Although being afraid of flying is a burden, like most things, it also has a flip side. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I did not have deal with this phobia, but I have learnt to make the most of this inconvenience.
I usually travel alone. I don’t have a friend to distract me, or my partner to rub my back when I’m having a full-blown panic attack. I sometimes wish I had a familiar face around to help me cope, but most of the time, I’m happy I don’t break down in front of someone I know.
Despite it all, I have come to realize that I cannot deal with the fear alone, that I need someone to reassure me. Amazingly enough, over the years, I have always had a friendly person sitting beside me. On every single flight I have been, my neighbour has helped me. I have had a 20-year-old guy and his 19-year-old brother offer me chocolates, talk to me for hours to make me feel better. I’ve had an incredible experience sitting beside a Chinese woman who was also terrified; she hugged me and held my hand for most of an 8-hour flight. I sat beside a lady who practised her yogi breathwork with me. I have been given countless tissues, food items, glasses of water, and pats on the back. The kindness of strangers is not a myth, most people are unbelievably understanding and compassionate, and every time I fly, I get reminded of it.
I’m not only scared of flying, I’m absolutely terrified. I cry, I shake, I hyper-ventilate, and I feel sick to my stomach; however, it will never stop me from traveling. When I step out of an airplane, I always have the same thoughts: “I did it. I was scared, but I flew anyways. I squeezed the hell out of a poor stranger’s hand, but I did it”. I will never let my fear rule my life and decide of what I should or should not do. Doing something you are very scared of empowers you with the knowledge that you make the decision, your reptilian brain does not.
It’s my responsibility to inform the cabin crew that I’m nervous. They need to know when someone is likely to faint, get sick, or make 300 people freak out just because of light turbulence. I systematically tell the flight attendant nearest to my seat that I have a serious fear of flying and that I need them to come and check on me after take-off and when we are going through a zone of turbulence.
Let me tell you that being honest about your fear can get you major bonus points. I never knew that cabin crews were so well-trained to deal with people like me. They usually are incredibly professional and kind. Once on a flight from Calgary to London, one (gorgeous) steward sat beside me during take-off and held my hand. When he was able to leave the seat, he went to the back of the plane and got me chocolate bars and magazines, and sat beside me again for another hour! But that’s not all, I was offered to visit the pilots in the flight deck, I was given free beverages and food on flights where I should have paid for them, and I was even upgraded to business class! Now, that’s great service!
Flying is the fastest way to travel the world, but we all know that it is far from being the most environmentally-friendly. Currently, the aviation industry produces around 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 13% of all CO2 emissions from the transportation sector. The industry is also one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Your fear of flying will always push you to find a different way to get from A to B; be it car-pooling, busing, or taking the train. Not only most of these alternatives are more ecological, but they also provide great opportunities to meet people, enjoy the scenery, and just take the time to travel for once in a while.