This post has been a long time coming. Yes, I fear flying. I also know that a lot of people do. I thought it would be beneficial to share my experience and coping techniques, if you are like me.
Before we start, I just want to say that fear is not rational. Do not give me stats and case studies – it does not matter. I have probably read more on aerodynamics than the average human, and I can possibly sit an exam soon. I get it, it is safe (kind of). But do I?
Myth: you have not travelled enough as a child
One of my first memories is of an airport and a flight. I was 3. I also remember I used to be allowed in the cockpit to see take off. I still remember all the glittering lights of the runway and the airport. The beautiful feeling of take off and then going to my seat to sleep next to my mom. I also remember my mom was so grateful, I used to just pass out in the plane and was not one of those mega annoying kids. I even flew on a military evacuation plane back in 1991 due to the Gulf war. My dad was working in the embassy and all children and women had to be evacuated due to the close proximity of the war.
Why am I telling you this? Because up to the age of 25 I did not care about flying. I was neutral, and take off used to my favourite moment. The feeling of the wheels lifting from the ground. This now became one of my most hated moments.
Myth: you are either scared or not
In 2010 I was flying back from Sofia to Malta, clear skies, pretty empty plane and I freaked. I was convinced the plane was going to fall. Cabin crew figured I was having a panic attack and were fantastic about it (shout out Air Malta). This is how it started – something in my brain just clicked and I could not get myself to find the pleasure I used to find in flying.
For the next year, I cried every time I went into a plane and it started to take off. Embarrassing? Yep. I was so scared and at the same time I wanted to travel so much. So I travelled and freaked, freaked a little more and a year passed this way. I was scared to do long haul flights, so I did not. I tried prescription pills, drinking, reading statistics – nothing helped.
I worked with British Airways for more than 2 years (on the digital marketing side but still), which actually did help a tiny little bit.
I realised I needed to find my trigger and work backwards as to what made me feel this way. It was obviously a learnt behaviour, which means it is reversible. I wanted to travel, I NEEDED to travel and I could not afford to feel this way.
I watched all kinds of videos, Virgin and BA have some good stuff on Youtube. It all sounded very good while watching it from the comfort of my chair (or bed) on the ground, then everything used to puff out of my head the moment I stepped on the plane.
Here is what helped me:
- Creating a system. I am a structured person and structure helps my brain relax. This was the best technique for me. I created steps I follow before a flight and this seems to get me in the zone.
- I figured I like sitting in the front of the plane. I learnt that looking at all the people within the plane (when sitting at the back) stresses me out.
- Aisle seats.
- Yoga breathing on take off. Breath in and count to 5 when breathing out, ensuring you are realising the air slowly so you can breath through 1…5. This relaxes me because more oxygen flows into the brain, helping it relax.
- Counting overall. Apparently counting calms me down, go figure (sometimes I question my own brain)
- The captain – I like airlines where the captain kind of tells me what is happening, the route and if they expect turbulence.
- Drinking champagne doe help me most of the time. I am specifying, as hard liquor sometimes makes me even more paranoid so I avoid it. Champagne and white wine calm me down.
- Travelling alone – I actually prefer it somehow.
Am I the most savage traveller at the moment? No. Am I better? Yes. I was even planning to write this article while on my flight to LA but then I decided that was too daring ha ha. So, yeah I am still a little bit freaked out but I think I have learnt to control it better and at least I am not in the brain freeze, tears zone. I hope some of the above helps you, and do not let fear stop you from doing what you love – you can overcome it.
Because those views, are worth it xoxo