Years ago, our team member, Tessa embarked on a working holiday in New Zealand. During this trip, she went bungee jumping and learned a lesson that she has held with her ever since.
During University, I moved to New Zealand for a working holiday. This was my first time going to another country on my own – never mind for such a long duration! After taking a semester off of university, I packed my bags and boarded a flight across the world. I had an amazing experience living there; working in a pub in Auckland and enjoying my days off down by the ocean or trying out a new cafe.
During my time in the beautiful and easy-going country, I went to a New Years music festival in Gisborne (the first place in the world for the sun to rise), saw a Rugby tournament in Wellington (the All Blacks won), and visited my friends summer cottage in the enchanting Coromandel. All of these experiences were topped off with my unforgettable two-week trip that I took around the country before saying a final goodbye.
I went on this trip solo but came out with many life-long friendships. There was one girl in particular who I bonded with right away. She ended up convincing me that my time in New Zealand would not be complete without going bungee jumping- after all, it was invented here.
So we headed to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world! Queenstown has no shortage of adventure activities like Heli skiing, skydiving, river surfing, and white-water rafting. Of course, Queenstown also offers bungee jumping.
We both signed up for the Nevis Bungy, the highest bungee jump in New Zealand with an astounding 134-meter fall. After signing our lives away, we were picked up in a van and driven out to a canyon.
As we approached the canyon, I began to make out a small metal structure hanging in the middle of the canyon by a wire. Fear struck as soon as I realized that I was going to have to jump out of that structure. It was so high that the only thing I could do from running out of the van and all the way back to Canada was to stay focused on the present moment. To remain calm, I had to remind myself that at that moment I was safe in a van – not falling into a canyon.
I tried to remain present as I stepped out of the van and got fitted into a harness. However, I lost my “zen” as soon as I stepped into the basket that would take us out to the hanging structure. I don’t have a fear of heights but I did in this moment. We slowly inched out into thin air, and I could see the river miles and miles below. Just the ride in the basket was enough to get an adrenaline rush.
When we finally reached the hanging structure, I couldn’t tell if I was relieved or terrified.
To get it over with, I decided that I wanted to go first – just rip off the band-aid. However, it turned out that you don’t get to pick when you jump because they have to start with the heaviest person so that they can shorten the rope as they go. After weighing everyone, I learned that I had to go dead last. I sat in the hanging structure, 134m high, watching each person get their feet tied together, walk over the ledge, and plummet into the canyon depths.
Because the company can’t legally push you off, you have to jump yourself. The only support that can offer is a countdown; “3…2…1…Jump!!”
Jumping is the hardest part. Every inch of your body is telling you to run the other way. It goes against all your natural instinct to hurl your body off of the ledge.
I watched each person get their feet tied-up. I watched each person walk over to the ledge. I watched each person look down into the canyon deep, deep, deep below. I did not watch every person jump – because not every person jumped.
It was in the moment, watching people attempt the highest bungee jump in New Zealand, that I learned a lesson that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. As the employees counted down; “3….2….1…!” some people hesitated, while others did not. If you hesitated and did not jump when they said so, then you would not jump at all. The moment anyone hesitated, game over. Once they doubted themselves, there was no building the courage back up again.
It was only those people who pushed against their fears and jumped – no second guessing – who were successful. Now, I’m not saying they did it fearlessly, some people basically slid off the ledge. But at least they got off the ledge!
Whether you call this a life lesson or a metaphor, it is something that I have applied to the rest of my life. The hardest part is taking the leap.
When it was my turn to go I was terrified. My feet were tied together and I was standing out on the ledge with the wind blowing on my face and vast emptiness beneath my feet. Then I heard it…
“3…” I can’t believe how high this is!
“2…” My stomach flipped
“1…” just jump
I leaped off of the ledge, arms out to the side, and soared into the canyon. The world whizzed by me and I felt like superwoman! It was the most empowering experience, overcoming my fears to be rewarded with such an exhilarating experience. I can’t imagine having missed out on this thrilling adventure because of fear.
Now, whenever I notice my self-doubt creeping up, I remind myself to stop hesitating and just jump. This mindset has lead me to some amazing experiences, like swimming with sharks, running a marathon, and trekking the Himalayan mountains. As epic as these experiences have been, this lesson applies to decisions both big and small. Go to a yoga class, invite someone new out for coffee, start a new job, or move to a different country. What are you hesitating to do? 3…2….1…JUMP!
Check out this video to see for yourself how terrifying and fun the Nevis Bungy is!
Tessa is the Program Development Manager at Stepabroad and a travel lover at heart. Her passion for travel started during a summer in university when she moved to New Zealand on a Working Holiday. She was immediately hooked and since then has lived in Europe and Asia and backpacked through more than 40 countries.