Hard Realities While on the Road


Two things can bring my adventurous and curious nature to a screeching halt.  Death is one of them.  Family is the other.  Both of them have stirred things up for me.  My posts had gone to nil because I was pretty much locked in my bedroom for over a week.

Eli Thompson a jumper from the Red Bull Air Force died in late August.  I had only met him a few times, but he was a part of my base family.  Considering that Shane McConkey (another Red Bull team member and the man who took me on my first base jump) just died earlier this year I was reminded that as a base jumper, I’m knocking on death’s door with every jump.  They were both married and had children, and their deaths remind me that even family bonds have their limits.

Then, a double fatal skydiving accident took the lives of Barb Cuddy and my good friend Robby Bigley.  I jumped at the same dropzone with both of them during the majority of my time skydiving.  In my five years of parachuting, I had never known a jumper that has died in a skydiving accident.  Robby and Barb both had thousands of jumps and were highly trained in their disciplines.  Robby was recently married just weeks before his death.

A few days later, Leroy Buckley, another base jumper, was found dead at the base of a cliff in Utah.  He had been missing for over a week, and I was so upset that I was not able to help look for him.  His last email to me was just days before he went missing.  He didn’t know I was in Colombia, and wanted to save me from boredom with a few jumps with him.

The good news (yet, still news that’s pulling me back home) is that my brother and sister-in-law are going to have a son later this week.  He was not supposed to be born until later in October, but he’s been trying to come to this world early.  We were all quite scared.  Luckily, he decided until the scary preterm part was over, and his arrival will be welcomed whenever he’s ready.

If I was in the States right now I would be bouncing around to funerals, wakes, memorials, and hospitals.  I would be just as cried out as I am now, but I would have been able to cry with my friends and jumping family.  It is so hard to be here sometimes, yet I am also glad I don’t have to face all of it quite so head on.

Soon, my nephew will be born.  I will have more energy to explore this amazing city, and posts will be a bit more normal.  Now…where’s a good building to jump?

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I love relaxing and enjoying the view of life. Whether the view is from the top of a BASE object, or from my balcony in Envigado, Colombia. I love life when it's up, and I'm trying harder to love life when it's down as well. My biggest loves in life are (in order!) Family, BASE, Music, Boys that play music, and Alcohol. I get along with everyone that doesn't take me too seriously, and with people that are ok with the fact that you should disregard almost anything I say when I'm drunk!



  1. Holly – so sorry to hear about these tragic losses. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose someone you care about while living abroad.

    Be careful with those base jumps!

  2. So sorry for your losses Holly.

    Whether you are home or away, dealing with a sudden death of a loved one is extremely difficult. I lost a close cousin while away in Thailand. The shock of his death was one thing, but trying to handle my emotions in the “Land of Smiles” was another. Outward displays of emotion are greatly frowned upon, so I had a difficult time trying to find the right way to mourn while continuing on with my work. Plus the guilt of not being there for family members is also great.

    But as in all things, your sadness will ease with time. Find ways of celebrating their lives, not their deaths.

  3. Wow, sorry to read about your loses.

    One time I was on an adventure in Japan, actually on Sado Island in a pre-cellphone and email era (hard to even remember) when I learned of my Grandmother’s death through a message. It was not easy, and not easy to get home. (I still thank NorthWest for helping me) But hopefully your returning to the States will comfort family and friends and provide a bright spot on difficult days.

    and now that i found this blog thanks to RTWdave, I plan to learn more Medellin and Colombia.

    .-= craig zabransky´s last blog ..StayAdventurous: I disagree, when u find ur path obstacles vanish. RT @earthXplorer If u find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t go anywhere. #TT =-.

    • Hi Craig, thanks for stopping by. As far as I could read, Holly isn’t planning to return home as a result of all these events. She arrived in Colombia just after I had left – around late July.

  4. Holly, You do not know me, I am Robby’s Mom and I was searching different articles about skydiving on the internet and came across yours. We, as you can well imagine are devastated and it seems our world has come to a stand still at this time in our lives. Both, Bob and myself realized what the risk was as Robby continued to pursue his hobby “skydiving”. The funeral was an amazing turn-out of all Robs’s acquaintances from early years to present. Someone told us the count was over 600 people attending. He touched the lives of so many people and we are and will always be so very proud of what he did and how he had such a wonderful insite to everyone feelings and life itself!! If you wish to see any of the after photos from the wonderful celebration, e-mail me and I will be glad to send some of those to you. As his wife of two weeks stated at the funeral, we need to channel robby and keep him in our memories and he will always be in my heart forever. Thank you for writing. Elly

    • Hi Elly,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I know Holly’s post certainly gave me, my parents, and other readers I know of reason to pause and appreciate life.

      Best regards.

      Medellin Living

  5. So, the question is, if our lives touch so many people, and if a tremendous hole will be left if we die, why do we keep doing it? Why do we on one hand mourn the loss of our friends, but then make choices that significantly increase the odds that we, ourselves, will be the ones mourned next?

    As background, I knew Robby almost 10 years, Barb about 6, and Eli about 12. I was working with Eli on the road for the 12 weeks before he died; we were sharing drinks at the Hornerpub the night before.

    I am making the assumption that this is your first year of having this sport eat more than 4 of your friends… trust me, if you are in this far, it won’t be the last. When we jump, we like to spout poetry about seizing life, but the reality is that what we do is selfish to the ones who love us. The note might as well read: “I’m getting MY thrills for ME at ANY cost, and if I fail, well, you guys, my loved ones, have to deal with it. Sorry everyone, enjoy the memorial.”

    Hard words for hard times. I’m as guilty of it as anyone.

    Don’t get me wrong, giving up jumping won’t save your life… but after your experiences of this year, do you really think that when your loved ones know that you “died doing what you love”, it is really going to make them feel better about not getting to hug you again?

    • Hi Eric,

      I was saddened to read Holly’s post about the loss of so many people in such a short time. Having skydived just once, I had the chance to experience the thrill of a freefall, and the minute I landed, I wanted to go back up again. I imagine it only gets more exciting the more comfortable you become.

      Thank you for taking the time to leave such thoughtful comments. Be safe!

      Medellin Living

  6. Sgt. Buckley was one of my drill instructors when I went to basic. He showed us videos of his jumps, and he told us that we could do anything we put our minds to. A great loss.