August 3, 2020

Abroad Scaries

posted on: Thursday October 10, 2019

people holding out their American passports

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

by Samantha Pellman ’20

When people tell you that abroad wasn’t real life, they’re not lying. It really wasn’t and there are too many examples I can provide you with to prove it. I’ll choose one, maybe the best one. I had been out of the country for approximately three weeks. Everything was still so new. I was just beginning to pick up how to navigate Paris, but it was time to make my first trip outside of France. I booked a train to Switzerland, where I’d meet my roommate who was in Florence. I was already anxious because there was a transfer I needed to make in a random part of Switzerland to a connecting train. But on top of that, my friend and I had the brilliant idea to book a day for paragliding. The website was almost sketchy; I mean, all we typed in Google was “Paragliding in Interlaken.” All we had to do was put our names and email and then select a time. There was no down payment or even price. I received an email saying that someone would pick us up a half hour before from our hotel to go to the site. Seemed a little weird, but we didn’t question it. The morning came and it was ten minutes past when they were supposed to pick us up. So I called the number in the email. Turns out they forgot about us and were turning around to get us. Things were getting weirder, but we still didn’t question it. Finally, a white van came and we reluctantly got inside. It was a Swiss man, but he was wearing the paragliding company shirt on which made us feel a little better. He drove us ten minutes away to what looked like a little camping site. At this point it was clear we wouldn’t be paying until after we landed, and they knew we survived. They told us to pick out boots and put our bags in a wooden chest. We looked at each other. My friend had her Gucci bag. So we were supposed to just leave our bags with our ID, credit cards, money, and passport information in this random chest. No, that didn’t seem right. But did we do it? Yup. Next we put on helmets and got into a bigger van with other kids who were coming. The instructors were there, all very Swiss and German, rough looking people. People you’d expect to do paragliding as a career. They made us pick out of a hat, the name who we’d be ‘flying’ with. They told us once we get up the mountain, the only way to come back down would be via air. So up we went, up the Swiss mountains. The view was beautiful but we were anxious and experienced motion sickness going up the curvy mountain. Once we got up, there was a path we had to climb up because the van could not get that high up. They handed us a backpack and we trekked up the slippery mountain while it started to snow and hail. At this point, we were having many regrets. But it was too late. To top it off, the weather was not cooperating and the wind was not in the perfect form it had to be in. In fact, we were told it was extremely dangerous and we had to wait it out. Here we are on top of this mountain, setting up our paraglide behind us while slipping and trying not to fall off the mountain. I was too distracted with staying on the ground and preserving my life that all of a sudden I looked up and my friend is in the air. Now I was freaking out. All of a sudden my instructor was telling me to “RUN” and the rest I think I blacked out. Long story short, I survived the paragliding part and made it on to land, a random field in Interlaken actually. And if you thought anything about that story was normal, then that’s a problem. We were not raised to do things like that, but after all it was abroad, and abroad really is a free for all.

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