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Adventure-ing: Balloons

When I was 10 my parents and I went to New Mexico for my Dad’s 40th birthday. We went to Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Taos. We saw where the Anasazi used to live, the colorful dessert, ate sopapillas, and one morning woke up to a hundred different sized and colored hot air balloons floating along the morning sky. We had happened to be there during the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Festival. And I had never ever seen anything like it. It was surreal and spectacular.

And again, it was something that I never thought I would participate in. It just didn’t occur to me that I could or would ever ride in a hot air balloon. How would that fit into normal life? Who does such things. But as I continue to discover, it’s amazing how easy it is to do the things you think are hard, the things that other people do but not you.

Thank god for Google. Idle curiosity can so easily turn into concrete plans with a few key strokes. A trip up in balloons over Napa with our friends Margaret and Jeff was scheduled for their visit from Minnesota. Companies were researched, prices budgeted. This adventure was not inexpensive, though I’m sure there are cheaper areas – the Napa area, I have a feeling, can charge whatever they want and people will still line up for a ride. But Napa Valley Balloons begins the morning at Domain Chandon, and ends at Domain Chandon with a champagne brunch. It had the best website, and included a lot for the price. The money was well spent.

You know from Kamel’s post that we were up at 3:30 am and in the car by 4:00. You know how terrified he was and yes – he made my life rather uncomfortable for the week leading up to this adventure with this grumpyness and anxiety. But I really appreciate that he did something that made him so uncomfortable just because I asked, just because I wanted him to be there with me.

Because before I tell you anything else, you have to know – this was bar far the most epic activity I have ever done, the most gorgeous morning, the best early wake up I have ever had, and I am now completely addicted.

I want to preach to the entire world, to strangers on the street, to everyone in my life that you have to do this. You have to. It’s both serene and thrilling, it’s physics and magic and wonder all rolled into one. It’s just… glorious.

The sheer volume of the balloons is overwhelming when you first come upon them. For whatever reason their size doesn’t come across in most photos I’ve seen or even with the ones I’ve watched float slowly across the sky. When you’re standing next to one while it’s filling with air, though, it’s absolutely immense.

I was also surprised that I had actual fear as the balloon quickly rose into the morning air, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of feet up, almost 2,000 feet into the sky. It moved fast and I did have a few minute’s of panic thinking: Holy shit I’m in a goddamn basket floating away because of a shit ton of hot air… what am I doing?! am I crazy?!

This was the part in the program where Kamel didn’t look anywhere but his shoes. I didn’t blame him. But I found that if I didn’t look down and instead just looked out it wasn’t as freaky and I could still enjoy the amazingly beautiful valley. Plus! To my happiness, the basket was comfortably warm because of the massive flame periodically heating the air above my head.

And even though I had a moment of “Whhaaattt am I doing?” when we initially lifted off the ground, I never felt like I was in any danger. It was one of the most joyful experiences of my life. And! Just to show you how freaking awesome it really really was – all of the photos that don’t include me in them, I took. Me! Even with my total lack of photography talent, it really was that amazing.

This space has been a place for me to chronicle feelings and relationships and stories (the ridiculous and the sad and the funny), it’s been my way of providing a time stamp to major life events, and it’s been a place of advice and discussion and feedback (which I’m incredibly grateful for). But now begins a new chapter, this space will also be a celebration of adventures, of personal triumphs, of doing things we never thought we could, and to cheering each other on. If you have an adventure (big or small) you’d like to write about, please email me at betterinrealife at gmail dot com.


  1. :)
    I want to try this so so much right now.

  2. I’ve thought about ballooning before and it’s always one of those things that I think, oh, someday. Someday, when I happen to be in Napa, I’ll just spontaneously do it. But I’m inspired to make it happen. And I do hope to be relocated to Albuquerque by July 1st, so maybe I should just do it there!

    • The hot air balloon stuff in Santa Fe is in October!! And you should TOTALLY DO IT!! :) And then tell me all about it so I can post it here. ;)

  3. Wow, not only did you do something that was such an adventure, you had Kamel join you even though he was not wanting to try this one. What a guy. After we all saw the balloons over New Mexico it has been something that I wanted to try. Maybe we will have to plan a trip when we visit some time. Kamel doesn’t have to go if he doesn’t want to, because I know…your mother will not want to be up in any basket in the air. Now that just makes me laugh. Ha.
    love you tons

  4. You’ve sold me, this sounds awesome. And cheers for Kamel, for going in spite of his fears!

  5. I love that photo of Jeff and Kamel, looking off into the distance. They are so adorable. Also, the photo just below it looks SO COOL. It’s like the small balloon is casting a huge shadow! And I love the photo of the four of us, after.


    And good news! There are some companies operating in Minnesota! So, when will you be arriving?

    • I love the shadow picture too!! So awesome!!

    • YAY!!!!! We can leave kamel on the ground for this one, but I am SO IN!

  6. Can I admit that I looked at the 6th photo (the one staring straight down to the ground) and reeled a little? That’s how little I like heights.

    And that’s why I’m so excited and proud of Kamel for being brave and going, and for both of you for just getting up, doing it, and having an incredible time!

  7. I will definitely be planning a trip to New Mexico soon! Loved the pictures.

  8. HOW FREAKING FUN?!!!!! The first pic of you and Margaret, i have NEVER seen a bigger smile on your face! Its HUGE and genuine. You totally sold me. I want to be in a balloon right now. I think the idea is completely crazy as well. But its obviously worth the experience. Way to challenge yourselves. So inspiring. Whats next on the list?!! I want in! Miss you guys to pieces.

  9. That looks AMAZING!!

    I need to do this. To the Googles!

  10. Holy epic adventure-ness! The looks like a crazy amount of fun, and I can totally see it on your face in the pictures. :)

    It’s been really awesome reading about how different the experience was for you and Kamel. This really struck me: “I really appreciate that he did something that made him so uncomfortable just because I asked, just because I wanted him to be there with me.” It sounds like you two are really pushing each other to be your best selves, and that’s awesome.

  11. Ok, you’ve sold me on hot air balloons. I totally want to do this now!

  12. The photos are PHENOMENAL!!!!! You just inspired me to add this to my “Challenges Life List”! Thanks so much for sharing!

  13. Gorgeous and stunning!

    I’m keen on the idea, but after there was a balloon crash here a couple of months back, its gone on the back burner until all the investigation is complete and updated rules are released…

    I go to a local balloon festival some years. They do a “Night Glow”, where they tether the baskets, inflate the balloons and then do burns to light them up. Gorgeous and epic. Shame this years one was a fail due to wind…

  14. It looks amazing. And terrifying. The fear is part of the reason I want to do it though, but man is it pricey around here!


  1. Adventure-ing: Callie and The First Grown Up Vacation | I'm Better in Real Life - [...] can either have amazing results or dire consequences. Callie of Write On! contacted me after the balloon post when …
  2. Epic Epicness | I'm Better in Real Life - [...] Kamel and I went on a hot air balloon ride over Napa with our friends Margaret and Jeff the …

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Who the hell is she?


Seattle/Writer/Adventurer/Married to Kamel/Maker of many mistakes/Mom of 1 Gabriel and 1 TBD/Baker of things/Roaster of Vegetables/Maker of videos/Normal life photographer/Romantic/Irreverent/Honest

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