The sound of screams echo in the distance. The ground beneath me moves, just slightly, bouncing up and down like a gentle wave. I’m a firm believer that the wait is always the worst part. Those excruciatingly long moments right before you do something really brave. Those few seconds can feel like an eternity. Both of my hands are planted firmly on either side of the narrow suspension bridge, my knuckles turning white from gripping for too long. My breath has steadied, but the line in front of me is slowly shrinking, and every time I move a spot closer, my mind races.
Why am I here?
It’s an interesting question. It’s something I asked myself repeatedly over the four-hour drive from Kathmandu. If I’m being honest, the first response was my ego. How cool would it be to post the pictures of me, yes me, jumping off a bridge? How exciting would the blog post be? How epic the instagram likes? My credibility as a certified badass having increased almost instantaneously. But ego is never a good reason to do something, and it’s never enough. What happens the day after I post this, when no one cares anymore? It’s fleeting.
So, why am I here?
The second answer is simple, and maybe the most popular. I’d like to face my fears, and I happen to be terrified of heights. What better way to overcome a fear of heights than to jump from 160m (525 feet) toward a river of jagged rocks?
I think a universal fear is death. It’s simple. We are terrified of the possibility (inevitability) that one-day we won’t exist. We ignore it as long as we can. We even use wrinkle-reducing creams so we don’t see it when we look in the mirror. We play it safe and avoid unwanted risks. It’s interesting, because every single day we face death. People choke on food. They crash in cars. They get diseases, and they even die in their sleep. We are exposed to danger constantly, but we choose not to see it. One girl told me she loved life too much to bungy jump while rolling a cigarette.
Why is it, we are so afraid to look death in the eyes? Why am I here? I want to stand on the edge of the world, look down, and know it’s okay. I want to feel peace.
So here I am, anxiously standing in line at The Last Resort (yes, that’s the real name). The closer I get though, the more my resolve slips away. My hands are sweating and my entire body is tense. As the harness gets wrapped around me, my mind becomes frantic. I tell the kind gentleman tightening it that I’m terrified a million times. My voice, a broken record.
“Everyone is terrified. If you are not terrified, you have something wrong with your brain.” The cameraman next to him smiles warmly. “Everyone is afraid. Some people just don’t show it. You are showing it.”
“Has anyone ever gotten back up here and said ‘that’s the worst thing I’ve ever done?’”
He laughed, “No, no. Everyone comes up happy.”
The bungee master gives me the final instructions. Then he looks at me very seriously. Earlier, someone got stung by a Nepali hornet, and he is holding my Epipen (I’m highly allergic to bees). “I cannot guarantee there are no bees when you jump. I don’t know how long it will take to pull you up. If you are not comfortable, you do not need to jump.” This was it. My out. My chance to flee. “Are you sure you are comfortable jumping?”
“No… but that has nothing to do with the bees,” I said. Everyone laughed.
“Okay then, nothing to worry about. You jump, I worry about everything else.”
“Okay, I’m trusting you my friend.”
I held his hand and ducked under the safety bar, which felt like a surreal barrier. On one side was safety and illusion and on the other was undeniable reality. It hit me, like I knew it would. Now, there was no more pretending. No more feigning immortality. Being on the ledge, I knew, was the worst part. I shuffled my feet forward slowly. “Keep going. Keep going. Don’t stop. Not there yet. Keep going.”
“You have a lovely office,” I joked nervously.
The closer I got to the edge, the harder it was to move my legs. I could feel them shaking with fear. My arms were stretched out to my sides, but my instincts told me to bring them in to hold onto my harness. I had to consciously focus on keeping them in the air as they kept trying to sneak closer to my body. I kept my gaze on the mountains and didn’t dare look down. “Okay good. That’s good.”
“Hold on! I need to breathe.” Panic was racing through me. My veins pumping adrenaline along with what could only be described as pure fear. A concoction I could feel in my entire body. It pumped through every vein. Through every limb. I breathed in slowly, and then let it out. I cleared my mind. It was okay. I was okay. “I can do this, right?”
“Sure you can. Why not?” he said casually.
Why not? Such simple words, for such a complicated moment. And then, he began to count.
I didn’t hesitate. The faster I jumped, the faster I was off the ledge. My body leaned forward, my arms spread in a ‘T’, and suddenly I was falling. It was the feeling you get on an airplane when it hits turbulence. The free fall. That dropping sensation that makes your stomach clench and your heart race. I was entirely aware, and just as I thought, ‘why did I do this,’ the feeling disappeared. The 2.7 seconds of free fall were gone. I heard my scream bouncing off the canyon walls. It changed from pure panic to that of absolute bliss. My fear was gone, and all that was left was joy… or insanity. It’s hard to tell.
I was plummeting toward the ground, but it didn’t matter because I jumped. I was free. I’d left something behind on that platform, and in that moment my mind was crystal clear. The bounce came, and the world began to move in slow motion. As though someone had hit reverse on the story of my life. The ground grew further away, and suddenly I began to spin. Everything became a blur. The world a blend of undistinguishable greens and blues. I closed my eyes and screamed “woooohhhhoooooo.”
I was nothing but a gust of wind moving through the air, light as a feather. There was nothing to weigh me down. I was completely uninhibited. I was free.
They pulled me back onto the platform, a smile beaming from my face. Before anyone could say anything, I looked around and said, “That was f***ing awesome.”
Have you been bungee jumping or do you want to go? If so, why? I’d love to hear why other people jump off perfectly good bridges. Spill in the comments.
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.