When I made my 30 By 30 list, I didn’t consider all my many fears (like heights). I only considered the things that I want to do and that were mostly feasible at this stage in my life. One of those things was riding in a hot air balloon, mostly because of a picture that my dad took that I still have sitting around somewhere.
I’d always wanted to share his sense of adventure with him, especially that adventure. I also have a tendency to purposely go out of my way to do things that scare me, just to push through the fear and prove to myself how irrational it is, as well as to enjoy things that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to if I didn’t push through my fear.
As I started to research my options, I realized that maybe riding in a hot air balloon wasn’t a good idea. I mean, there isn’t anywhere to go once you’re up high above the earth except down. Having a panic attack thousands of feet above the ground didn’t sound like fun. Then a friend told me about tethered hot air balloon rides, and that Conner Prairie happens to have one going on all summer long. The ride in total is about 15 minutes long, and it only cost $30 in total compared to the hundreds of dollars you would pay for a full hot air balloon excursion. This definitely sounded like my best option!
Since my last summer as a twenty-something is drawing to a close, I was in a bit of a haste to complete this goal. Keeping an eye on the weather, last Sunday was one of the first weekend days recently that didn’t have chance for storms. It was then or never! And, I nearly opted for the latter. Just thinking about being that high up made me cringe. Maybe I should replace it with something that I’m not so terrified to do, I thought. Up until the moment I got into the car on Sunday, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to go through with it.
But I did it anyway, despite my fear.
The panic I felt was far worse than I imagined. It was a pretty intimate environment with the other passengers, too, so it wasn’t like I could hide in the back. There was no “back”. It was a circular path with handrails, foot guards, and nets—surrounding a huge gaping hole in the middle, and surrounded by the wide open air. Me, with my sweaty palms and surely a look of sheer panic on my face despite my best efforts to act cool, 377ft above the ground with parents with their fearless kids. The kid right next to me started jumping as soon as we got all the way up to the 377ft mark, too.
Little by little, I started getting used to the gentle swaying and slow turning of the balloon. I kept my eye on the horizon most of the time. The longer I was up there, the more I got used to it and started to relax (slightly). I even managed to unclench my hands from the rails long enough to get as decent of a shot of the Indy skyline as I possibly could through the net.
As soon as I started to get used to it, though, it was time to come back down. Maybe after the first few minutes I would be fine on an untethered ride. Maybe not. I won’t be finding out any time soon. It might be wise to give indoor rock climbing another shot first and get used to being 30 ft off the ground.
But, I did it. And it was amazing!