“Okay, I’ll do it,” Lindsey said with more trepidation than excitement. What had I done? I just talked her into something that I had no desire to do, and now I have to go with her.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Sometimes I get so focused on others getting over their fears, I lose track of my own. I like convincing people…being persuasive; however, I clearly lost track of what we were talking about here and just took on the challenge of persuasion. I wanted to ensure she had really thought this through…and in the meantime I hadn’t thought it through at all.
I love the Niece Project because it pushes their limits/fears in many ways; introducing them to new people, things, and places in the world. The girls have made some great choices for their destinations and activities, but I always knew the day would come when I would have to do something I didn’t want to do.
Or maybe I did want to do it secretly – but I just needed my brain to have an excuse…something/someone else to blame it on in a way. After all – when I was in New Zealand 10 years ago I chickened out, I remember the feeling of regret as I watched people jump and convinced myself that I didn’t need to do it. Now maybe my subconscious had taken over and really convinced Lindsey to do it because I did want to do it. I’m so good at persuasion that in a round about way I just persuaded myself.
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As we sat in the bus with our Intrepid Group leader, Sue, I could see Lindsey waffling. She had to make the decision today on if she was going to bungee jump or not. I knew that whatever she decided I would do it to – not because she asked me to, but because it’s the right thing to do. So as much as I really didn’t want to bungee, when I saw her starting to waiver and lean towards ‘no’, I felt a slight sense of relief.
However, as I looked at her face and saw that she was starting to talk herself out of it and justifying that it would be ok – I had to step in. I knew that look. I knew it because I’ve been there before. Scared. Thinking about how much easier it would be to take the easy road and just not do it. She was already building the answers/excuses in her mind, “I didn’t feel like it. I’d rather do jet boating. It’s expensive. It’s not big deal if I don’t do it.”
No muss, no fuss – it’s easy to say “no”. But then there is that little nagging in the back of your head that you may be giving up.
I had the same experience with my polar plunge in Antarctica. I told myself that it was no big deal if I didn’t do it. I didn’t feel like getting wet, I could get better footage of other people and write about it, or maybe I didn’t have to write about it at all. But when the lady at my lunch table said, “but I thought you had to do it because you are a covering this as a writer.” I knew my excuses were full of shit. I had to do it.
I have ten years of stories like these, Mongol Rally, abseiling down a waterfall, sky diving, Rickshaw Run, driving a motorcycle in Vietnam – I can’t even remember them all.
I also knew that every time I came across one of these situations in my life where I wanted to do something, but was scared to do so, when I actually did it – it was my most memorable part of my trip hands down. Overcoming fear is a giant confidence booster.
I saw the same thing with Evie when she ate the duck egg in the Vietnam Niece Project. She was going to chicken out, but I applied a little pressure and she went through with it. It ended up being her most talked about thing she did when she told people about the trip. She continues to proudly wear it as a badge of honor.
And I knew that this is exactly what would happen with Lindsey too if she just got over her fear of doing the bungee jump. However by pushing her in that direction, I knew I was pushing myself. It was sort of sadistic.
I told her to think about how her dad would react if she came home and he asked her if she bungee jumped and she said “no”. I know my brother-in-law pretty well; I knew exactly what his reaction would be. She thought about it for a bit and I could see the thoughts change and morph right on her face, she knew she needed to do this jump. “What about all your friends at school who will ask you if you bungee jumped – are you going to feel ok saying no?” I continued.
“Ok – I’ll do it,” she replied happy with her decision.
Damn…looks like I’m going to be doing it too. Shit. I had 2 seconds of joy and satisfaction that she beat regre, and then 2 days of feeling like I wanted to puke.
The fear of regret can be more powerful than the fear itself, and by saying “yes”, Lindsey just abolished regret.
Sleepless in Rotarua
I couldn’t sleep. I kept playing the scenario in my brain of getting to the ledge and freezing. My fear of heights (actually ledges and big drop offs) is really strong, and grows every year. It’s one of the many things I hate about aging.
I had to figure out how I could calm myself down so that I didn’t freak out while looking over the edge. I came up with a word. A word that I would repeat over and over to myself. A word that I felt would calm me down. Faith. It seemed appropriate for so many reasons.
We decided to do a tandem bungee jump which was probably because both of us were terrified to do it alone – and strangely there always feels like there’s safety in numbers – even when you are jumping off a cliff. Plus, I felt if I was with Lindsey – it would kick the ‘adult genes’ that are normally lying dormant in me into high gear. Somehow I would be the calm, cool, collected adult in the situation and calm the kid of her fears.
I woke up the morning of and it was raining. Does this mean it could be cancelled? Please, please be cancelled. However sadly the weather changes pretty rapidly in New Zealand, and by the late morning it was blue skies. A perfect day for a bungee jump.
Every great sporting event needs cheerleaders, and luckily we had our own cheerleaders traveling with us! We were traveling with our Intrepid group of about 15 people, and we were the only 2 people who decided to do the bungee jump. There were others who were considering it, but they succumbed to the fear. Not only did we have a whole cheering section, we also had a whole paparazzi with us filming it from every angle.
Neil in our group had bungeed before and was giving us tips, some of which freaked me out more and some made me feel better. But his best advice, “When you get to the ledge, don’t look down, just look straight out in front of you.”
As we drove to Taupo Bungee, Lindsey was stress eating candy, and I felt as if I could throw up. Wouldn’t that be ironic since on Niece Projects it was normally the nieces always throwing up I thought to myself.
Even as I got off the bus and we went to check in my fear was in full swing. I cope with these situations normally by clamming up. I barely talk, and just going through the motions. As they wrote our collective weights on Lindsey’s hand I looked at that number and thought – I really hope they have the formula worked out correctly. I figured that this was all electronic in some way – they put in our weight and it determines then how long the tandem bungee cord will be. I honestly have no idea if that’s how it works, but thinking about the algorithm was something to occupy my mind.
The Taupo Bungy is best bungee on the North Island – the platform juts out over the Waikato River 154 Feet below. You can even have your head dipped in the water if you wanted to. I didn’t. Nope. No way.
As I waited, I thought about who the hell came up with this stupid idea in the first place? The idea of bungee jumping originated in the 1950’s, when footage was obtained by the BBC and David Attenborough, during a trip to the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Here they witnessed the ancient ritual of ‘land-diving’, whereby men and boys dive from a tall wooden tower (some up to 30metres high), with vines attached to their ankles in an attempt to break their fall. This practice continues today as both a land fertility custom and as a test of manhood.
The first ‘modern’ bungee jump was made on April 1, 1979 from the Clifton Suspension Bridge spanning Bristol’s Avon Gorge. Inspired by the event, two Kiwi guys, AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch, created a commercial version of jumping from great heights near Queenstown in 1988. With help from scientists at the Auckland University, they developed their elastic cord and called their new adrenalin-rush activity, ‘Bungee’ or ‘Bungy.’
Against expectations, their new tourist activity caught on and became a draw-card for Adventure Tourism in New Zealand. And that’s why we were here now, because it’s an iconic New Zealand thing to do.
Walking to the Ledge of Fear and Not Looking Down
We walked out on the bridge platform and the process of suiting up began. Music played loudly out on the platform – good, something to distract me. As we waited for two of the right size harnesses to be brought back up to the top, the song Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi played. Lindsey and I nervously sung it…we murdered it but it just felt right albeit completely out of tune. Then right before we got in our harnesses, I hugged her. We hug hello and goodbye all the time in my family, but it was nothing like this hug. This was a desperate hug, one that said I love you and I got you all at the same time. One that said, we are in this together no matter what happens. I felt it though my whole body. It was a hug of love, fear, regret, and faith all in one. I gave her a kiss on the cheek as we embraced and we held that embrace for a long time…stronger and more confident together. I needed her, and she needed me. It was perfect.
We now had walked out to the last part of the platform where they connect the bungee to our harness and do all of the safety checks. I fought my instincts to try to be a control freak and I so badly wanted to ask them if they got the weight correct, if everything was double checked, if our harnesses were on right, if we were clipped in…but I didn’t. I just said nothing. My fists were clenched tight as all of my nervous energy and controlling questions was boiling over and had nowhere to go but my hands (you can see those fists on the video below). In those fists were many, many words, one of which was…
And just like that, fears turned into screams, screams turned into laughter, laughter turned into adrenaline, and adrenaline turned into the best day of our trip. And somehow, this just turned into the Aunt Project.
Want more New Zealand Adventures? Check out all of the adventure travel New Zealand activities we did that left us screaming and laughing!
For the 3rd year the Niece Project is working with Intrepid Travel! Check out their great family travel opportunities. Family doesn’t always have to mean the conventional family, it is also for aunts and uncles!
I was a guest of Intrepid Travel on this tour However all opinions are my own.