Over the New Year I was on holiday with my boyfriend’s family in the beautiful French Alps. Nestled in an apartment that overlooked the majestic mountains I witnessed paragliders landing on the clear wide patch of snow in the village. And it sparked a memory.
Four months previously, I had imagined what it would be like to fly in circles above the mountains in a hang glider. What the scenery would look like, the sound of the wings swooshing in the silence, the feeling of the wind on my body, the smell of the crisp mountain air. The visualisation wasn’t to accomplish anything. I simply wanted to soak in the feeling of freedom the way you might soak in a bath, just for the fun of it.
Now here I was, in the mountains. The window like a giant TV set that was playing my imagination. It seemed like the universe was daring me to do it. And I was wrestling with allowing myself to follow the impulse. I wish I could say that I just ran towards my excitement like Bentinho Massaro suggests, but often, I have to talk myself into it.
Doubts went through my head “It’s a waste of money, “There’s other more important things you could spend it on”, “It’s decadent”, “It’ll be over in a heartbeat.” My desire and my thoughts kept contradicting each other. Between doubts, I asked Oli to book it for me.
Walking to the cable car with him that morning I felt nervous, and a little foolish. What was I doing? At the top of the mountain, Eric the instructor was waiting, the parachute spread out on the crisp white snow. He strapped a helmet to my head, got me to step into a harness and with a few clicks we were attached. “Run down the hill” he said, “Don’t stop until you can’t feel the ground.”
I kissed Oli goodbye and we started running straight down, almost stumbling through the blanket of thick virgin snow. I felt something pulling me back “Keep running!” Eric said. I felt like I was running on the spot. “Yes that’s it, keep going!” A few more steps and we took off. We rocketed up into the skies as though we’d been fired from a giant catapult and I let out a squeal of delight.
Above the valley we swirled, the mountain peaks at eye level. I could hear the wind rushing past my ears. The sun was dazzling as we turned in circles over the village below. Eric gave me the lines to steer. We banked left, then right, heading away from one mountain towards another. My feet were dangling over houses, over trees, over roads, over people. I couldn’t stop laughing.
As we swirled in circles Eric told me “In the winter, there are no thermal currents. That’s why we can’t fly for long. There’s no hot air to bring us up again. But in the summer…ahhhh….you can travel for 200 miles. Sometimes you can spend 8 hours in the sky.” My mind boggled at the idea of being up here for hours at a time, flying over villages and towns, riding the currents.
And before long, Eric took back the controls and it was time to land. We circled faster and faster, then swooped over a wooden chalet so low I thought my feet were going to touch the roof, and landed gently in the clearing beyond it. The clearing I had seen from our window.
Afterwards I watched Eric pack this huge parachute into a rucksack and throw it into the back of his car. “In the summer you can fly anywhere and hitchhike back.” he said, a huge smile on his face. I grinned. This wasn’t about the time in the air. This was the beginning of an adventure.
He bundled me into the car and we drove back to the base of the cable car where Oli was waiting. Excitedly I chittered and chattered, so happy to see him, so happy to be in one piece, so happy to be alive. All afternoon I kept breathing in the experience like some gorgeous secret I was bursting to tell. It just felt so delicious it made my toes curl. Every time I thought of it it made me smile.
Traveling back to Geneva I realised that following what excites you opens things up in ways you could never expect. When I told my mum, she said it had always been a secret dream of hers. Now she and my sister are going paragliding in Canada in March. For some reason I thought Oli didn’t like heights, but he wants to do it too, and we’ve been talking about coming back to the Alps in the summer to do a 3 day course that allows you to fly solo. Other friends want to try it. I’ve discovered there are flying clubs in England and that you can go on flying holidays to Brazil where you can ride the thermal currents for two weeks!
I discovered it’s not just about the time in the air, as delicious as that is. It’s about the doors that open, the new landscape that’s revealed and the adventures it can lead to 🙂 And you never know, the adventures might not just be for you, but for others too.
What really excites you, that you haven’t given yourself permission to do yet? Post below, I’d love to hear!