If asked, I probably would not say that I have a fear of heights, well not really. My fear is entirely conditional. I can take the elevator to the top of the tallest building in the world and be fine. I can admire the view from 36,000 feet in the air without a concern in the world. But put me on a 5-foot ladder and I start to freak out. I’m scared only if I don’t feel totally secure that I won’t fall. Once that’s gone I’m a frightened puddle of goo. My greatest challenge so far has been to willingly jump off of something, and I’ve successfully avoided it for years – until now.
I had my first chance a couple of years ago to bungee jump in New Zealand but the facility lost my reservation and instead of just making a new one, I used that as my chance to wimp out. I regretted that and ever since I’ve tried to find the right time to take the plunge. I was certain my trip to South Africa was the perfect opportunity.
The first bungee attempt failed because of what I considered to be a poor location and dodgy equipment. I tried a couple of more times, but every time was stopped by an issue with equipment or the fact that the facilities were closed. My last shot was in the southern city of Durban, South Africa at the famed World Cup site, Moses Mabhida Stadium.
When they’re not playing soccer or rugby or whatever they do there, the stadium houses the world’s tallest bungee swing – The Big Rush. Different from a traditional bungee, the swing is just what it sounds like. Heavily harnessed, the jumper walks to the edge of the stadium, which is a terrifying 106 meters high, and then simply walks off the edge. The ensuing fall results in a 220-meter arc under the stadium’s famous arch. And it’s scary as hell.
I’ve talked to several people who have done both the swing and traditional bungee, and to a person they all say that the swing is by far scarier. There’s a certain mental commitment one must make to not just jump into the void as with bungee, but to calmly walk off the edge, like a pirate going off the plank. Even now as I relive the experience I get the jitters, but I did it and I’m so very thankful that I did.
The best part of travel for me is pushing my comfort envelope to new levels, and it’s something everyone should do. It doesn’t have to mean jumping off of a soccer stadium, but it does mean doing something that does not necessarily make you comfortable. It can be eating a new food, participating in a new experience or talking to people you wouldn’t ordinarily engage. Whatever it is, every time you travel you should try to push that bubble a little more and in the process, you will be a better person. Travel is about growth and personal discovery and that can’t happen if you’re always in your happy place.
So, without further ado here is the dual-perspective video of my jump. I had two Go Pro cameras affixed to my helmet, offering a perspective of the jump itself as well as my reaction. If you have a couple of minutes please watch the video through to the end. After the jump, as I was hoisted back to the top of the stadium I had a chance to think about not only what travel means to me on a very personal level, but South Africa as well. It’s funny, watch, you’ll like it.
What have you done on your travels to push your comfort bubble?
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