This past Friday, I had a wonderful opportunity presented to me. One which I felt I would have been insane to pass up and, therefore, I jumped at the chance.
I was contacted by a representative of the website XperienceDays.com, a website which has experiences available for customers to purchase for a reasonable price and is available in most cities. I highly recommend checking out their website to see what they have to offer in your area.
After reviewing what experiences were available in the Minneapolis area, there was one in particular which leapt out at me as one I needed to do. The “Scenic Flight Tour Over The Twin Cities” was the one.
Oh, did I mention I’m absolutely terrified of heights?
How about the fact I historically am not the greatest of flyers?
Maybe the fact I haven’t flown in about a decade is another thing that should factor in here, right?
So, why in the world is this “the experience” I chose to do? Well, I’ve been on this journey with this blog since starting it, writing about overcoming fears and learning new things about yourself, right? An opportunity like this comes out of the blue…and how would I feel if I didn’t take advantage?
After fighting back some fears that crept up off and on after booking the flight, I found myself to be pretty much at peace all day leading up to take-off. My mind wasn’t racing like it normally would, my breathing was strong and deep and I found I was actually—wait for it—excited for the flight.
What is this feeling? Confidence? The ability to let life happen and enjoy opportunities as they come around?
This is weird.
Even when parking my car at the little airport, I was good. I walked in confidently, checked in, SIGNED THE LIABILITY WAIVER and waited for my pilot Greg to finish the pre-flight check of the plane. When he was done, he came in and we discussed where we would be flying and what sights I wanted to be sure to take in while in the air. We made our plan and started walking towards the plane.
The only time there was a twinge of fear was after I had climbed into the plane. Yes, I was surprised because the plane was smaller than I imagined beforehand and I was caught by surprise when I realized I would be sitting up front with Greg as he maneuvered, but that wasn’t why there was that little moment of fear. It was when I asked how old the plane was and the response made me realize the plane was older than, well, me.
We taxied out to the runway and, after a bit of a wait to get the final OK to go, we were ready to go. Even then, when I realized there really was no backing out at this point, I was ready, I was excited and I wanted this to happen. Well, that’s good, Stephen…because we’re now tearing down the runway.
I was in the moment so much and let go of any fears, I was able to snap a few shots with my camera as we were heading into the sky. In my own mind leading up to the flight, I figured I wouldn’t even break out the camera until we had leveled off, but here I am, snapping away as we were ascending. I was already proud of myself.
Our first stop was to fly over Lake Minnetonka and, let me say, that was just amazing. Even living in Minnesota, I never truly realized how big the lake was and how you could spend an entire day on the lake and still not see everything. Some of my favorite pictures from the flight are of the lake, especially when I took shots nearly straight down of the boats on the water…and how they were so tiny from so high.
After flying over Lake Minnetonka, we flew south to head over Valley Fair and to get into the airspace that would eventually lead us to St. Paul. However, before making it to St. Paul, we had to climb quite high (although I don’t remember exactly how high) because we were entering the airspace of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.
Again, knowing the person I used to be, this would have been a time where a freak out could have occurred because it was quite the trip to have these huge jets flying both above and below us. However, I loved watching the planes take-off and land below us and, as a bonus during this time in the flight, we had an amazing view of the Mall of America, which was eye-opening. That place is HUGE…and it looked like any ordinary mall from up there.
Then, we made our way over to St. Paul. As I’m not as familiar with that side of the Cities, the only landmarks that really jumped out at me were the Xcel Center—the home of the Minnesota Wild—and the state capitol building.
As we circled back to the west, we flew over the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. I’ve made the joke a few hundred times that with my claustrophobia, the Fair is not the place for me, so flying over would be the closest I’ll ever get again. However, after conquering a few demons lately, I think a trip to the Fair may be in order next summer.
Up next was taking in the skyline of Minneapolis, which was a great treat for me. This is the side of town I know better and, of course, my sports writing life took me here quite a few times. As we flew over Target Field—home of the Minnesota Twins—and Target Center—home of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx—it was incredibly special for me to see this area which had been such a huge part of my life from this much different perspective. Sure, I’ve seen pictures taken from the air before, but it’s quite different when you’re the one holding the camera.
The last “stop” on the trip before heading back to the airport was to fly over my apartment. This was not planned beforehand and the trip was special enough, but my pilot Greg thought it would be a nice surprise. He even did a full circle around my place, so I could be sure to get quite a few good pictures.
As we began our descent for landing, I realized I “needed” to have self-pictures taken. After all, this entire time, I was wearing the headset with microphone in order to hear and speak with Greg and, in addition, I was able to hear air traffic control. Of course, I found this to be incredibly interesting. I began to snap a few pictures of myself with the headset and, by the time I was done, I realized we were already back on the ground.
That’s how awesome Greg was…he landed the plane and I didn’t even realize it.
There we were, back on the ground.
I survived. I didn’t experience any crippling fear.
I overcame, I had an experience I never would have dreamed about and I grew as a person.
As you would expect, I am ever thankful to Greg for, well, both flying and landing the plane safely. I am thankful to XperienceDays.com for reaching out to me to do this and share it with all of you. Please do me a favor and check out their website to see if they have anything you would like to do. You’ll be glad you did.
I also want to thank all of you who read this blog. Without you supporting me and pushing me along this journey, I may have allowed this opportunity to go past. I hope that I’m helping illustrate to you that your fears are all in your head and are not grounded in reality. You can overcome anything you choose to overcome.
Want to see the full photo gallery from my flight? Click here.