BRIDGE JUMPING ON VALENTINE'S DAY
Being single on Valentine’s Day isn’t always easy. But being single doesn’t mean this holiday can’t still be a great excuse for doing something fun.
This is the story of when I jumped off a bridge for Valentine’s Day – not because I was single but in spite of the fact.
Valentine’s Day 2018 fell just two weeks after my arrival in Cape Town last year and one week prior to the beginning of a semester of classes at the University of Cape Town. And I was very much single.
Despite my love for travel I was actually dreading my semester abroad in South Africa because that’s how much I loved USC, Los Angeles, and all of my friends there. But almost immediately after my arrival I knew moving forward with the semester was the right choice.
Everyone on the abroad program was required to arrive at least two weeks before classes started so we could attend orientation and get a chance to explore the city. Wanting to take advantage of the time off, several people decided to drive up the Garden Route, a beautiful route up the coast of the Eastern Cape. My roommate and now close friend Kali convinced me to join her on a Garden Route trip organized by a local travel agency. I’m not a huge fan of traveling in groups of tourists but having just arrived in South Africa we didn’t really have the means to plan a road trip, let alone obtain a car. So, we walked to the travel agency and reserved our seats on a 4-day trip up the coast.
After making the reservation we received an email with a full itinerary of trip activities. There were two main highlights in the schedule. The first was “Kloofing,” an extreme sport that combines cliff jumping, abseiling and ziplining. The second was the opportunity to bungee jump off the tallest suspension bridge in the world. The Kloofing sounded a little intimidating but definitely fun. The jump on the other hand sounded terrifying. I ruled it out as an option as soon as I read it on the schedule.
Fast forward to the trip itself. Most of the other people on the trip ended up being other students from my study abroad program. It was quite the combination of personalities but all that really mattered was that we were all there to see more of South Africa and have a good time along the way. There were 2 people on the trip that were in relationships but otherwise everyone, including myself, was single. With Valentine’s Day just a couple days away, relationships and the prospect of meeting a South African lover were frequent topics of conversation (little did I know that I would in fact find my South African boyfriend in a month’s time). But the thing that I kept reminding myself on this trip was how much I had accomplished thus far without a relationship.
I took the risk when I decided to essentially put my life on hold to move to South Africa for 5 months. I didn’t know anyone else that would be on the program. I didn’t know who I would be living with. I didn’t know what the reality of the water crisis in Cape Town truly looked like. I didn’t know if any of the classes I would enroll in would actually count towards my film degree. This was a big deal for me. I have always been the kind of person that needs to know what to expect down to the smallest details. The semester as a whole ended up being a lesson in letting go of that obsession and just experiencing things as they come. But back to Valentine’s Day. The point is I realized the risks I was taking on my own and I was proud of that. So on the Garden Route I decided I would make it a semester goal to go outside of my comfort zone. I conveniently came to this goal the night before Valentine’s day – the day of the bridge jump.
Valentine’s morning our travel guide needed a count for how many people were doing the jump. I confidently gave him my name for the list.
That confidence quickly faded once we began getting into the harnesses. The other jumpers and I threw back a few tequila shots and next thing I know we were on the bridge waiting for our turns. It felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest as I waited on the bridge for my jump. I was not close to backing out but I would be lying if I said the build up wasn’t absolutely terrifying.
Kali was the first from our group to jump. This girl is fearless. If she wasn’t jumping, I’m not sure if I even would have put my name on the list. But she had the bravery I wanted to have, the bravery I was determined to have. Fake it until you make it, right?
It was finally my turn. What basically happens is you walk up to the side of the bridge and your ankles are bound together and attached to the bungee cord. Then the men working the jump help you hop to the very edge and count to three before they help you jump off. One. Two. THREE. I leaped and instantly thought What the hell have I done? I literally just committed suicide. That is truly what it felt like – utter terror and fear for my life. The ground grew rapidly closer for about 5 seconds until I finally felt the bungee start to catch me. It wasn’t until then that I knew I was going to be fine. Once the pure free fall was over I was hit with the beauty that surrounded me. (For a video of the jump click here). I put my arms out and took in the world from this strange upside-down perspective.
I hung by my ankles for about 45 seconds before a man was lowered down to flip me back upright and attach my harness to the cord that brought me back up to safety. I don’t think I ever understood what it meant to be high on adrenaline until I was back on that bridge and seriously felt like I had taken something. I took a literal leap outside my comfort zone and it set the tone for the rest of my semester. I will always remember that jump as one of the most terrifying yet eye-opening moments of my life. And I will never forget that I chose to do it as a single woman on Valentine’s Day.
So no, I didn’t jump off a bridge on Valentine’s day because that’s how bad my love life was at the time. I jumped because I knew I could whether or not I had a boyfriend next to me cheering me on.
Happy Valentine’s Day to the happy couples AND to the happy singles. Relationship or not - try and find an adventure this Valentine’s that makes you feel like the epic human that you are.