As you may have seen on my Instagram, for the new year I learned how to fly.
I’ve wanted to go paragliding since I studied abroad in Switzerland in 2013 (I initially typed “last year” and then realized it wasn’t… holy crap) and watched a few of my classmates do it off of the nearby Mont Saleve. As a little girl it was always my dream to fly and I simply refused to accept the fact that it wasn’t possible for humans. We can do so many other things- why can’t we do that? As much as I love airplanes (believe it or not, I actually like airports too- good thing since I love to travel), it’s not the same as the wind-in-your-face, heady rush you get from being high in the sky, high above the ground, feeling like you could go anywhere or do anything. I always regretted not doing it in Geneva, so when I learned that there were plentiful opportunities to faire de parapente at the ski resort, I promptly plunked down an entire week’s paycheck and said “On y va!“
New Year’s Day dawned crisp, clear and cold in the French Alps. I had mentioned the idea to my host mom and she said she had wanted to do it the year before, and would come with me if I went, so that morning she called a few companies to try to make a reservation for us, so as to take advantage of the beautiful weather. However, only one answered, and the man on the other end was less than helpful. After promising that she would let me know as soon as one contacted her, she and the rest of the family went out to ski, and I was left hoping that one would get in touch in time.
As the minutes ticked by and no text from my host mom, I realized that she hadn’t called the company I had been looking into. Now, I dislike talking on the phone in English- would rather be face to face or text so I can be sure I don’t say something that could be misinterpreted- but I absolutely despise it in other languages, and I knew if I called these people they would have to suffer through my mediocre French. But I also knew that if I didn’t call them and we didn’t get a reservation anywhere else, I would seriously regret it. So I sucked it up. The man who answered, Patrick, turned out to be the instructor I’m with in the photos and video, and was very helpful even in my halting French. Just like that, we had a 2pm reservation, and I learned my first lesson of the new year: Good things come to those who just pick up the damn phone.
My host parents and I (my host dad came along to watch) met Patrick and the younger guy holding down the fort at the office at the summit of Beauregarde, one of the peaks of the ski resort. Together we walked a little ways down to the take-off point, where I discovered that we essentially had to ski off a nearly vertical downhill slope to get going. As a terrible skier, this should have terrified me, but their reassurance that within 10 feet we would be airborne was comforting. My host mom had decided I was going to go first so she could see the whole process, so Patrick hooked me into the harness and hooked me up to the parachute that was fanned out on the snow behind us. We stepped into our skis and scooted right to the edge of the slope, and it was there that I felt the first pinch of fear. But I didn’t have time to be scared for long- over the edge we went, and true to his word, Patrick and I were airborne within a couple of meters.
It’s hard to describe the feeling unless you’ve done something like this before, but the liberation that comes with gliding through the sky high above the earth is completely exhilarating. I could have stayed up there for hours, floating above the town, but unfortunately these flights only last 10-15 minutes, and soon enough we were heading for our surprisingly soft landing in the snow. It was over too soon and all I wanted to do was follow Patrick back up the mountain and go again, but unfortunately I wasn’t going to pay for a second flight. However, as you can see, it was an incredible experience and one of the best ways I can think of to kick off 2015- another bucket list item crossed off, another reassurance that we are our own biggest obstacles when it comes to taking off and achieving the things we thought weren’t possible. I only wish I could go back and tell my six-year-old self that one day, you will know what it feels like to fly, and it will be just as incredible as you dream.