decided to go with a black ensemble. At least I’ll be wearing the correct color to my own funeral.
I may have been a little scared. Ok, I was shaking. But I was also super excited. I was going to finally follow in my mother’s footsteps. If you met my mom, you would know how incredible this next part sounds. My mother used to be a skydiver in her younger years. The same woman who today is scared of driving up steep hills. Skydiving has always been on my bucket list and when my friend called me up with an invitation I immediately accepted.
The days leading up to J-day (J is for jump) I would tell everyone I met that I was planning to leap off a plane. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you. By the way I’m jumping out of a plane this Saturday”. I was excited, super enthusiastic and down right ecstatic. So when the day finally arrived I was prepared. A bit hesitant, but ready nonetheless.
The six of us walked in together. “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” was on repeat in the back of my mind and it only grew louder when we were each handed a two page document to complete and sign. The words “in case of human error” and “injury or death” were a bit disconcerting but heck, I got this far now and wasn’t about to run the other way just because of some words.
The plane could take two jumpers at the time along with the tandem-instructors and the pilot. The four guys in the group thankfully never heard of the phrase “Ladies First”, and they took the first two flights and left us girls behind to contemplate again over the course of the next two hours or so, whether we would truly continue with this madness.
After watching all four guys land safely in the field near the airport it was finally our turn. I nervously tried to control my breathing as we followed our instructors through customs and on to the small plane awaiting us on the tarmac. Jeez, I was not prepared for the tiny size of this plane.
Calling on my inner super woman I swallowed the lump that was blocking my airway and I walked to my instructor, a French guy who looked about the same age as my younger brother. He turned me around and attached my harness to his. As if the ride in this small plane wasn’t going to be uncomfortable enough, I was now going to be strapped to this unknown French dude for the next 30 minutes, sitting on his lap and pretending that what I was feeling in my back was the selfie stick for his GoPro. Luckily it was. Phew.
Before I knew it, it was time for the jump. My friend attached to her instructor was up next. She looked at me and made a face in mock terror. The instructor asked her if she was ready and before she could answer I saw them disappear into nothingness. One second she was there and the next….POOF….gone.
It was my turn. My tandem-instructor signaled for me to put on my goggles and he slowly made his way to the open doorway. I kept telling myself to keep my eyes open. I hadn’t paid all that money and gathered all that chutzpah to not see anything.
I assumed the position I was taught at the beginning of this adventure when we were still safely on the ground. I laid my head on his shoulder and hooked my legs to the bottom of the plane. Then it happened…..he let go and we were falling. I saw the plane become smaller and smaller as we plummeted towards St. Maarten below.
We somehow turned around and we were looking straight down. At that moment I felt nothing but peace. The sound of the wind in my ears, the taste of the clouds (yes, clouds have a taste) and the feeling of absolute freedom was exhilarating. It was all I dreamt off. I was flying. Flying with my arms stretched wide. What an incredible feeling, Frenchie on my back and all. The amazing thing was that my experience was nothing like what I’ve seen in movies. I mean, we must have been coming down with quite a speed but it was as if time stood still and there was no hurry getting back to to the ground.
The free-fall only lasted about 30 seconds before he opened the chute, but it was 30 seconds I would never forget. We were now dangling and slowly descending to the field below where our group was waiting for us. I must say I got a bit bored with the dangling part. Don’t get me wrong, the view was spectacular but it lasted a bit long. I would have preferred 30 seconds longer of the free-fall but I guess we would have missed our mark then and I would not be here telling you about my Skydiving experience.
*Note to self: bring hair band next time to avoid looking like one of the members of 80’s hip-hop duo Kid ‘N Play.
I saw the field approaching and lifted my legs as instructed, which proved to be harder than I thought considering I have not done any abdominal exercise for ages. We landed safely and without stepping in cow poop, which funny enough was one of my major concerns about this jump to begin with. My legs were trembling from the experience. Pure adrenaline. Once unstrapped I thanked Frenchie, after all he was a superb instructor and jumping partner and he did keep me entertained with stories while we were up there. I felt like kissing the ground but with so much manure around I didn’t dare.
I survived my first skydiving experience (my hair not so much) and I cannot wait to do it again. I will undoubtedly soon repeat this and who knows I will even attempt a solo jump one day. As I strike this off my bucket list I wonder what’s next? A hiking trip to Oregon, whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, crossing the glass bridge in China or perhaps camping in the rainforest in Puerto Rico? The sky is the limit for this island girl. What do YOU think I should experience next?
Always live, laugh and travel,