A Leap Of Faith – From 14,000 Feet
“Do you want to skydive in Saipan?”
Most would reply, “Does it look like I have a death wish?”
And then follow it up with, “Where the hell is Saipan?”
I, too, had the same question. Most people have never even heard of Saipan and couldn’t point it out on a map if they tried. But as our friends in the skydiving community were slowly leaving my hometown of Houston, Texas and venturing to this mysterious island, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why go there? Am I missing something?”
Saipan, the largest island of the Mariana Islands and commonwealth of the United States, is located in the western Pacific, 120 miles north of Guam (if that helps you geographically). This tiny rock, only 12 miles long by 5.6 miles wide, is known for its significance in World War II.
As to “why” our friends were choosing to move to Saipan, I could at least see the obvious feature: it’s stunningly beautiful.
However, when it comes to finding out much about what living in Saipan is actually like, I learned that Google, the know-er of all things and the end all be all of arguments in bars, surprisingly doesn’t have much to report about this place. Information online is scarce and wildly outdated.
But that didn’t stop me. Intrigued by the island and the adventures it had to offer, I decided to flip my world upside down and throw myself into the discomfort of the unknown with my husband, John, who applied to work for Skydive Saipan. He was hired in less than a week and off we went!
Look at this wild man. Would you accept a skydive with him? You should. Over 3,000 people have and he personally has 17 years in the sport with 6,500 total skydives. He’s got your back, literally.
Contrary to popular belief, skydiving is very safe.
We have quickly discovered that island life is very different from life in the mainland US. Saipan shares a lot of the quirks of other tropical islands, as detailed by the writers on this site. From the relaxed culture, to adjusting and understanding island time, to the often times impossible to find grocery list items, to the boonie dogs owning the streets.
One thing that I think is different about Saipan is the tourism. With our close proximity to Asia, business is a-boomin’, almost non-stop throughout the year. Droves of tourists are ready to be hurled out of an airplane from 14,000 feet to free fall at 120 miles per hour to what most would consider their impending death, only to be saved by the chute at 5,000 feet with just enough time to relax and enjoy the view.
The majority of skydives are made by tourists from Asia looking to fully experience all the island has to offer and check another item off their bucket list. Naturally with the territory comes a language barrier, although most of the staff speak different languages and can accommodate everyone.
Most people have never dreamed of making a living as a skydiver. It’s a pretty sweet gig, but the customers really make it something special. On a couple of different occasions, John has had the pleasure and opportunity to be a part of some unique human interactions that don’t always happen in other types of jobs.
A couple of the quirkiest include:
After John has introduced himself, he’ll ask the customer, “How are you doing today?” For some reason, they almost always respond, after some thought, with their age.
Typically overwhelmed with emotion after their first skydive, the women will frequently try to kiss John. I guess you could say he swept them off their feet? Not only do the women try, but so do the men. I don’t blame them. John’s pretty cute, if I do say so myself.
John always wears polarized sunglasses while jumping, which also make an amazing mirror for checking yourself out. The women will literally grab John’s beard, turn his face to theirs, and check out their makeup and hair in the glasses. He happily obliges. I don’t blame them, it’s not easy to look cute while petrified, falling at 120 miles per hour.
This one is my most favorite: While under canopy, John had a customer, overwhelmed with adrenaline, start screaming, “I love Saipan!” At one point later on, during his high, he then screamed, “SAIPAN IS MY WIFE!” John was in tears laughing. Now when we are out and about, we will randomly yell, “Saipan is my wife!”
My Second tandem. Pro tip: Smile to avoid your cheeks flapping!
Beyond jumping out of planes, our move to Saipan has been every bit the adventure we were looking for. Island life has captured out hearts and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Do you have an out of the ordinary job on a rock too?