In 2014 I left my normal life in Lithuania to follow my heart. It lead me to Austria to snowboard and to see the mountains. My aim was to find a job that could pay for food and accommodation so that I could spend all day living the dream. This is where I met James @break_the_chain_blog, he was a relaxed and cool dude who shared the same passion to snowboard as much as possible.
I spent the whole winter, riding, working and partying, it was fun I will tell you that. But deep inside I knew that this was not enough for me. One day at work I said to James “I’m going to jump off cliffs and fly down mountains in a wingsuit”. It had always been my dream to fly but not even James Believed me.
Once the season had finished I went home and saved until I had enough money. I went to local dropzone where they teach you how to skydive. I still had injuries from winter that needed to be fixed. I had dislocated my shoulders on numerous occasions (one time being unprofessionally relocated by James and Harry after many failed backflip attempts).
I had to wait for sometime longer but once it healed enough I returned. I was already shaking with fear watching the videos in the exam room. Sitting in the plane going up before my first jump was the most terrifying feeling I’d ever encountered. I was nauseous, stomach twisting inside out. I can not describe how fucking scared I was when the doors of the plane opened. As soon as I jumped out of the plane I started spinning uncontrollably in the air, my whole body froze and I remember calling for my mum. I thought that was it, I was going to plummet to my death at 160 miles an hour…Fortunately one of the instructors grabbed me and levelled me out.
On my last jumps of the exam I somehow managed to dislocate one of my shoulders during the free fall and needed to land the parachute with only one hand. I failed the exam. I needed to wait for my surgery and start everything all over again. By this point I think any sane person would have realised that this was a stupid idea but I was so motivated and curious to see what was on the other side of fear.
I returned and passed the exam. I finally had a license to jump independently. In this moment I felt like God, conqueror of the skies with no limits.
I was hooked!
During the next season I spent some time battling with drinking too much alcohol, it was difficult because it is a part of the skydiving culture but over the next year with some ups and downs I got a hold on it. I skydived for two seasons. On jump 39 I was still asking myself why the hell am I doing this but after 40 jumps I finally beat the fear.
The feeling was unparalleled!
I was ready for the next step! A game changer! The sport that can have no mistakes! I saw this the be the playground only for the bravest of souls. Base jumping!
In the beginning the process is similar to skydiving. I had to do a course and all the fear and anxiety came back. My emotions were hard to manage. I remember tip toeing to the edge of the cliff in Italy for the first time. My entire body was trembling, I pulled myself back and looked around, looking into everyone’s eyes I could tell they were thinking the same as me “We are going to die”. I paused for a moment but knew that I had to jump soon otherwise I never would. I jumped…in that moment I had a taste of freedom, overcoming the fear was sweeter than the sweetest honey, I had never experienced a high like it. When I landed I felt so euphoric and the feeling lasted for a while.
This had just changed my life forever. Much like taking a drug, I had never experienced a high like it before and I just wanted more.
The ride down the hill began; I started drinking heavily just to control my emotions and I became arrogant because I thought I was doing the coolest thing on the planet. It just kept growing, more jumping led to more drinking, more drinking meant more spending. in the progress I had no money in my pocket, but felt like a free spirit who was enjoying life on the edge.
But reality caught up with me quickly. Three events that will have forever changed my life.
Event 1: We were having a crazy jumping party in Croatia, drinking in the evenings and jumping hungover the next day. And then right in front of my eyes my buddy made a tiny mistake and smashed into the ground so hard! I thought that he is either dead or he is not gonna be walking again. I will never forget the sound. Fortunately after a lot of time in hospital and treatment he managed to make a full recovery. He has stopped base jumping for now.
Event 2: I was in Norway for the first time. I saw how the jumper had some difficulties during freefall, for some reason he didn’t manage to open his parachute in time and fell to his death. I can still hear his last scream. A truly devastating and traumatic experience for everyone involved. Still I tried to block these things out. I was in denial telling myself that it only happens to stupid people and it’s never gonna happen to me.
The reality is that we are only human.
It was around my 70th jump, I was back in my country and I wanted to show a base jump to my girlfriend. It was a chimney that was around 300 feet tall. By base jumping standards that is considered a dangerous jump because you don’t get much time to open your chute. At the time I considered it a safe and cool jump. I wanted to impress the lady and was thinking to go a little bit more extreme and go a bit lower. I was not focused. All I was thinking about was how cool I would look. What happend next was the most simple mistake that I believed only happened to stupid and unskilled people. As I took off my foot slipped! I started rotating backwards and screamed in terror. Thankfully my instincts were fast enough fast and my hand threw the pilot chute. I had a 50/50 chance of my parachute wrapping around my legs and not opening. My parachute opened enough for me not to romantically splatter myself on the ground next to my girlfriend.
Just encase you are wondering, nobody was under the impression that this was cool and shortly after we split up as it was too stressful for her.
I tried to erase the memory remaining in denial. I did not want to pay attention to what the universe was quite clearly trying to tell me. Another half a year passed and everything finally clicked. I had spent the whole time trying to become extra bad-ass but in reality I became extra idiot!
Now 5 years have passed since I told James that I’m gonna wingsuit base jump the mountains… Well “Sorry James :D”. It’s not worth it. I have finally realised that the journey is so much more important than the destination and that my ego will get me killed if I don’t take control.
Instead of going at max speed, sideways in the sports car, I would rather cruise with the roof down, chilling with my friends and enjoying the view. I still Base jump, and Skydive but my perspective is different. Instead of doing a crazy double flip to get some bad-ass footage I would rather just enjoy the view of jumping flat and stable. I get to see how beautiful everything looks, calm and relaxed.
I care so much more people. I totally underestimated the value of human connection. I try to see every other living soul as myself. It has opened a completely new world to me which is just as amazing as jumping and a lot more sustainable.
I never realised that my journey has been that on an addict, going from one high to the next, each time getting more extreme and if unchecked will certainly lead to an early grave. I’m not gonna tell you that it’s easy to tell yourself “No” to a temporary high. Maybe you want to lose some weight but you keep eating those candies or fast food, maybe you want to be smarter, healthier or more fit, but you don’t take time to exercise and keep getting high and partying. And there’s nothing wrong with that if it keeps you happy, but if you feel something is missing then you need to make a change. Maybe you wish to have a better relationship with people, maybe you want a better income, or maybe you’re just not happy. If you feel unfulfilled start looking for the guidelines, plan some small goals, and start to know yourself better. And if you’re having a hard time or losing your battles over and over again, start asking yourself why? What do you want so badly that it is gonna be worth the sacrifice. The only way this is going to happen is one step at a time over a long period. When you look back, it’s always going to be worth it and your effort is going to be rewarded in a way that you never imagined.
Life is all about the travel. There are easy roads, long roads, straight roads and windy roads, and we have the power to choose which one we take. Each and every road having its own ups and downs. We need to make peace with that and figure out what is really important to us. I’m happy with my life, I won’t change anything about it, all the stupid things I consider as valuable lessons, all beautiful things I have or have had I cherish, and am so grateful that I was lucky enough to experience them.
The thing that I am most thankful for is that I am alive. It means that I can still learn from my mistakes, I can still enjoy the beautiful moments.
If there is one thing that I do know it is that life is so complicated and yet so simple at the same time. It is a constant learning process.
I’m still on the journey of finding myself. I don’t want to act like a wise-man, telling you that I know it all. I know almost nothing. The struggle is real! When I control myself my life looks great and when I get too relaxed everything falls away. I have a lot of lessons yet to come but the main thing is not to give up, to keep fighting, to keep standing up, to keep pushing and like that you will have the most fulfilling life of all!
*As a close up, I just want to leave one though. I did not hear it from a mentor or read it in a book, it was just the random thoughts of a guy I saw in instagram. He is one of my biggest idols in life and his words just touched me deeply.
” this week I won the hardest and toughest challenge of my life….. 1 year not drinking alcohol! I had to re-learn myself completely, personally, socially and everything else. It was hard, fucking hard, but I actually did it!! I thought I would get shit from everyone but I only had total support which was truly incredible!! If I can do it, then anyone can!
If I can give advice to anyone that is having a bit too much fun partying I say “Party like a rockstar and enjoy the shit out of it! Then party some more! Create epic memories, even though you won’t remember half of them, make some epic mistakes and poor judgement calls, break possessions you love, apologise heaps, get defriended, run around naked, lose days to hangovers, hate yourself, love yourself, and everything in between, avoid looking into the mirror, but when you do look, look hard and long….. and then do all the above again for a couple more years and then look in the mirror again and ask yourself, the question only you will know to ask! The answer is there, right in the back of your heart, gut and eyes! Then make the choice only you can make! I called my own intervention to my best friend and wife! That was my start! And their support blew me away. I then went to Burning Man to go out with a bang but instead found personal spiritual enlightenment and even more support from friends!
And so it began, a starting point…. I then started rewarding myself constantly, I made fun of myself constantly, everything around me grew more positive! I broke down the battle, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, then repeat. And now here I am. It’s a good start, a long way to go and more loopholes to close but I am a better person for it. ”
Chris “Douggs” McDougall
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