VR Skydiving with iFly Chicago

The travel enthusiast in me is always Google searching the digital landscape for new ideas. Whenever I’m not out doing something, I’m thinking about it. And I’ve been getting curious about the idea of Travel VR, where the wild places of the world are brought to you in an immersive digital format. iFly Indoor Skydiving has flight simulation centers all across the country. Using a powerful wind tunnel, they harness the feeling of a freefall with VR gear, simulating skydives over Hawaii, Dubai, California, and the Swiss Alps. It can be the next practical option if, like me, you won’t be making it to Dubai anytime soon.

I went to the Lincoln Park, Chicago location recently after work. After a short orientation video, I suited up for my first “jump”. The first two flights were without VR – the intent being to get first time jumpers comfortable floating on an upward blast of wind. The instructor stood in the middle to help stabilize and keep me from flailing and spinning around in the tunnel. The main thing they told me to do is relax – something I never do the first time with anything. I gradually got more stable with each flight, but my first visit overall was tense and challenging. For the last flight, the instructor gave me a VR headset and loaded up the Hawaii jump. I floated in the middle of the tunnel, watching a 60 second video of divers over the Hawaiian coast. It was cool, but I was still too in my head to be totally in the moment.

I came back a week later and felt better overall. I could finally relax in a fixed position. When the instructor noticed, he started showing me maneuvers, like how to turn simply by moving my hands. It’s always a fun challenge to test my physical and mental limits against natural forces – whether they be water, gravity, or in this case, wind. For the VR simulation, I tried the wingsuit jump in the Swiss Alps. It was altogether better and more immersive than before, as I pretended to glide between the high alpine ridges, nearly skirting the treetops like a daredevil.

This was all fun and will have to do until I get the chance to dive for real over blue water. If it works out, it might happen later this year.