Jan 28, 2020
Our Near-Death Experiences Made Us Dare to Cutaway
After surviving life-threatening situations, we cut away the tangles in our lives to focus on what makes us tick - creating versatile products for life in the outdoors.
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Niklas woke up one morning and shortly after he opened his eyes there were a thousand questions in his head. “Where am I? What happened to my hair? Why am I here? I have a beard now, how long have I been here?”
I didn’t know he was to be my future fiancé back then, but the picture is taken a few seconds before Niklas’s life almost disappeared. He was in a skydiving accident where he collided with another skydiver, which lead him to fall unconscious at 250km/h from 3500 meters above the Earth. He was taken to the hospital with major head trauma and had to undergo brain surgery. Not long after, 560 kilometers away, I was severely ill and was taken to the hospital. I felt like I was dying and had to undergo acute surgery. I ended up with septic shock and, as a result, most of my organs such as my heart, lungs, and kidneys were failing. Both of us ended up in comas.
Against all odds, we both miraculously survived
The prognosis was critical for both of us, and it’s scary to think how close it was for this story to never be written. Against all odds, we both miraculously survived with no major permanent harm. The summer after this, I met Niklas for the first time. Since we both had spent time struggling against death, we had a lot of similar thoughts and values. This made us connect hard and become best friends fast. When you’re in a hospital bed not knowing if you’re going to make it, you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done with your life and what you’d like to do differently if you get the chance. When I talked about these thoughts with Niklas I felt truly understood for the first time. Getting a second chance in life feels like a big jackpot. After thinking you are going to lose everything, you know exactly which goals matter to you, and it feels even more vital to fulfill them. You start to appreciate every little detail as if it was the first time.
People thought Niklas would be more careful and never skydive again, but the effect was something else. He was more aware that life could end at any time, so he felt the rush to experience all the things he wanted to do. The difference is that he started to think twice. I had dreamt a long time about skydiving, and it was one of the things I regretted not doing, and when I met Niklas, who was a skydiver, it felt even more meant to be.
Sometimes you just have to let it burn.
The storm didn’t end here, soon after I started to recover, there was a fire at my house. It was a surreal experience watching my entire life burn down to the ground. Luckily no one was hurt, but I felt beaten black and blue from life, with no other possessions than the clothes on my body. Looking past what I’d lost, there was a subtle freeing feeling. I can’t control most of the things happening around me and sometimes you just have to let it burn. I had a blank paper and it was completely up to me to decide what to put on that paper.
After all our long talks I had started to fall in love with Niklas. With all the fatiguing misery in the past, we were both determined to use our second life doing what makes us tick. We decided to move into his van and fulfill our shared dreams we’d spent so many nights talking about.
Read next on TOJ: #VanLife Survival – What I’ve Learned While Living On The Road
All the contrast of living solely towards our goals and experiencing new things have made the last few years feel twice as long as daily life back home. Our activities such as paragliding and BASE jumping force us to focus and be in the now. Our regular outdoor adventures have been the best way for us to cutaway the routines and rehab. It allows us to choose experiences over materialistic things and comforts. When you’ve had death around the corner you’ll realize what really matters.
When you’ve had death around the corner you’ll realize what really matters
Niklas and I have a common desire to be present in nature and excel in our lives outdoors. We wanted to fulfill these needs without overpacking our tiny home, so we decided to create a multi-purpose blanket we could use in any situation. In Niklas’ skydiving accident, the reserve parachute shot out at 200 meters height and saved his life. He was so tangled in his reserve parachute that the paramedics had to cut him loose. It was no longer viable as a parachute, but the remaining textile was enough to use in a prototype of the blanket.
We used the prototype on all our travels. Wherever we went, people always asked us where we got it. So to make the outdoors more accessible, we decided to share our creations by starting the brand Cutaway. In skydiving, the act of cutting away your tangled parachute and deploying the reserve is called “cutaway.” It was quite clear what the company name was going to be. Cutting away the tangles in your life to focus on what makes you tick is the philosophy we want to share. After a lot of testing and feedback, we’ve finally launched our versatile blanket on Kickstarter. Our regular BASE jumps make our tummies buzz, but cutting away our full-time jobs for our nomadic lives and shared goals is definitely our biggest jump so far.
I’m grateful our near-death experiences led us to who we are today, a healthy couple in love, happy being able to build a lifestyle based on our values. It’s been a real rollercoaster getting here, but I don’t think any of us live that perfect and easy life depicted in social media. This story is a humble hint about how behind every image we see, there’s a normal human experiencing the same hazards as everybody else.
If you want to read more about what our accidents/incidents have led to and our project, visit our Cutaway Kickstarter campaign.