In between the envy-inducing snaps on exotic shores and obligatory check-ins from airports all around the world, I have been hiding a deep, dark secret: I hate flying.
My first plane ride was from New York City to Upstate New York with my two cousins and my uncle, and I remember the experience being surprisingly pleasant. The short 2-hour flight remained smooth and unchallenged from any turbulence the whole way. Aside from our “long” wait to board (in essence, any wait is long for a 6-year-old), I can only remember the joy of tearing open a foiled package of Planters salted peanuts.
It would be another 15 years before I boarded another plane again. The treacherous events from 9/11, the idea that someone would be evil enough to hi-jack and crash a plane into a building, was enough to keep me grounded. On top of that scary prospect, I never enjoyed being way up in the air — whether it’s on a roller coaster, ascending a skyscraper via elevator, or 30,000 feet up over water and land on a fast-moving plane.
I was forced to take a flight from New York to North Carolina for my sophomore year of college alone, and, naturally, I cried like a baby. Since that point on I became a BFF to the open road, and would drive 10 hours from the South to the North whenever I wanted to get home.
So how did I get from being a petrified chicken when it came to flying to now owning 12 — and soon to be 14 — passport stamps? Sorry to disappoint if you assumed a magical pill was somehow involved (though a few sips of alcohol have been known to help), but I still suffer from anxiety, and how severe it gets varies from flight to flight.
My first international trip was to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic in 2009. (Ed. Note: This was obviously before all the recent immigration turmoil surfaced.)
I was scared shit-less. After a five-hour flight, I landed and the world did not end. In fact, the world got better. There were people in the airport, clamoring to service me, grabbing my luggage and asking me if I needed a ride to my resort. For a New York City girl who couldn’t hail down a yellow taxi with ten $100 bills, this was a welcome luxury that was worth all the anxiety. When I reached my hotel I was greeted with a refreshing beverage and my bags were taken up to my room. The next few days would be spent tasting wonderful foods, seeing unique animals, going on water adventures, and getting to know the Dominican culture. From that moment on I was addicted to the travel life.
I suffer the most anxiety during take-off and all the moments before reaching that cruise-control zone of 30,000 feet. Basically, for the first 30 minutes I am praying to God fervently and breathing deeply. I grab a book, and try to read as much as possible to get my eyelids nice and heavy. I don’t touch coffee or tea because the caffeine will keep me up. If I’m lucky enough to score the coveted window seat, then I shut that sucker tight because a wing flying at 500 mph is not a sight I want to see. After I wake up from that long “book nap” I try to entertain myself with hour-long TV shows or movies on the flight. Each episode watched is a leg closer to the end of the long journey. Whenever I get really nervous, I remember the pilots are trained to keep the plane up in the air.
But mostly how I tackle anxiety is by understanding that even in my daily life I don’t have control. I could step out into the street and get hit by a bus, or have a freak accident in my bathtub. There is no predicting when our time will come, so it’s best to enjoy every minute of life right now.
So here it is: if you have a fear of flying, please, get over it. The world is waiting out there ready for your to explore it. Check out the pyramids in Egypt; see the Mayan ruins in Mexico; or what about Stonehenge? Don’t let transportation stand in between your ability to go out there and see what else the world has to offer.