Pounding warmly down, the sun rested high in the sky. Surrounding locals lay out on verdant grass, bronzing their bodies and lazily relaxing. The river rushed rapidly and reflected a gorgeous cerulean blue. The riverbanks, laden with swimmers just exiting the water, contained a current that could propel a swimmer downstream on its own. During this impromptu excursion on a school trip to Europe, the group and I basked happily on the banks of a little-known river in Bern, Switzerland.
Before we could swim, our leader explained the proper method of immersing ourselves into the river and how to use special red poles to reach land. These poles jutted out of the waves on the left bank. To get back on land, I needed to maneuver close to a pole, latch onto it, and pull myself close enough to scramble up the pebble-ridden bank. Soon, the group of students ran freely about the riverbanks, chatting amicably, tanning, and gathering the courage to brave the noisy waters.
Quickly enough, I slipped into the exquisite river and found myself towed downstream. The water stretched me into a supine position, feet floating in front of me with my face to the sky. Laughing lightheartedly, I floated along until I saw a pole and climbed out. My friends and I spent the next hour or so slipping into the river and shimmying our ways back to shore, but some of the other students grew bored. They decided to take river swimming to a new level.
“Did you hear?” my friend Michael asked me.
“About what?” I inquired, eager to find out what he knew.
“Apparently there’s a bridge down that pathway,” he gestured to a winding concrete walking path, “and everyone’s going to go jump off it,” he said excitedly.
Although the majority of teens surrounding me happily entertained the idea of propelling themselves off of a bridge, I felt justifiably apprehensive. I walked alongside my peers to scope out the situation. The bridge, about twenty feet above water, appeared to be built from reasonably sturdy metal. Unfortunately, it also appeared gigantic, frightening, and utterly horrifying. If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you? I repeated the old adage to myself, questioning if anyone ever contemplated it coming into effect. There I stood, surrounded by travelers eager to plunge into the river. There I stood, nerves on end, anxiously mulling over the pros and cons of taking of risk. I’ll never have this chance again, I reminded myself. But if I jump, I could get really hurt; I could drown; I could die. There I stood, watching those around me hurry to the bridge, mount the railing, and jump into the water.
Ready to go, Michael looked at me and said, “You ready?”
“Um, I guess I could go see what it looks like from up on the bridge,” I replied, frightened to view the imposing water from above.
Surprising even myself, I walked right up onto the bridge. Planting my feet firmly on the ground, I cautiously peered over the edge and assessed the water one more time.
“Okay,” I said to Michael and my other friends, “I’m going to do it.” They smiled, and then rushed over the edge of the bridge. They looked up at me from the river, encouraging me to join them.
Finally, I hoisted my legs over the bridge’s thick railing, took one last deep breath, and plummeted. Wind rushed about me, causing my damp hair to whip painfully at my neck. My toes curled with excited anxiety, and I clenched my fingers into tight little fists. As my feet splashed against the water, I closed my eyes and quickly prepared for a cold shock to pass over my entire body. The river’s cool waves certainly felt shocking, but they also invigorated me. It felt good, better than I could ever have predicted. That day, everyone else really did jump off a bridge. And I jumped too, only because they did. I learned to be fearless and loved every second of it.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.