I am probably the only person in Europe right now who is not impressed by Felix Baumgartner’s 39km skydive the other day. I felt absolutely nothing watching the Youtube clip. Oh yeah, a guy fell for a while. And didn’t die. Well done.
He didn’t have any special skill. Nobody won. But we still got the ‘yee-haw’s in the background, painting it like we were witness to some sort of twenty-first century Neil Armstrong moment.
(Oh, and don’t get me started on space exploration.)
I have never understood skydiving. Every second backpacker I’ve met has skydived somewhere, whether it be in New Zealand, over the Yarra Valley, or they’ve blown four hundred bucks to fall face-forward into the Swiss Alps.
Yes, four hundred dollars. Some save for it, marking it as a kind of planned highlight of their trip. Others decide when they see everyone else supposedly doing it. But yes, four hundred bucks. That’s what people freely spend, after complaining about the cost of everything in Europe, from kebabs to beer.
I have tried really hard to understand why. Last year, I dipped my baby toe into the world of extreme sports by paragliding over the Swiss Alps. It was fun and I got some great views, but I felt like it was all a bit forced; like I had to enjoy it because it was so expensive. My flight was over in ten minutes, when I was just starting to relax; skydives are even less. When you’re done, you collect your photos and you’re done.
What did I do? Well, it was nine in the morning, so naturally I went into town and ate some cake. I couldn’t share my experience with anybody; I could show them the photos and tell them it was ‘awesome’ (because apparently any other adjective is just not enough) but how do you keep such a conversation going? The other person might say, ‘yeah, mine was awesome too’. Then what?
On my travels, I would get it quite a bit. Complete disbelief when I wasn’t doing something ‘everyone’ else was. ’What, you’re not bungee jumping?’ or perhaps ‘Why aren’t you climbing Mount Fuji?’ The latter came on a train in Japan, and I sighed and got ready to defend myself. ‘I’m not either,’ piped up a voice in the corner. ‘I just don’t want to,’ he explained simply.
This response was a breath of fresh air. The guy, with whom I’d spent a total of about two hours, got off the train in Fukuoka, struggling underneath his own backpack. I never thought I’d see him again. Two days later I bumped into him again in Osaka. Now I live with him on the other side of the world.
So there you go. I don’t want to skydive, just like how Paul didn’t want to climb Mount Fuji. I just don’t want to.
So please. I’m asking someone to explain it to me, clearly and simply. What do people see in skydiving? Why is it worth the equivalent of thirty beers at Oktoberfest, one hundred solomillos at Casa Gandarias in San Sebastian, or even three hundred tacky Pinocchio pens at the Leaning Tower of Pisa?*
*Or other more honourable things, of course.