Wednesday, July 6, 2016

#6: do something to challenge my fear of heights

We all knew this was bound to be a real doozy.

Acrophobia: extreme fear of heights.

(Insert photo of my mug in the dictionary)

Anytime a fear is involved, that's generally the case. So, yup, I'm afraid of heights. Plain and simple. My legs shake when I stand on a chair to change a lightbulb. I tremble on a ladder. I have to inch down steep surfaces on my butt. Observation decks with glass floors? NOPE. Stuff like that.
And yet, I feel the need to try to overcome this fear. At least bit by bit. I've tried indoor rock climbing with the promise of ice cream for myself if I reached the top. I've white knuckled cliffside hikes. Although I make progress, the fear still resides.

I hike quite often which has proved to be a very sufficient challenge against my fear of tall places. And I'm usually rewarded with a gorgeous view coupled with my triumph of pushing through the fear. 

So, it's all fine and dandy; until it’s not. Until I'm in a situation where it's steep AF- there's sheer rock & terrifying cliffs involved... which, is often enough. If there's a fair amount of land around me, and I can hold onto a tree for reassurance, a rock, root, or small animal?  Then, I'm good. If not, I hit the deck.

I knew adding this task to the list wouldn't make me overcome my fear. Maybe though, it would help, even just a little. Seeing as I challenge my fear of heights with hiking on the regular,  I figured to actually check this item off my list...I had to do something a touch different. I had to go all in. ALL. IN.

In a hot air balloon, that is.

I was going to pay a lot of money to put myself and a solid amount of all my trust in a balloon filled with hot air and twelve strangers-- high, high above the extreme landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey. Sounds about right.

And, if you're going to ride in a hot air balloon in Turkey, you might as well do it at sunrise. 

KJ and I signed our lives away quickly, before I could think better of it and change my mind. Welp, I was in it now. 

-This was quite possibly the most epic place to do the hot air balloon thing.

-This was quite possibly the scariest way to challenge my fear of heights.

-This was quite possibly my most stupid idea to date.

The only thing worse than falling out of a hot air balloon in the middle of Turkey would be to back out of doing it in the first place (kidding). That's how I found myself, bleary eyed from lack of sleep, waiting for a driver to transport us and the others from our hotel to the balloon adventure. If I didn't toss my non-existent cookies first, that is.

"I'm freaking out about the hot air balloon ride." I confessed to KJ.

"Are you going to be balled up in a corner of the basket?"


We were transported in the pre-dawn darkness to a common gathering building where the other balloon riders ate breakfast treats and signed waivers- all perfectly normal morning activities. 

A low excited buzz hummed in the common area before we headed to our ultimate demise amazing balloon ride. 

I took a moment of solitude to have a serious talking to...with myself. This took place on a tiny and very dusty corner of a stairwell a few feet from everyone else. 

"Why are you really doing this?" I asked myself (in my head- I didn't want to seem crazy).

I thought hard. All I could focus on was the dust.

You know what? I was here, wasn't I? I had made it this far-- far enough to sign up, far enough to take the bus, far enough to be so far roped in that backing out would be a tad ridiculous. Since I had made it thus far I figured it was far enough, and I'd trust myself that this was the right thing for me. I was going to do this. Not just do this, but  d o m i n a t e  this. 

I had bounteous hope that I'd soar above my fear (pun intended), and actually enjoy the experience to the fullest. 

With my moment over, it was time to board the bus to the balloon-blow-up-and-take-off area. (I'm pretty sure that's the technical term).

We arrived in the darkness, because it was still stupidly early.

All the deflated balloons waited patiently on the edge of the valley for their turn to inflate. I took in the scene around me; the reality heavily settling in that I was actually going to be doing this-for real. I cherished the last moments of my feet being on solid ground and crossed my fingers that I'd return roughly an hour and a half later to feel the solid ground once again. 

It was time. Cue leg trembles. My whole body shook as I hoisted my body into the straw capsule that I was now trusting with my life. My lips were dry and I needed chapstick. And some Xanax. 

We were all tucked into the oversized wicker bin where KJ and I practically sat in the couple's laps next to us. Led by the pilot, we practiced a drill in case of emergency like running into a tree, the balloon erupting in flames, or a spontaneous hurricane force wind. I took it all very seriously. 

Someone asked the pilot the exact question I had been thinking, "How long have you been doing this?"

"Two weeks." The pilot responded, straight-faced. 

I emitted a nervous laugh that was a cross between a seal bark and a horse whinny. All in all, highly attractive.  Apparently he was kidding.

The fire burst into the depths of the balloon, producing a loud rushing sound, while simultaneously terror infused adrenaline pulsed through my body so much so that I was sure I'd explode into a million pieces.

The pilot kept lighting the fire and we lifted a few feet up, and then came right back down. I looked around at the faces of the others for any inkling of how normal this was. But, clearly no one else had a clue either. Would we get up? We were inching pretty damn close to the edge of the valley, where, if we weren't off the ground at that point we would definitely plummet down into the valley floor riddled with tall rock formations that, from what I could tell, were seriously sharp. 

This went on for a while. Up a bit, and seconds later the basket dragging on the dirt floor. Finally, with my eyes wide and each of my ten fingers gripping KJ's coat as if it could save me, we lifted up; floating above said sharp rock formations just in the nick of time.


And if there's one fact we all know, it's that Mother Nature can be a vicious bitch at times. 

Mama Universe was on our side though. She, with the aid of the pilot and the fire and the giant balloon, lifted us skyward in a ginormous picnic basket filled with twelve of my closest friends. 

Experiencing something this epic brings people close real fast. Real. Fast. That and the fact that we were all mere millimeters from each other. Oh, except for the lady who ignored the rule about selfie sticks being dangerous. She was annoying.

Once I got over how much the rock formations otherwise known as "fairy chimneys" looked like penises, I allowed myself to fully take in the scene and my current situation. 

And by some miracle I discovered that I was oddly calm. 

With the calm, followed the realization that this was one of those moments. One of those time-slowing-awe-producing-baffling-in-a-grand-way moments. 

It was...

Stupefyingly Magical.

An intense color burst. Turkey = color.

A giant birthday party in the sky.

and I couldn't fathom that  I   h a d   b e e n   i n v i t e d.

We floated higher up as though we were in a race for height and the landscape shrunk to dollhouse size. 

To top it all off? WE WERE DOING THIS AT SUNRISE. We were literally part of the dawning of a new day. A gem in the sky. I was feeling poetic and nothing could stop me; not even the annoying lady with the selfie stick.

By this point I hadn't so much forgotten my fear of being thousands upon thousands of feet in the air, as I was allowing myself to be absorbed by the surreal. Tiny stabs of fear pushed through every so often, but I was so taken by the scene before me that I focused on that instead.

Just as I was getting pretty comfortable with all the floating in the air, it was time to land. Right. This, I was nervous about. We learned that a truck would follow us to our landing spot, and the pilot would attempt to land ON. THE. TRUCK. BED. 

I'm sorry, what?

I was still processing the likelihood of this happening as we floated down, descending on people's houses, brushing by their roofs as they started their mornings. I winked at some farm animals, waved to some children, and gave a nod to a dog as it chased after us. 

With the precision of a surgeon we floated to the truck bed and landed with a solid 10 in Olympic gymnastics. I couldn't believe it. We whooped and cheered; partly from being impressed, and partly because we had survived. 

And just like that, it was over. Our ride was deflated, mimosas were being made, and certificates of achievement were being handed out. I felt accomplished, and I knew this was a big deal- for me. Would I frame my certificate in a lighted glass case? Probably not. Would I pat myself on the back with a satisfied sigh? Probably in the privacy of my next alone moment.

**Do something to challenge my fear of heights? CHECK! Take it to an extreme and experience one of the most epic travel moments of my life? CHECK, CHECK!


  1. OMG I am terrified of heights and booked a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt this September, I googled "taking xanax on a hot air balloon ride" and your article came up THANK YOU for sharing! I feel a lot better about it now but will probably still have the xanax lol

    1. I legit laughed out loud when I read this. Haha, I'm so glad to hear that my ridiculous story helped you! It really is just such an amazing experience, you'll be nervous but once you start going I'm sure you'll just be in awe of it! Enjoy!!