Saturday Edition: Fear Of Heights Adventure-ing

Remember how Sarah did the scary thing of chopping off her hair? And I did the scary thing of trying out rock climbing? … and surfing. On this Saturday Edition Kamel talks about his own fearful adventure-ing. This time involving a lot of hot air.

I’m afraid of heights.

It’s a very specific type of heights though, because I love flying on planes and love looking out the windows of really tall buildings. But, I’m terrified of being in open air, on tall structures that seem to be frail or dangerous. Like the observatory thingy in barcelona. While I was happy to have taken pictures from up there, I was actually terrified and moving very slowly the entire time. (Lauren Edit: I thought at one point he would start to crawl along the floor. But he didn’t.) Or in the London Eye, again happy to have taken pictures, but terrified most of the time.

So a few months ago, Lauren wanted to challenger herself and do something, yet again, that she never thought she would. Her master plan: Hot Air Balloons. It appears I agreed to this, but I honestly didn’t actually think we would. A few months later, she asked me to call Napa Velley Balloons to get more details. I talked to the lady, and let her know I’m terrified and would probably bail at the last minute. She assured me they are safe (But how safe can riding in a basket, loaded with giant propane tanks, a giant open flame, and no real control over anything except maybe height can be?). She also said that while the tickets are non refundable 48hrs prior to boarding, IF I did feel like I couldn’t hop on day of, she would not charge me. So that made me feel safe that I had an out.

I sat with Lauren while she booked tickets and then I tried not to think about it for a while. Until… one day Lauren and I decided to go lay down to take a nap, one week prior to the balloon ride. And I chose this moment to confess to her that I might not be able to get on the balloon because I was terrified and didn’t really want to do it in the first place. (Lauren Edit: Months later… MONTHS since we talked, planned, and bought the tickets.) I was scared of not being in control and of the height (2,000 feet in a basket). (Lauren Edit: But a plane is totally in his control, right?) This freaked Lauren out because she thought I was all ready to go, all in as you say. (Lauren Edit: No shit.) My mistake for not being more vocal about from the get go, but I thought I was since every step of the way I mentioned how I had zero desire to do this, and didn’t want to. (Lauren Edit: But there is a big difference between saying “I dunno, I don’t really want to, but ok.” To saying, “I can’t do this. I am too afraid and you should go without me.”)

We had to be at the Launch site in the Domain Chandon winery at 5:30am, this meant our friends Margaret and Jeff and both Lauren and I woke up at 3:30am and were in the car by 4am. We arrived at Domain Chandon and after a light snack, loaded ourselves into vans that would take us to the launch area. I was terrified.

I kept trying not to think about it, but I wanted to bail. I did not want to go up.

But! The time came and we all hopped into the basket. Up and over. I hopped in and immediately just wanted to hop out and wish the group a safe flight. But Lauren was super happy and bouncy so I decided not to be the party pooper. I stayed and thought it might not be so bad.

We took off. Up, up, up. Higher and higher. I was regretting this decision more than anything in my life. I was scared shitless and could not even look out. I was shaking and spent a good chunk of time looking down to my feet only. I kept counting up in my head and telling myself it would all be over soon. I wanted to go back down right away. We were scary high.

Lauren, meanwhile, was having the time of her life (you’ll here her story on Monday I’m sure) and so was everyone else in the balloon. I tried to peak out, but every time I did, I felt like I was going to die. So I went back to looking down and waiting for the time to go by. It was just 45minutes to an hour, so that’s not so bad.

After about 15ish minutes, I started getting antsy. So I decided to distract myself with something. And what better way to hide yourself from the real world around you than to bury your face in a camera’s view finder and take pictures. (Lauren Edit: My plan for Kamel from the get go, knowing he did have fears about height, was to surround him with as many cameras as possible. We had three on board, 4 if you can’t my phone too.) Perhaps even upload a couple to Instagram too, no? (I did, and one got 32 likes! More than any other instagram I’ve ever taken! Check it out here.)

Lauren kept trying to make me see it wasn’t so bad and that it was fun. But it was scary and I was done. But seeing her happy made me happy. So I loosened up a bit and started taking pictures with her. Showing her what I’ve shot and taking recommendations from her as to what looked cool (cos I was NOT really looking out). At this point we were only about half way through the trip.

A few minutes later, we descended down to a more reasonable altitude of just a few hundred feet. Not that this doesn’t feel as bad. The ground seemed closer and the balloon for some odd reason felt safe. Then we saw a lake, and the pilot said he would try to tap the water…. A splash and dash if you will. Once he did, he gained my full confidence that he totally had this shit. He could, on command, gently tap the basket’s bottom of this ginormous ballon and then take it back up a bit. Impressive. That experience, and the fact that he had been doing this for 30+ years made me finally feel a little safer. So I started enjoying the ride.

The ride went on for another 30 minutes, but we never climbed back up to that initial scary/insane altitude. Lauren was happier than a puppy hearing the sound of rattling car keys. And I managed to do two things:

  • Overcome the fear of getting on this death basket.
  • Take some pretty bad ass photos.

We then landed safely and calmly on the ground and proceeded to eat the breakfast of kings at Domain Chandon and drink champagne. The entire experience was epic, happy and absolutely a once in a life time event. Everything went better than expected.

Had I not gone, I would’ve missed out on this unique opportunity. I would’ve been on the ground, waiting and bored, unhappy, left out and never knowing what it would’ve been like. I’m really glad I got onboard. The entire experience was totally worth the months of angst and weeks of me being a cranky mess. Though I’m sure Lauren could’ve done without all of that, I’m happy she gave me the confidence I needed to hop on board. In the end we both have this epic memory to share for the rest of our lives. I wonder what other adventures are still to come? Even if sometimes… they scare the shit out of me.

8 thoughts on “Saturday Edition: Fear Of Heights Adventure-ing”

  1. This is soooo exciting . I so wanna do it ! And Kamel, good for you for agreeing more or less against your feelings, and Lauren for helping him through it all 🙂

  2. Oh Kamel I am so impressed. I’m also scared of heights, in a certain way. Tall buildings are okay, but anything where I can see below me is an “Oh hell no!” Like fire escapes, or rail road bridges. Probably also hot air balloons and rock climbing. In the last quest in Skyrim I felt my stomach tighten going across the dragon bone bridge, which of course wasn’t even real. So applaud you for doing it and I’m happy that you enjoyed it by the end!

  3. Congratulations on conquering your fear! I think I might show this to my husband because he’s also scared of heights and said NO WAY to a hot air balloon ride … but maybe you might sway him to just give it a go 🙂 Also, your photos are beautiful!

  4. This is just too cool. I’m scared of heights, though I don’t think quite as much as you, so I know that stomach turn. It’s awesome that you went for it anyway, I’m glad it was so worth it.

  5. congratulations on going up there!! i’m definitely scared of the same sorts of heights… eek, open air heights! your story has given me hope though!

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