Life in 2017 is all about instant gratification. In the super digital age we expect the results now, and the idea of having to actually wait for something is a bit of an alien concept. First-time buyers don’t want to buy an older house as a fixer-upper and add value to it over time, and if we phone a plumber and get a voicemail – we are more likely to hang-up and try someone else than leave a message and wait for a response.
For Valentine’s Day in 2016 I bought my husband vouchers for us to do a Virgin Hot Air Balloon ride which was something that we’d both wanted to do for years. I carefully attached the red voucher envelope to the ribbon of a red heart-shaped balloon, and I wrapped it in a large cardboard box, all secretly done and hidden at my office until the day arrived.
On Valentine’s Day we both looked at the online booking screen with anticipation and booked a suitable date – which coincided with our holiday in the Peak District. The thought of floating above such a picturesque setting filled us with excitement and gave us a day out to look forward to in the middle of our holiday.
As expected, balloon rides are weather (and wind) dependent and so the protocol is that you ring the flight-line number not before 11pm on the night before to be told if your flight is going ahead or not. In this case not. In fact in several other cases not, before flights were suspended completely for the winter period. Each time, the feeling of disappointment – coupled with the fact that we’d sat up late to find out, and arranged childcare for the next day meant that we got to wondering if it would ever happen.
I made the choice at the start of 2017 to pay a £10 per person upgrade; so that we could do a ‘daytime’ or ‘afternoon’ rather than ‘morning’ flight, feeling that it would give us a better chance of good weather, and a greater choice of flight times. Alas not, and over the next few months we booked, and re-booked flights listening to the recorded message until finally on attempt 8 the message was more positive. We really couldn’t believe it, and as it turned out had sort of double booked ourselves, thinking that it would probably be cancelled anyway, which meant a bit of a jiggle needed to take place. The only downside to our positive message was that due to the wind direction we couldn’t go up from Canterbury as originally booked, and needed to drive to an alternative launch site at The Hop Farm at Paddock Wood, so as to not end up in the North Sea.
They tell you to dress warmly, and be ready on time. They do not tell you that you need to help unpack and re-pack the balloon – and until you see it, you will never believe how big it is! We had an amazing adventure, floating silently above the Kent countryside, and from 3000 feet you can see the whole of Kent from Dungeness to Dartford, and over to Eastbourne. We learned a lot from our pilot Damian, including the fact that the noise that the burner gives off, sounds to dogs like the ‘let’s go for a walk whistle’ and as such, as you pass overhead homes and farms, the dogs all come out to see you and bark their heads off!
We landed in Smarden and after packing up the balloon; we shared in a glass of champagne and then went back in the minibus (who had followed us cross-country in a Challenge-Anneka style crusade) to our car at The Hop Farm. A total of a 4 hour experience which also included a participation certificate and a USB stick of our photos and video footage along with a map showing our route.
Was it worth the wait? Definitely, and I would recommend the experience to anyone – it was surreal.
However, I’m lucky that as a business owner, I can control my own diary and book days out pretty much when I like, I’m not sure how people who are employed manage it. The range of dates is not extensive, and with only room for 12 people in the basket, spaces fill quickly. Each time it was cancelled, I went online to the booking system the following morning and selected the next available date – if each time I had needed to speak to a boss and book a day’s annual leave, I’m not sure we would have managed it. To be fair Virgin do extend the validity of your voucher by 6 months each time you need to re-book, so that it doesn’t go out of date but you may need to be flexible with flight locations if you are to get a slot anytime soon.
So that’s now 3 things we’ve ticked off our bucket list this year – and we’re on a roll to do even more next year. We take care that our life is balanced and to us that means fun and adventures, as well as building a successful business and helping clients fulfil their dreams. Let’s get together for coffee and chat about how we can help you with yours.