Thoughts from Nepal – I went paragliding

While traveling during the summer of 2014, Rebecca LeBeau wrote several emails to a friend detailing her experiences exploring Nepal.

Subject: I went paragliding

And I puked.

I thought it would be no big deal. I get motion sick sometimes, sure, but roller coasters never bother me, and planes only sometimes get to me. When I was on a cruise ship back in high school, I didn’t get seasick. Since only some things make me motion sick and since paragliding seems very calm and relaxing, it will probably be fine, I told myself.

The actual takeoff was the hardest part. Since both my instructor and I were in the heavy weight class (anything above 150 pounds), he told me I would have to do the running start with him, or the parachute could collapse midair. (Lighter weight classes simply sit in the harness as the instructor does the running start.) As you know, I am not super athletic, nor am I graceful. So as my instructor was very seriously describing the takeoff procedure to me, all I could think was, I am so going to screw this up. And lo and behold, I tripped and fell before we even got off the ground. “We just missed a really good breeze there,” my instructor grumbled. Whoops.

Okay, attempt number two. I somehow managed to keep my balance as the wind swept us back, we ran and jumped in tandem. Then we were in the air, and it was awesome! It was just how I imagined flying would feel like. I could feel the breeze whip through my hair, and I saw the landscape spread out below me like a map. We flew for about five minutes, and I only felt a tiny bit sick. “We are going to go in the thermal to gain some altitude,” my instructor told me.

And that’s where it all went wrong. Flying in a thermal involves spiraling tightly upwards in an uprush of heated air. The constant turning started to bother me very quickly. It was much more intense than regular car sickness. This was not good. I was not going to get through this.

“I’m feeling dizzy,” I told my instructor after a minute.

He immediately broke into a panic. “You’re dizzy? You’re sick? You going to vomit?” He asked over and over. “…Are you sure you don’t want to do some cool somersaults?” He also asked, a little disappointed.

Sighing, he handed me a barf bag and he straightened us out towards the landing zone. But the problem with motion sickness is that once it starts, it doesn’t get better. I steadily felt worse and worse. “We will be landing in one minute. If you can hold on a little longer, that would be nice,” he told me. “Okay,” I replied. This is the part when I puked. “It’s okay,” he said, but I could tell he was grossed out. I was too, man. I was too.

I still felt terrible after we landed, but the other tourists were kind. I rinsed my mouth out. A group of Chinese tourists chatted with me, asked if I was okay and gave me a tissue. One of the other pilots, a guy from Hungary, sat with me and pointed out all the cool flips and spins and all the people in the air who were also feeling sick.

“That guy, right there, he’s sick for sure. See the way the corners of the parachute are tucked in? The pilot’s trying to get him down real fast.” We laughed at everyone taking pictures of each other in front of the landing zone. “Tourists,” he joked, shaking his head. I felt better. Then we headed back to town in a bumpy Jeep. Shaky, sick and tired, I managed to hobble back to the hotel and took a much-deserved nap.

So that was my morning! It wasn’t exactly the best experience of my life, but it was an experience, that’s for sure. And I’m glad I tried it out. But I don’t think I’ll be flying with a parachute any time soon unless I’m properly drugged up for it. Or unconscious. Maybe both.

Click here to see another email from Rebecca.

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