Nicki Minaj and A Free Fall.

I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to have some pretty amazing experiences.  Although, one trip in particular takes the cake, and it happened to be the product of my father’s overindulgence in Manhattans coupled with a sudden realization that frequent flyer miles actually do expire.

I’m talking about the time I swindled my way into a trip to New Zealand to visit my bestie of twenty-four years, Shannon.

Sidenote: Shannon is the type of person I’d love to be.  I consider myself a free-spirit, a ‘take it day-by-day’ type of girl.  But she completely blows me out of the water with her lifestyle.  This girl studied abroad in Auckland during college, then three minutes after accepting her diploma at graduation, was sitting down on a plane, seatbelt fastened, packed and ready to move halfway across the world and become a Kiwi for an undisclosed amount of time.  Just a true gambler and globetrotter to the core.

So let’s recap:  Friend since birth moves to New Zealand.  Friend asks me to come visit.  I can’t afford it.  Father drinks a couple Manhattans, realizes frequent flyer miles are going to expire.  I swoop in with transglobal travel suggestion. Emphasize cultural and personal importance of said experience.  Dad calls airline, subsequently drunkenly books ticket. I’m going to New Zealand. 

525 feet of nothing but air.
525 feet of nothing but air.

Fast forward through a twenty-four hour travel spree, nine in-flight movies, realizing and comprehending that they sell lamb patties at the Auckland Airport McDonalds, and I’ve arrived!

Shannon scoops me up at the airport, and we’re off!  Listing off all the audacious activities that are about to happen, which include, and are almost limited to wine tastings and vineyard tours.  Jackpot.  I’m nodding in agreement with all the activities she has planned, until she gets to the last one.  So let’s get to the ultimatum.

“Before you leave, we’re going to do the Nevis Swing,” I nodded in agreement, picturing those harmless swings at a carnival, “It’s the biggest swing in the world.”

That’s when my jaw dropped.

“I’m not doing it alone,” Shannon continued. “You have to do it with me, or else I’m never going to do it.”

It was a tall order, and she had done so much for me: planning this entire trip, making sure I saw everything that needed to be seen.  But I am absolutely terrified of heights. I don’t go over bridges. I don’t look out windows when I’m up high. I avoid seeing how far above the ground I am at all costs.  I don’t like to think about it.  And I definitely didn’t want a harness to be the only thing saving me from a canyon induced death.

This bridge... NOPE.
This bridge… NOPE.

But this was a challenge I had to accept.  I flew across the world to visit Shannon – I couldn’t back out of doing something that I’ll never again experience in my life. This was monumental.

I needed a wine.  I needed a beer.  I needed alcohol.

We went to get sized for harnesses, literally sign our lives away – in case of death or injury, Nevis claims no responsibility, as it was done on our own free will and utter stupidity – then boarded a bus that took us to the top of the canyon where we would inevitably plummet 525 feet at almost 80 MPH.

Just a typical Saturday.

“Are you with me, or are you going to chicken out?”  She asked as we approached just one of my many fears that I would end up conquering today: a giant, wide open, single file bridge.

“I’m scared shitless.”  There were no other words I could say, and in agreement, she turned and started walking.  I had to follow.  We made our way across the bridge, and to the platform where I took a seat in the safest corner of the hut.  We were given the task to chose our ‘descent music,’ the song that would play when we cut the cord and dropped into the valley. We chose Nicki Minaj’s classic, “Super Bass” to take us down.

Going to marry that guy.
Going to marry that guy.

We watched a few people go, a lot of girls scream, and before we knew it, and way before I was ready, it was our turn. Second fear to conquer: getting strapped and harnessed to the point of anxiety.  But I guess when the straps are so tight around your thighs that you can’t feel them, there’s less of a chance that you’ll slip out and die.  So I was okay with that.

We were ready.  Well, as ready as you could be.  We sat down on the platform, and the hot swing employee asks, “Are we ready, ladies?” Then, before we could answer, he flips a switch and we hear the gears grinding, and our bodies being lifted off the platform.  We’re hanging above safety now, and he asks us to smile.  We obliged.  This could be the happiest and last moment of my life, I may as well look excited.

He presses the button again, and we’re being mechanically moved farther away from the platform, and my heart is sinking with each passing inch.  Shannon is gripping my right hand so tightly, but I don’t even notice because I’m gripping hers just as tight. The machine stops, and we swing back and forth until we’ve reached an equilibrium.

“…This one is for the boys with the boomin’ system. Top down, AC with the coolin’ system…” I hear Nicki playing over the speakers, and the hot swing employee picks up a megaphone and holds it to his mouth, “Okay, I’m going to release you on the count of three. Does that work?”

DROPPED.
DROPPED.

Shannon and I both nodded.  I couldn’t formulate a sentence. “Okay, here we go! One, two..” He pressed the release button. Didn’t even get to three.

We were free falling, clutching each other’s hands so tightly, my eyes were closed, mouth open, but no sound coming out.  After a second, I opened my eyes, and we were swinging.  I look over at Shannon and she has opened her eyes at the same time.

“HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT.” We both had lost any and all appropriate vocabulary for the moment, the only thing we could do was swear.  We were astonished. But we had done it.

I made it out alive.  

It was one of the single best events of the trip, and my life.  Shannon, a girl who I’ve looked up to as being the epitome of courageous, made me try something I never wanted to try.  She helped me conquer a fear that I never thought would be possible.  Do I still hate heights? Yes.  But the idea of driving over a bridge or looking out a floor-to-ceiling glass window is not so daunting when you’ve fallen over five-hundred feet solely attached by a harness.

So Dad, thanks for giving me the opportunity to go to New Zealand and experience this. Shan, thanks for making me do it, but please don’t ever make me do it again.

Full video of the jump:  Nevis Madness
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