Flying in an airplane is about par with giving an oral presentation. You feel you can’t do it — it’s a dreaded thing to do but once you do it, you’re always grateful when it’s over with and you’ve survived.
Having been up in a small plane in my teens with my brother who had just gotten his license, I remember the open sides on the small propeller plane and my knees shaking the whole time we were up in the air. I vowed that I would never get in another plane as long as I lived.
Fast forward to work experiences, and a proposed company trip to Puerto Rico for a convention that shattered my equilibrium. After not sleeping two nights before the flight actually transpired, I re-enacted the wobbly knees of former experience and even took a Valium someone offered me. Just as I was settling into the level just below wigging out, someone from work who knew of my fear, yelled out, “Hey Marie, your horoscope says you shouldn’t travel today”. Funny to everyone on board but me. The trip is a blur going and coming and the time in the air was the whole focus of the trip.
I vowed yet again, I would never fly. A couple of years later, my job required ‘flying’ but only on the east coast for career seminars. I didn’t want to fly – period. No way. I always went into my fugue on these trips and always made sure I was with someone I knew. A short time later, there was a human resource need for supporters on an outreach program in Cincinnati and I had to go alone! This was an up-all nighter worrying fest and thankfully, I knew someone from the company on the flight. White knuckles all the way.
On each flight, I vowed it would be my last. I hated flying – too much free floating anxiety around.
I really got good at making excuses for not traveling or making other arrangements (why don’t you come up this way?) and just when I felt that I never had to fly again, I married a man who was born in Europe and had family there. He redid the family house and wanted to travel to Italy at least once a year. Eight or nine hours one way? And the same the way back? No way. I barely did the east coast for up to 3 hours top. All that time in a plane? I would never last.
He never insisted, but I did always want to see Italy. So this is how I get on a plane every year to travel 8 or 9 hours to go to Italy.
It has to be something you really want to do. Like visiting a last family member in Scotland or a vacation in France that someone gifted for you. You have to be the one to decide, just like giving up smoking or deciding to lose weight – it’s your call and something you want to do more than you fear it.
I went to local airports and watched the planes come in and go out. They do that every couple of minutes or less. And they were all fine. And thought about all the planes that came in all day there every couple of minutes – in and out. And thought of all the cities and airports all over the world that do the same thing. All those flights.
The things that can go wrong on a flight are nothing like other modes of traveling. You hear about accidents and crashes all the time with cars, trains and ships but flying is actually the safest way to travel.
You have to minimize stress if you decide to travel – travel light and detail your arrangements. Make direct flights where you don’t have to juggle your luggage through airports to another terminal.
Try to get an aisle seat when you make flight arrangements. It gives you some control over getting up and getting down, using the rest room and just stretching your legs.
Bring things that will absorb you so that you don’t count the whirrs the engine is making and one time if there are more than usual and you wonder why. I bring books that I’ve been wanting to read, crossroad puzzles, my journal and datebook to go over for the trip.
International flights usually have wonderful ways to keep your mind occupied: they show new movies. They also have computers in front of each person where you can track your flight or play games like poker or solitaire or watch popular TV programs. The same head gear lets you listen to all kinds of music. I bring a warm, long sweater; it’s cozy while closing your eyes even if you don’t sleep.
They also sometimes have a duty-free service aboard and sell all these neat things – it’s like shopping on QVC – another mind-diverting tactic. There is usually a dinner or a breakfast or a snack served. So if you don’t Tylenol PM, you can drink wine. All these servings take up time and are a nice diversion from you worrying if the pilot is still awake.
If you keep busy, you won’t have time to focus on your fear. The more you travel, the less fearful you are. I still don’t like to fly. I don’t like being up in the air with no control over how to steer the plane. However, it is much more safe with the pilots up there behind the controls. But I’m more comfortable with it now and do it because I really want to go where the plane will take us.
The clincher for me that took away my fears and fidgeting was my first European flight take-off with my all-relaxed husband and me with white knuckles. I looked at him and he smiled as we took off, and he sweetly said, “Did you leave your faith on the ground?” Since I am a faith-based person, this made tremendous sense to me; I relaxed and now leave my trip safety in God’s hands.
Marie Coppola © Revised August 2018
About Marie Coppola
Marie Coppola A long-time human resources administrator and paralegal (B.S. in Business Administration/ Psychology, Certified Paralegal), Marie writes to aid employees with positive career options and resources, and to assist in career development solutions for students and employees; counsels on resumes, securing employment, and being successful with promotable possibilities. Marie finds inspiration in her faith, which she enjoys passing on to others, and finds gratification in helping others wherever she can. Got a question, need advice? Marie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org View all posts by Marie Coppola →
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