Leading up to my birthday, I knew there was a special surprise happening on Friday morning, I just didn’t know what. But then I got to thinking about the only clue I had been given – that we’d be waking up extremely early – and then I remembered back to when we first got here and saw hot air balloons in the early morning sky hovering above Melbourne. My tummy instantly dropped and my hands started sweating – was this the surprise my family and Devin had planned for me? On Wednesday night I voiced my concerns about the hot air ballooning being my surprise and my mom’s response was “we can neither confirm or deny”. Unbeknownst me, I had just ruined my own birthday surprise by nailing it square on the head. Because I had a minor freak out on Wednesday night about it though, the morning of my birthday my mom sat me down and told me that a hot air balloon ride was actually the surprise. Long story short, I decided I would be an idiot to pass up such a wonderful opportunity, so this morning we were all up at 3:30am, on our way into the city to start our adventure.

The hot air balloon trip that we took part in was held out in the Yarra Valley, which is about an hour east of Melbourne, hence the early wake up call. We learned that hot air balloon trips typically only take place in the morning because the ground is still cool and the winds are relatively calm. When it starts to heat up, that’s when unstable pockets of air are created and you get bumpier rides – something I would totally not be able to handle. The plan was to go up at sunrise, but I had no idea what kind of preparation went into getting a balloon ready for flight. First off, the balloon itself was huge – 350 cubic feet – so the unpacking, unfolding, and inflating took a little bit of time. As I stood there before boarding the basket, trembling in fear, I realized the thing that scared me the most was watching the flame that provided the heat for the balloon. Not only was the noise insanely loud, the flame itself was terrifying. As we were departing the ground, I was clinging onto my mom and fighting back tears, however as soon as we were in the air, it felt like we were gliding. For the whole hour we spent up in the air, we didn’t experience one single bump of turbulence. I eventually even got up enough courage to peak over the sides! My favorite parts of the whole experience, besides the views of course, were the times where the flame didn’t have to be on because that meant it was absolutely silent; even though we were moving along above the ground at 2200 feet, we could here the cattle below us. It was magical being up in the air like that, with no motor and no noise, and being able to take in so much of the world in every direction.

I haven’t even gone out to celebrate my 21st with my friends yet, but this birthday has already been my favorite. I now truly understand the joy of just being around your loved ones and sharing experiences with them, while not needing anything else to make you happy – just another life lesson to add the collection jar I’ve started since I came to Australia.


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