‘Surely you’re getting used to it by now?’ I’ve lost count of how many people have said this to me over the last year. I’ve often wondered myself why I’m not used to it, why the thought of it still fills me with dread and makes me feel quite queasy. Surely prolonged exposure to the thing you’re frightened of should slowly desensitise you to it… no? Well, I’ve tried that and it’s cost me a lot of money doing so. You see, I’m afraid of flying.
This year I have been on quite a few flights… let me count
Bristol -> Edinburgh
Edinburgh -> Bristol
London -> Dubai
Dubai -> Singapore
Singapore -> Thailand
Thailand -> Singapore
Singapore -> Dubai
Dubai -> London
Bristol -> Amsterdam
Amsterdam -> Bristol
London -> Chennai
Chennai -> Delhi
Delhi -> Dehradun
Dehradun -> Delhi
Delhi -> London
FIFTEEN planes! I hadn’t counted that until just now. WOW. And I’ve one more to do to get home for Christmas. That’ll be just a short one; Bristol -> Edinburgh. So yeah, I’ve flown a lot this year and it’s taken varying amounts of bravery to do so. The long-haul ones (I’m not really sure how long haul is defined technically, but I’m going for: there was a little entertainment centre on the back of the chair in front and meals were included) make up six of those flights and were seven hours or more and the London -> Dubai -> Singapore ones were on my own.
My friend lived in Singapore and last year we decided that me and another one of our friends would go out to visit her there. I told her that the only thing that had held me back from doing so before was the flying, I was too scared. Then our other friend dropped out, with good reason I should say, but it meant that if I was going then I was going on my own. Was I really brave enough to do that? The thought of going to Singapore and also being able to stop off on the way home in Dubai to visit my other friend had excited me quite a lot, so I decided that I shouldn’t let my fears stop me from experiencing wonderful things. Let me tell you, that is so much easier said than done. So, the flights were booked and I saved up my spending money and before I knew it I was on the coach to Heathrow, bags packed and passport in hand. I found my way from the coach to the bag drop desk, from bag drop to security, through security and into departures. There was only one thing left to do; get on the plane. And I panicked. I could feel my stomach turning and this weight in my chest. The departure lounge looked big and hazy and there were so many people. I phoned my mum. I could tell she was surprised to hear from me, I’d already text her to say that I’d arrived at the airport. All I said was ‘I’m through security and I feel a bit panicky, can you just talk to me?’ She’s a good egg and of course calmed me down. She even said that if I felt panicky when I arrived in Dubai (the first leg of the two-part flight to Singapore) I could phone her again, despite the fact that it’d be 3am UK time. Remembering this really makes me swell with love for her, my mum is great. I hadn’t needed to though; the first flight had been okay and I was feeling positive. Although, I won’t say I was ready for or wanted to get on the next seven hour flight…
I think up until that point, the point of arriving in departures, I had other things to distract me. Finding the bus, finding the check in desk at the airport, security checks etc. Also, there was a tiny little thought playing in the back of my mind that told me something might go wrong in any of those things meaning I might not have to go. I couldn’t tell if that would have been a good thing or a bad thing… I was obviously excited to see new parts of the world I’d never been to, but I wouldn’t have to do all the flying. I told my friend this when I got to Singapore and she told me she would have been pretty mad if I’d stuffed something up and not made it…
I find that some flights are okay, I can almost relax and watch a film. I even managed to sleep for, I think, an hour on a flight last month between Chennai and Delhi. That’s never happened before. But then there are flights where I just don’t cope well. Flying from Singapore to Dubai I was panicking for the first two/three hours. I kept staring at this woman across the aisle who was reading a paper and drinking a glass of red wine and thinking ‘how can you be so relaxed?!’ I eventually managed to calm myself down, but was still relieved when the plane landed. Last month flying from Delhi to London was another struggle; it seemed to be quite a bumpy flight, not overly, just a light rumble every now and then. But it was enough to unsettle me. I don’t think I relaxed until about three hours before we landed. It was also an overnight flight, landing back in London at 7am, meaning I hadn’t slept in around 36 hours. Oh so much fun.
So, after 15 flights this year, six long-haul, SURELY I must be getting used to it now?? Yeah, you’d think so, but it appears not. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason or pattern for what makes a good flight for me and what leaves me an anxious mess. I think return journeys do tend to be worse, maybe because I’m tired and don’t have the energy to be brave anymore. But then there will be the occasional outbound flight where I’m sat with sweaty palms desperately trying to control my breathing…
I know it’s the safest form of transport. I know I’m more likely to die in a car than a plane. I know that planes have back-ups for their back-ups so failure of anything is extremely unlikely. I know all this in my head, but fear is not rational. Some people are terrified of house spiders in this country knowing that they can’t harm people. Well, my fear is flying. And if, if, in the unlikely event that something was to go wrong, well, I’d be harmed. There’s not much chance I’d survive a plane crash. Maybe that’s the crux of the matter; the finality of a very unlikely plane crash.
What I have learned about myself this year though is that I am brave. That I recognise that this fear, while not entirely irrational, is not logical and I won’t let it stop me from experiencing things and places. I LOVE writing about the places I’ve been to and travel blogging would be the best job ever FYI, you can read about my trip to Amsterdam here and India here. Can you imagine that, the travel blogger who is afraid of flying?! Plus, my friend in Singapore has just moved to Australia and I’d be nuts to not go out and visit her there. Maybe 24 hours in a plane will mean I can answer the ‘surely you’re getting used to it by now?’ question with ‘yeah, you know what, I think I am’. Here’s hoping.