This week, the final of September, is an important one. It’s officially the start of fall, and it’s the season premier of Gossip Girl. But even more importantly, it marks the end of 8 weeks of visitors to Vancouver. 41 of the previous 54 days have been spent hosting guests from across the pond, and all of a sudden I’m finding myself without friends or family, and experiencing quite the range of emotions.
First out of the gate were my boyfriend’s family – Mum, Dad and 10 year old Nephew from a little village by the Brecon Beacons in mid-Wales. This was their first trip to a large, North American city (Orlando doesn’t count) and we weren’t 100% sure how it would go, but they loved all of their 14 days (despite the obvious culture shock) and can’t wait to return! Next in line were my brother and his girlfriend, and their 6 day visit was part of a larger post-graduation, North American trip. They also loved the city, particularly Grouse Mountain and Stanley Park. We then enjoyed a 10 day break, before two of our friends arrived from Southampton. They also had a fantastic week (there’s a running theme here), loved the shopping and the scenery, and spent their final night in Vancouver googling jobs in the city. Last but definitely not least were my parents. They were here for 11 days and squeezed in trips to Seattle and Whistler as well as Vancouver before they headed home a week ago today.
Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I can simultaneously challenge myself, try new things and make the most of the beautiful Vancouver summer. The Grouse Grind was the first rung on my ladder to outdoor adventure, but this still wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, getting up the mountain was hard. Very hard. But not in the same league as getting down the mountain strapped into an oversized kite. You got it, I wanted to paraglide. I knew the longer I thought about it the more likely I’d be to talk myself out of it, so when my latest visitors and I planned a trip to Grouse Mountain I got straight on the phone and shelled out $199 plus tax. Done. No backing out.
As it turns out, I wasn’t as tempted to back out as I thought I would be. It’s important at this stage to note that I’m pretty afraid of heights. I have trouble looking over high balconies, and sports like abseiling or bungee jumping scare the hell out of me. Tandem paragliding was my way to tackle this fear in a supervised, safe and hopefully fun environment. Being the research geek that I am, the first thing I did after booking my session (deliberately not before) was to Wikipedia paragliding. Apparently the paraglide is designed in such a way that makes equipment failure just about impossible. Good news. This does however mean that the vast, vast majority of paragliding accidents are down to pilot error. Hmmmm. I closed my eyes and prayed for a good ‘un.
The morning of my flight rolled around, and I was surprisingly calm. My stomach was twisting more at the thought of hiking the Grouse Grind for a second time (oh no, I wasn’t taking the gondola up or down the mountain that day) than of throwing myself off the side of a mountain. I didn’t even feel a twinge of fear when the time came to meet my instructor, Todd, and attach myself to a paraglide. I started to tell him how nervous I was that I wasn’t nervous, but he interrupted me to tell me to walk forward, and before I could finish my sentence we were in the air.