Backpacker Goes Skydiving in the Heart of America

Here’s why he’ll do it again.

Photo by Kamil Pietrzak on Unsplash

** Republished from 2016 **

I had just turned twenty years of age. On the return leg of one of the most adventurous summers I had ever had. I had just spent a month living in my car, traveling the entirety of the United States west coast, and sulking in the last few hours of my journey before I returned home to normalcy. I was driving through the middle of Nowhere, Kansas when I saw a highway advertisement in inconsiderably tiny font denoting an end-of-summer sale.


I had always considered parachuting from a plane, but being the budget adventure-seeker I am, it was always a bit out of my price-line. But this advertisement caught my eye because it was cheaper than I had ever seen a tandem jump cost. I pulled over to the side of the road, immediately gave Falcon Skydiving a ring to confirm the advertisement’s validity, and continued on down the road.

When I got home, before I could even tell any of my family members about my trip, I was already planning out my next thrill-seeking adventure. I called up a few of my adrenaline junkie friends, got a few to join me, and before I knew it, we had a reservation to jump from the clouds the very next day.

A summer of adrenaline

I saw this as a perfect way to top one of the most heart-stopping summers of my life. Already, I had been through a whole month of unknowns in my car as I navigated the in’s and out’s of new places, met new faces and tested new sleeping spaces. What other way to end the summer other than one more experience that I’ve never had before? When I woke up the following morning, I’d be jumping from a plane 15,000 feet in the sky.

I met with my crazy friends who had agreed to jump with me on a whim. I’m so happy to have friends who will up and make decisions such as this without thinking about it. Without friends like this, life becomes stale. We made our way out to Falcon Skydiving, about an hour north of downtown Kansas City, where it became farm fields and tractor highways.

Falcon Skydiving was difficult to find. If Google Maps didn’t exist, you’d hardly be able to tell a difference between it and one of many regular farmsteads in the area. We hopped out of the car and were greeted and piled into a small wooden cabin that they called the “classroom”. I’m sure no more than a few others could fit in the “classroom” with my three friends and me.

They had us fill out waivers that will scare the shit out of anyone on the fence about jumping from a plane. Then they sat us in front of a small T.V. to watch a short thirty-minute instructional video. For the terrifying terms of the waiver, thirty minutes sure seemed like a short amount of time for instruction for an activity that could result in death.

First time on a plane

After gearing up, they were pushing us into a tiny, lightweight plane that felt like it would be bullied by the gentlest wind. At twenty-years-old, and now with ample travel experience all over the world, getting into that plane was the first time I remember getting onboard a plane. Before that, I was too young to remember the last time I had been aboard a commercial plane. My family had traveled quite a bit in my childhood, but it was always car or boat travel.

The irony behind boarding a plane for the first time in which you knew you were going to have to jump out of is quite hilarious. Not only did I have to deal with the jitters of a first-time airplane ride, but also the moment of jumping out, which I must admit, was quite terrifying.

The plane they had us in was, with no doubt, the scariest plane ride I had ever taken. I have never been on board a commercial flight that felt anything like that flight to 15,000 feet did. Shaky, turbulent, rattling, and gut-feeling that the plane would fall out of the sky at any moment the entire time I was on board. I almost felt safer the quicker I could leap from the plane.

The big moment

After about fifteen to twenty minutes in the plane reaching altitude, it was time to jump. The professional divers that we were jumping tandem with gave us one quick refresher on our duties during the jump. Jumping first out of everyone in the plane, I was responsible for opening the flap door that would open up to strong, roaring gusts of wind.

The moment I rolled up the flap that revealed how high we actually were in the sky, my stomach curled. I hadn’t actually looked down until I was sitting on the edge of the plane, preparing to push myself off. For an instant, I considered backing out. But I couldn’t, I wanted to be the first to jump.

Before I knew it, I was free-falling at speeds well-exceeding one hundred miles an hour. I flailed my arms out and scream of momentous joy as soon as I exited the plane — disregarding everything that my instructor had gone over with me. At that moment, it’s hard to recollect exactly what you learned and you want to soak in the experience.

I yelled my lungs out as they do in movies until we got about seventy-five percent of the way down and I had to start focusing on my duties as the frontman of the tandem jump. Without problems, my duties were completed and we began a glorious slow glide to the ground. I was in the middle of the flatlands of Kansas, but I can’t imagine the view if I was in the middle of majestic scenery. The glide from that high up is remarkable and something I’ll never forget.

Would I do it again?

Skydiving was an experience of a lifetime. However, it happens so fast, it’s hard to take it all in on your first jump. After less than forty-five seconds of freefall and about a five-minute glide to the ground, it was all done. Diving a second time would be much better for the fact that I would know what to expect and I’d know how quickly it all happens. If I ever see another inexpensive sale for a skydiving experience, you can bet I’ll do it again!

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