Facing my Fears – Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava, Spain

| October 1, 2012 | 68 Comments

“Everyone holding on tight?”

“Brace! Brace! Brace!”

Not really the words I wanted to be coming out of our hot air balloon pilots mouth as we descended towards earth.

Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava Spain

Even though I have always wanted to go hot air ballooning, I have not pushed it. You see, while Adela is not a fan of being underground, I hate being above ground. High above ground that is.

I don’t do heights very well.

So how did I find myself on a crystal clear summer morning above the stunning Costa Brava coastline? Being told to “brace” as we descended towards a tiny clearing between trees and cornfields?

Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava, Spain

Rising before dawn is usually not a problem for me. I love sunrises. Even being told we have an awesome travel adventure high up in the sky doesn’t faze me this early.

Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava Spain

It is not until we are actually watching the balloons be filled with scorching flames that I begin to worry a little bit. How is a little bit of hot air meant to hold 10 full-grown adults up 1,000 meters in the sky? Not to mention 10 adults that have been gorging themselves silly on food and drink for the past week.

Climbing into what can only be described as a fruit basket for humans, I begin snapping away with my camera to avoid looking anyone else in the eyes in case they see my fear.

Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava Spain

Pulling my eye from the viewfinder I quickly realise we have already drifted several hundred meters above the ground. I was so pre-occupied that I didn’t even notice how gently we had taken off.

Maybe it has something to do with the sunrise peaking its blazing head above the Costa Brava skyline. Or the tight space we have managed to all squeeze ourselves into. Or maybe it is the extreme stillness and quiet between bursts of flame.

I realise it is not that bad up here. I am even breathing normally and able to look over the edge of the basket.

Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava Spain

Okay, maybe not such a good idea.

But I am able to gaze into the distance towards the Pyrenees and across the stunning Costa Brava landscape. Farmland and Medieval towns drift silently below our feet. People go about their daily lives without even realising we are drifting above them.

Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava Spain

In fact, it is not until we are starting to descend that the irrational fear begins to take hold again.

Our Spanish speaking pilot is gesticulating to our guide and interrupter that we are all meant to be doing something important. They both give nervous laughs before falling silent again.

Okay now would be the perfect opportunity to have finally learnt a second language like I promised myself at the beginning of the year.

Turns out that since we basically have no steering ability we are at the winds mercy. And with the coastline rapidly approaching it is time to take this contraption down to earth.

“Brace! Brace! Brace!”

Eyeing up the only clear patch of earth within a mile, our pilot is all business. The trees and houses that looked like miniature toys just a moment ago suddenly loom large directly in front of us.

Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava Spain

Instead of gently floating down in replication of our takeoff, we are drifting along quite quickly thanks to the wind picking up speed in the last 10 minutes.

My knuckles turn white as we brace our knees and back against the flimsy wicker basket.

And even though the command to brace is just a pre-caution, we still manage to bounce hard 3 times before settling down. A laugh escapes my lips as the tension eases from my muscles. And from the looks on the others faces, I am not the only one to be relieved we are back on solid earth again.

I had done it. I had conquered my fear.

Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava Spain

And if I ever get the chance to go hot air ballooning ever again, then I would jump at the chance.

I want to give a huge thanks to our incredibly talented pilot from Globus Costa Brava for taking me on a ride that will be forever remembered. And of course the extremely wonderful team at Costa Brava tourism board for helping me face my fears by organising the hot air ballooning in Costa Brava, Spain.

This is a post from a series called Facing my Fears. It helps us to step outside our comfort zone, in comfort. Check out the rest of the series here.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Costa Brava tourism board, but as always our fears, stories and photos are all our own.

Do you have a fear of heights or another phobia? How did you face your fears?

About the Author ()

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

Comments (68)

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  1. Jennifer says:

    What an amazing experience. I’ve had a fascination with hot air balloons since I was a child. My husband and I were even married in one (though we never got our ride because of high winds). It’s been 10 1/2 years that we’ve been married and we’ve still not been on a balloon ride together.
    Jennifer recently posted..Seven Must See Sights in SarajevoMy Profile

  2. I, too, have a stubborn fear of heights (fear of falling, really) which must be overcome now and again–including the time we had the chance to go hot air ballooning in Page, Arizona. I totally agree that the ascent (peaceful, almost dreamy) and the actual ballooning at altitude were no problem. I actually found the silence and the smoothness and being at the whim of the breeze sort of addicting. Landing, as you now know, is another story altogether! Here’s to doing it anyway!
    Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad – Alegría, El SalvadorMy Profile

  3. Laurence says:

    Vera and I wondered if ballooning was a bad idea with a fear of heights but we braved it and have to agree, what a spectacular thing it was. Love the idea of a fruit basket for humans too :-)
    Laurence recently posted..Overeating in Costa BravaMy Profile

  4. Well done, Cole! It’s not easy to do something like that when you’re scared. I hate heights – I probably would have been dangling on the outside of the basket trying to jump back down. I can manage the odd mountain walk, but mountains are at least stuck to the ground. You do make it seem a little less scary… but brace brace?? Maybe next year :-)
    Leyla Giray recently posted..The Train in Spain Stays Mainly on the PlainMy Profile

  5. Vera says:

    Oh man, awesome post -I also didn’t even know you weren’t good with heights! And by the way, it’s not the hot air that makes balloning possible… It’s MAGIC;)!
    Vera recently posted..Overeating in Costa BravaMy Profile

  6. Christina says:

    Was it scary?! I always see hot air balloons but don’t know if I would like the feeling as I hate rollercoasters and such!
    Christina recently posted..Europe, Three Weeks InMy Profile

  7. Ines says:

    Your pics are beautiful! I want to do the same with my husband but he doesn’t do heights very well neither. I will share this with him and hopefully we will find a great place to go hot air ballooning soon!

  8. Amanda says:

    Well congrats for facing your fear! Hopefully the views and experience were worth the moments of being afraid! It looks gorgeous.
    Amanda recently posted..Athens, I’m Just Not That Into YouMy Profile

  9. Awesome views! That’s something I still definitely want to experience :) Looks so much fun, and good on you for doing it despite your fear of heights mate!
    Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad recently posted..Top 5 Fun Things to Do with a BoardMy Profile

  10. Thanks for all your comments!!! For us it was a pleaser to fly with you!!!!

    See you another time, and i hope…a 1000m!!

    Joan (globus Empordà)

  11. Congrats on conquering the fear. I really need to do this. I see hot air balloons in Orlando all the time and keep saying I should. Perhaps it is time…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Epcot Food & Wine Festival Survival GuideMy Profile

  12. Peter Lee says:

    I always wanted to go on a hot air balloon, but I’m not going to lie, I will probably have the fears before I step into the basket. I always wonder how they know where they’ll come down — and how they coordinate the pick-up!

    • They were constantly on their radios telling the pickup guys where they were “hoping” to land. Unfortunately they have very little control apart from going up or down! But totally safe :)

  13. Yay! You did it! Thanks for the encouragement to try hot air ballooning sometime. Like you, I’ve been afraid of the whole idea — way up there in a little basket, etc. But you’ve given me courage. Next time, I’m going to do it! Maybe.

  14. God this looks amazing. What an experience. I LOVED the Costa Brava and am now pencilling this in for my next trip up there.
    Julie Sheridan recently posted..Dog days in BarcelonaMy Profile

  15. I am going back to Cappadocia in December and hope to combat my fears so I can do a balloon trip there. Nerve wracking just thinking about it!!

  16. Always been a bit peckish about heights. Still need to try a hot air balloon ride. Talk about spectacular views here!
    Tim @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted..Comment on How Moving Abroad Can Save Your Life by T.W. AndersonMy Profile

    • It was why I was so scared to try it Tim, but was surprisingly calm. I can’t stand being able to see between my feet through glass elevators and grates etc. So very glad the basket was woven tightly ;) Also the views were distracting!

  17. Good on you for facing your fears!! I don’t know if I would willingly put myself in a hot air balloon – but I might do it if it was part of a press trip or something – I tend to need a bit of peer pressure to go outside my comfort zone
    Jade – OurOyster.com recently posted..Travelling With Children – Interview With Discover Share InspireMy Profile

    • We love stepping outside our comfort zone… most of the time haha. The hot air balloon was actually really easy to do once I realised we were already off the ground. Just keep snapping photos and you will be fine ;)

  18. Joy says:

    That looks amazing! What a place to face your fear! I once faced my fear of heights dangling from 300+ feet in the air at a theme park in Orlando, FL. At the time I was working on a TV stunt show and agreed to test this stunt. I have no idea what I was thinking. At the time I guess I was easily influenced by peer pressure. I was practically in tears the entire time but I did it! I still have a fear of heights but I try not to let it hold me back.

    Just found your blog by the way. Love it. I think you guys are quite witty! :-) I love the name and can’t wait to read more.
    Joy recently posted..Measuring success when learning a foreign languageMy Profile

  19. Good on ya!
    I’ve often thought about doing a hot air balloon ride – what is it that’s so enticing about them, even for us vertigo sufferers – but can’t quite bring myself to do it.
    After reading this though… I just might. Maybe ;)

  20. Addison S. @ Visa Hunter says:

    Congratulations, Cole, the pictures tell what I am sure was an incredible flight. Overcoming fears when traveling is such a rewarding experience and often puts many things in perspective. A hot air balloon ride has to be up there alongside a helicopter flight on every traveler’s bucket list.

  21. Funny post! I was imagining all of you there after the brace command :) I would love to do hot air balloon. It is one of the very few things I have not done in the air yet :)
    crazy sexy fun traveler recently posted..Vadjutka jewelry in BudapestMy Profile

  22. Gosh, that’s such an adrenalin rush! Though I don’t fear eights, I have this silly notion about hot air ballooning. No matter how much imagination and scientific calculations I put in, I really can’t assure myself that a basket can really hold me. The fear of falling mid air doesn’t let me enjoy this
    fun. Perhaps next time I’ll be brave enough.

  23. Abby says:

    Amazing! I’ve sky-dived, love roller coasters, blah blah. But was TERRIFIED hot air ballooning. I signed up so excited, and once we got up there, I was a mess until landing. I didn’t think the basket was high enough to prevent me from falling out lol. So congrats on beating that fear!

    • I haven’t sky dived (pulled out at the last minute) but DO love roller coasters! I am not sure why I didn’t find it as scary as I thought it would be. I think I was too distracted by all the views :)

  24. Really like that last photo. Never done a hot air balloon ride.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..9 Must See Sights in SeattleMy Profile

  25. sanjeewa padmal travel blogger says:

    Hot air ballooning is a great. Simply because the bird eye view that you can get.

  26. Laurie says:

    After reading you post I’m going to try it. I have issues like this. Cannot belive how good your pictures are. WELL DONE

  27. I also don’t do well with heights but I’m a strong believer of facing your fears. Glad you got over it and were able to share this story.
    Lorenzo Gonzalez recently posted..My First Dive in BelizeMy Profile

  28. vira says:

    omygod,that looks a lotta fun! I’ve been wanting to go on a hot air balloon but haven’t had the chance to do it. I was supposed to go when I was in Vang Vieng but then a storm hit the town so they had to cancel the ride :(
    I also have a fear of height, but it’s more when I have to ‘fall’ from such height, so I couldn’t get myself to jump down to water from a few meters cliff, I haven’t succeeded to overcome my fear :(
    Good for you for overcoming your fear! It must have been hard! :D

  29. Jessica says:

    The photo looking over the edge made me nervous and it was just a picture! Congrats on facing your fears, looks like it was worth it!

    • I still get a little scared when I look at that picture Jessica and I was up there! It is funny, when I was looking through the lens I didn’t have a problem with the height. When I look back now it scared me!

  30. Well done guys! I don’t do heights very well either, so I understand your fear. This is why I love to travel so much- to overcome my fears and learn something more about yourself. The view from the balloon’s stunning. How much guys did you buy for the flight? (if I might ask). Always wondering how much it could cost ;-) and how long it lasts.
    Agness (@Agnesstramp) recently posted..Sri Lankan Street Food on a Budget (My Profile

    • We were in the air for just over an hour I think. But they also provide breakfast and Cava (Spanish champagne) after the flight, so all up it is more like a 2-3 hour experience. It costs roughly $160 if I remember rightly. Check out the Globus Emporda site ;)

  31. Perfect timing – I’m hoping to go hot air ballooning next weekend in Portugal. I’ll be leaving my husband firmly on the ground though as his fear of heights is too strong for this kind of fun!
    Julie Dawn Fox recently posted..Travel Theme: Bright, shiny PortugalMy Profile

  32. Alexandra says:

    when I went hot air ballooning in Turkey I was surprised by how quiet it was and how oddly enough you didn’t feel that high even though you really were. I would do it again in a heartbeat!
    Alexandra recently posted..To be or not to be a tourist in Barcelona with WimduMy Profile

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