Traveling is my passion. I travel, a lot. I love to hop, skip, and jump around the globe but sometimes getting there is a problem for me. The truth? I have a fear of flying!
I know; it’s ridiculous. I’m a travel blogger because I love traveling. I’ve taken 39 flights since April 2014 when I quit my job to travel. Traveling is my thing. Still, I’m afraid.
It wasn’t always like this. I used to be a fearless kid who thought she was invincible, but that’s just not the case anymore. I remember exactly the first time I started feeling anxious was when I was returning from spring break in Jamaica with my best friends in 2010. I started to feel claustrophobic and anxious despite the short duration of the flight. I internalized the feeling without telling anyone, but I was freaking out inside. That anxious feeling of being stuck in one place until the end of the flight has haunted me ever since.
And turbulence. I hate turbulence. I always think the worst when my flight encounters turbulence. I start to think about what the last things were that I said to my family and loved ones and all the things I haven’t yet accomplished in life. This sounds dramatic but it’s hard to think anything else in the moment! I read up on it; I know turbulence is random and to be expected, but it is certainly not fun to experience.
When I returned from backpacking through parts of Southeast Asia, I was magically bumped up to business class on my leg from Hong Kong to New York. I was given champagne, the food was delicious, and the fancy headphones for entertainment were awesome; I felt like a celebrity. When I went to sleep, I reclined so that I could sleep horizontally and was ready for some shut-eye on the 16 hour flight, which is one of the longest flights that anyone can take.
Then the turbulence hit. I experienced a few hours of constant turbulence and truly thought I was going to be meeting with my maker at any moment. It was terrifying, but eventually subsided and I fell asleep. When I awoke, it was as if nothing had happened. In fact, the man sitting across the aisle from me said he didn’t even notice it during the night! It blew my mind.
That’s the worst experience I’ve had until recently. I jumped on a quick flight from Barcelona to Madrid. What was supposed to be a 75 minute fight turned into a 4 hour ordeal.
It started with a “minor” problem underneath the plane that took an hour to fix while all passengers waited on board. Then when we were finally in flight we were ready to descend on Madrid, we ended up circling the airport for an hour and no one told the passengers why. I started to get very nervous since the flight attendant announced we’d be landing any minute and never did. When we finally did descend, forceful turbulence shook the plane so much, I began thinking the worst once again. The mysterious loud sounds coming from underneath the plane certainly didn’t help. Luckily, I was seated next to a sweet Spanish woman who actually held my hand to soothe me as the tears started welling up in my eyes and we shared a few choice Spanish words about the flight attendants who hadn’t given us any information about what was going on.
Usually I internalize these fears, but this time, I just couldn’t help it. I was scared. The feeling of helplessness just wouldn’t dissipate. The heartbreaking plane crashes that have occurred in the last year or so certainly don’t help with my fear.
The statistical truth? Flying is safer now than it has been in a long, long time. I’ve heard that, then I researched it, and I believe it. And yet, statistics don’t really help me when my plane is moving every which-way.
To abate my fear of flying, I do a few things:
I meditate. I close my eyes, take deep breaths and meditate. Usually I say a Hindu prayer that I learned as a child. Honestly, it helps to take my mind off of what’s going on around me.
I force myself to sleep. I try to sleep as much as I can on flights, and if I can’t, I pretend. I’m only fooling myself, but sometimes it actually works.
I divert my attention. For long flights, I actually feel more comfortable and I read or watch movies. When unexpected turbulence hits, I focus instead on transporting myself from the airplane to the story.
I assert myself. I tell myself that today is not my final day. I haven’t seen enough of the world, and it hasn’t seen enough of me.