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How a leap of faith on a Contiki changed my life

A lake in new zealand.

There was a clinking of metal as he pulled the straps and buckles tighter between my legs; my heart hammered painfully in my chest with anticipation. No, I wasn’t participating in some terrifying bondage event, although that probably still would have been more in my comfort zone than the current situation.

A group of people in a plane with a parachute.

Why couldn’t I have dealt with a soul-destroying break-up like a normal person; by sobbing into a family sized tub of Ben and Jerry’s while stagnating in front of Netflix for a few weeks? Yet here I was, dressed in a giant red onesie, strapped to a stranger, about to be pushed out of a plane, with only 15,000 feet between myself and the mountainous landscape below.

New Zealand was always somewhere I’d wanted to go but had never had the courage. After all, I’d thought – isn’t New Zealand for adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers? But after endless night of sobbing, convinced that I wasn’t brave enough to Go-It-Alone, I had decided to finally take the leap; I just hadn’t anticipated it being so literal.

The town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island had beckoned me with its snow tipped mountains and mirror-like alpine lakes, but right then I couldn’t focus for long enough to appreciate the view. As I peeked out of the window of the tiny plane, anxiety fizzed in my chest like a shaken-up cola can. Then the moment finally came. Strapped together, my buddy and I did an awkward synchronised bum-shuffle toward the plane hatch, open wide onto the sprawling views of glacial carved valleys below. My knuckles were white and shaking as I gripped onto my shoulder straps, trying to remember my safety briefing back at the bunker, to hold on tight throughout the free-fall until my skydiving-buddy tapped my shoulder, the signal to let go after the parachute opened.

A man is flying a parachute over a valley.

Then we fell. Tumbling through the clouds. My stomach lurched to catch up with my body. Adrenaline sparked through my veins as I plummeted face-down toward the earth at 200KMH. Colours splattered across my vision; familiar images from bizarre angles, like an abstract painting. Yet, despite the deafening rush of wind I was blissful, calm, and clear. I didn’t have any control over my fate and it felt exhilarating.

A person is jumping from a plane in the sky.

I threw my arms out wide in a Redeemer-like pose as we floated gently over the yellow, brown and green patchwork quilt of farm and fields. A winding river snaked through lush green valleys until it met with the milky blue of Lake Wanaka, which welcomed me with a cheeky twinkle of sunshine as we glided across bright blue sky. My cheeks were flapping unattractively but I couldn’t help but smile, bursting with pride at having just had the courage to leap towards my new life.


Paragliding in new zealand.