I never expected to jump off a cliff into a river fed by glacier runoff or to paraglide in the Swiss Alps, but that’s what I did today.
After an exhausting day of traveling from Munich, Germany to Interlaken, Switzerland, we arrived at our hostel. Dr. Pitcock told us that as soon as we put our bags in our rooms, we could come back down and sign up for adventure activities. I was simultaneously excited and extremely nervous. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Being the indecisive person that I am, I decided to look at all the options and overwhelm myself with choices. Great move, Audrey. There were so many different activities available to us, from skydiving to kayaking to bungee jumping and so much more. I spent a long time debating every option and eventually made a decision. I originally thought I had narrowed it down to just kayaking and so I could have a peaceful, relaxing day, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. In order to strengthen my bond with more people on CR and to push myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to canyon. Not only that, but I decided in a spur of the moment decision to add paragliding to my list. I walked away from the signup list, quickly realizing I was going to participate in two life-threatening activities in one day. Now that I have done both, I can tell you that this was one of the most exciting days of my life.
For those of you that don’t know, canyoning is an activity in which you jump from various high places into an ice-cold river and move down the river without a raft of any kind. That’s right, you did read that correctly. We put on wetsuits, helmets, and life jackets, rappelled into a canyon in the Swiss Alps, and hurled ourselves from 15 feet drops into a river, avoiding landing on rocks and getting sucked into currents along the way down. It definitely doesn’t seem like the smartest or safest idea, but we had an absolute blast. Our tour guides were fantastic and gave us clear directions. A few times, though, we thought they were joking when they told us what we were supposed to do. One of my favorite moments of the canyoning trip occurred after we rappelled around a giant rock in the side of the cliff face like Tarzan. We climbed down from the swinging point, feeling accomplished that we avoided falling into the swirling, almost whirlpool-like area way below us. Our tour guide Matt then turned around and told us to climb back the way we came, because we were going to cannonball straight into that whirlpool-like area. We thought he was joking at first, but he was completely serious. Those moments were terrifying. I looked down the drop, waiting for the tour guide to count me off, certain that I would bash my head against a rock or get stuck in an undercurrent in the water and die. Thankfully, none of that happened, but today was definitely an exercise in trust. Our group had so much fun bonding over how ridiculously cold we were and talking about how relieved we felt that we didn’t die between every jump. There were so many great moments. Indigo almost jumped when the tour guides weren’t ready and Matt had to yank her backward onto the rock so he could count her down. The helmets had names on them so the guides had to refer to us by our helmet names, so we spent several minutes cracking up about Ryal being called “Snooki” and Kyle being named “Frodo”. We laughed together and freaked out together and supported each other when we got scared. It was a wonderful bonding experience.
Next was paragliding. I was so thankful that Marat offered to go with me, because I would not have done it on my own. It was one of the most unbelievable moments of my life. We got on a bus and drove up a huge mountain. My paragliding guide constantly joked around with me about only having 11 days of experience as he set up the parachute. We strapped in and prepared for takeoff. Unfortunately, the wind had other ideas. It took us five tries to get off the ground because the wind was so inconsistent. Eventually, however, we ran down the hill and the wind lifted us into the air. I have never seen a view like the one I saw today in my life. There are no words to describe the experience of flying thousands of meters in the air with the Swiss Alps, two gorgeous glittering lakes, and the city of Interlaken below you. I grinned the whole time we were in the air. It was humbling to see God’s beautiful creation from the air in that way, and I spent most of the ride taking everything in and feeling thankful for the opportunity I have to grow while on this experience. I don’t think people take enough time in their busy lives to look up, so literally being up high today made me realize that, despite the issues we may have in our lives, we have so much to be grateful for. I also really enjoyed getting to steer the paraglide for a little bit and doing some rollercoaster-type stunts in the paraglider.
I ended the day with Jacob, Marat, and Dr. Pitcock. We rode a train up the mountain and took time to appreciate the view and talk. While this activity wasn’t as thrilling as the other activities today, I enjoyed spending time with them and getting to know them a little better while looking at the Swiss Alps. There aren’t many times in life where I will be able to make that statement, so I took the time to enjoy it today.
While today didn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would, I had so much fun. The lessons I learned today aren’t drastic, but they are good reminders.
1. Be careful when you’re wading through waist-deep water. There might be rocks that you can’t see.
2. The highs and the lows in life have valuable lessons to teach, whether you mean high and low figuratively or literally. In today’s case, it was literal.
3. Expect the unexpected.
4. Remember to take the time to appreciate the world around you.
5. Push yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while. You might experience something incredible.