Today I would like to share another story with you on my adventures in Korea. In June of last year, I went paragliding with one of my Korean friends. Yes, paragliding. Flying in the sky, above the mountains and clouds. It was a pretty amazing experience, but unfortunately with an unpleasant ending. I’ll tell you why.
My friend asked me a couple months before if I wanted to go paragliding with her. I thought it would be an exhilarating experience and one not to be passed up, so I took her up on the offer. Our first flight was canceled due to inclement weather conditions, so we re-scheduled for the end of June. Including pre-payment, it totaled to 100,000won (about $93), and that included a ride from the bus terminal to the takeoff point and a video of our flight.
We took a bus from Seoul to Danyang, got some lunch, and rode all the way up the mountain to gear up. I should’ve known it was going to be rough when the road we took was narrow and winding, and the driver nearly crashed into oncoming traffic. For those also afflicted with bouts of motion sickness, you can imagine my discomfort.
We managed to get there safely, got a locker for our things, and suited up in some heavy coveralls. The wait time was pretty short and my friend took a few pictures of us before we took off. We were quite adorable. My stomach was still a little iffy from the ride up, but I did my best to breath deep and let my mind take over.
Then came time for my flight. My pilot strapped me in and instructed me to run as fast as I could toward the edge of the mountain. I had some trouble at the start; as I began running, the parachute lifted up, pulling me back. Once I pulled hard enough, we took a run to the edge and nearly hopped into the open air. The wind was on my face and below me were tiny roads and houses and lots of green.
It really was an amazing experience, being up so high above the mountains and the trees. It was a beautiful sight, and the pilot was very nice, pointing out the mountain ranges to me and pointing his GoPro in my direction as I waved. He said, “Today, Mary winner!” I really felt the exhilaration, but not so much the winner part.
We continued to soar higher and higher into the sky, spiraling through the air. I felt as though as I was bobbing up and down in a wave pool, or on a rickety roller coaster, and my stomach was not pleased. I took in the view and kept focusing on that. Mind over matter, mind over matter…
You can probably imagine where this story is going…
Apparently my stomach was not listening to my mind at all because about five minutes into the flight, I was fighting to keep my lunch down. The pilot noticed and moved his camera to the other side and tilted my head down between the straps. After a couple minutes, nothing happened and I thought it had passed, and I was ready to pull my head back up. That was when I lost my lunch.
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Thoroughly embarrassed for retching miles up from the ground (hoping it didn’t land on someone’s car), I kept my head down as the pilot began our descent. Within a few minutes, we made it back to land and we gave a final wave goodbye before he shut off the camera and unstrapped me from the parachute. With that on top of the helmet, coveralls, and gloves they’d given me, I felt so hot and stuffy, which wasn’t helping. Once everything had been taken off, I got sick again before going back up to the takeoff point.
My friend had apparently landed before I did and we immediately went to our locker to get our things. Because the ride up was so rough on me, my friend had asked if there was someone else who could drive us. Fortunately, there was a lady there who offered to drive us in her car. She let me take the front seat and kept the air on for me, and I tried to keep my focus off of the windy roads.
We had planned to stay in town after the flight and explore before dark, but because of my stomach, we went straight back to Seoul. For the record, I vomited several times between the flight and Seoul, but once I was home and in my bed, I was fine. The next day my friend texted me to ask if I was okay, and I was glad to tell her I was.
Despite the terrible ending, I really am glad that I took that opportunity just to say that I have. For most things, they say you should try it at least once and I can come out of that experience knowing that I tried it. I hope that anyone else who deals with motion sickness doesn’t have a bad experience like I did, and maybe you’ll be lucky and the ride up the mountain won’t be so windy. I think that’s what sealed my fate that day. (Even writing about it now still makes my tummy a little queasy…)
Anyway, that’s my embarrassing paragliding story. I hope you enjoyed it, or at least everything but the sick part. If you have any questions about the experience or if you have a similar story to share, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me on social media. Thanks so much for reading!
Story by Mary Beth Estes