The family that flies together, sticks together

A family trip serves as the perfect occasion to test your limits

Charlene flying in an indoor wind tunnel with an instructor holding on to her.
Memories are forged when you push yourself out of your comfort zone. Charlene Aviles / The Peak

By: Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer 

Every few years, my mom’s side of the family travels to the US or Canada for a family vacation. In 2015, we settled on northern California. I ended up arriving a few days later than everyone else, and was determined to make the most out of it. 

As we approached our last night, my adventurous cousin Erica suggested we go indoor skydiving to end our trip with a bang. 

Soon after we arrived, I started to realize what I actually signed up for. I’d seen the photos on the website but seeing the wind tunnel in-person made it even more nerve-wracking. I was amazed by the flight instructors who quickly flipped and soared effortlessly through the air.

Indoor skydiving mimics the feeling of free falling (like when skydiving) in an indoor setting for a longer period of time — hence the name. But the activity is much more than an adrenaline rush. In 2014, indoor skydiving was recognized as a sanctioned event by the World Air Sports Federation. Later this April, they will host their fourth World Cup in Belgium. Competitors can compete in one of two categories: indoor formation skydiving (a four team timed routine) and artistic (solo or group music styled routines). 

Among all the excitement, I failed to realize just how suffocating the non-stop high-speed winds coming from the fans felt — leaving little time to breathe in and out. Feeling out of my element, I froze, and my muscles stiffened. My flight instructor Nathan signalled for me to slow down and take a few deep breaths, giving me time to focus on my family. Through the glass, I could see my cousins on the bench waiting for their turn. My aunt was filming me from the waiting area on the other side.

In that moment, I reminded myself we decided we’d do this together as a family, and I didn’t want to be the one to back out when it got too challenging. With my extended family living in different countries, opportunities like these were rare to come by. Determined to stick to my end of the commitment, I pushed through and hoped for the best.

Composing myself, I followed Nathan’s advice and tried to calm myself down by focusing on my technique. I soon was able to float around without hitting the wall while Nathan helped steer me around the tunnel.

In the second round, I felt more confident and actually started to enjoy it. After getting more experience in the tunnel, I had finally gotten my breathing under wraps. I still struggled with steering myself around the wind tunnel but was able to balance myself better this round, keeping myself in the air for longer. 

Looking back, I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to spend my last night in California. Extreme sports are definitely outside of my comfort zone and regular routine, but with encouragement from my family, I had a reason to persevere.

My experience made me realize how important it is to take any opportunity you have to make new memories with your loved ones. You never know when you’ll get another chance. Due to the international travel restrictions, I’ve cancelled my travel plans twice. But at least I have these memories to cherish until we meet again.