Flying. I have done quite a bit of it recently. Not that I am proud of that statement – it’s bad for the planet, and it’s not usually that pleasant an experience. But, as I have said before, it’s a part of Expat life that is sometimes inescapable, and I am under the impression that I am not alone in my general loathing of this form of transport…
It occurred to me the other day, that thanks to our life in transit I am no longer as petrified of it as I once was, which as my friends and family will tell you (especially those that have had the “pleasure” of flying with me!!) is quite a big deal! The following might only be of use if you have a mind that works like mine, but just in case it helps somebody out there, here are a few points that have helped me along the way…
- Arrive at the airport in good time; check in on-line; keep your passport handy; and place all cosmetics etc. either in your bag going in the hold, or in a small plastic bag before you leave home. Anything that cuts down on the stress factor before your journey commences really helps, believe me.
- Steer clear of all “mood-altering” substances beforehand, i.e. too much caffeine, alcohol and if you are thus inclined, nicotine… You want to feel as calm and relaxed as you can beforehand. I can also confirm that drinking an entire bottle of a well-known herbal remedy will not help in your pursuit of calmness. It will instead just give you a huge headache half way through the flight…
- Don’t worry yourself about how posh the pilot sounds, and whether he sounds trustworthy, or whether he might be fully qualified. They have all had the same rigorous training (and security checks!)…
- Ignore the irrational “devil” sitting on your shoulder. Windows do not pop out of planes, wings do not fall off, and that man who looks like a photo fit from Crime Watch has been through the same scanner that you just have…
- Try to concentrate on something other than the bits of the flight that you hate the most, such as take off (my least favourite part!). I have found that the more I focus on a book, or the people around me, instead of what’s going on outside as we get airborne, the less sensitive to this I have become.
- Pay little attention to the strange noises on the plane. The bings and bongs usually mean something as insignificant as orange juice being ordered from the other end of the plane.
- Remember that turbulence is not dangerous. Commercial jets are a lot tougher than you think, and the captain usually switches on the seat belt sign just in case you throw your drink over someone accidentally, not because of impending doom. If turbulence is a huge problem for you (as it seems to be for the majority of people with a fear of flying – it can still send me into a cold sweat if it’s very bad), don’t be scared to ask for a steward to sit with you if it’s particularly bumpy. They are usually more than happy to help reassure you if they have the time. Above all else remember that you are travelling through turbulence, it doesn’t usually last for the whole flight.
- Remember that the captain, and the entire crew all have families at home. They wouldn’t be doing this job if they thought it was unsafe, even if they don’t like their families very much.
- If you are so nervous that it actually stops you getting onto a plane, consider investing in one of the big “Fear of Flying” courses run by a few major airlines. My sister (a fellow sufferer for many years) actually did one of these, and it cured her to the extent that she was then able to complete a round the world journey less than a year later.
- Fly with children, you won’t have that much time to think about anything going on around you, in fact you might not even notice that you have actually taken off.
So there you are. I hope that this proves helpful to somebody out there. Good luck, don’t let it stop you, and (fingers crossed) you never know, you might even enjoy that next plane journey you go on – and perhaps even understand the true meaning of the phrase sky high!!
PS. You might find this Conquering the Fear of Flying post from a friend of mine more than helpful too!
PPS. Feel free to add any more tips you find helpful/useful too!
Thanks so much for your comment Tom! So pleased to have the approval of a real pilot! It’s a fear that can be utterly petrifying, but it honestly doesn’t have to be! I can now get on a plane without even thinking about it and (apart from one bumpy flight to Sarajevo last year) I have never looked back! :)
Capt Tom Bunn LCSW says
bavaria, it’s great you accomplished that. You recommend courses offered by airlines because of your sister’s experience. It’s good that she is doing well, but – in spite of the success rate they claim (based on the number of people who fly with the group and with a pilot to reassure them) – six months later most who take a course offered by an airlines are back where they started. All these courses offer for emotional control is breathing exercises which reduce anxiety on the ground, but do not work when there is turbulence.
Yep, turbulence is probably the hardest thing. Thanks for your comment!
Gill Crawshaw says
I also have a fear of flying, mainly of take-off, so it’s great to read this (and also know I’m not alone!). I used to love flying when I was younger – especially turbulence – and it only really developed as I got older and it only seems to get worse the more I fly, which is annoying! My usual technique is to drink a reasonable amount of wine, although now I have a small person to look after I can’t really do this. I do find distraction really helps though, so it’s good to know that flying with children is enough of a distraction in itself.
Thanks Gillian. Yes don’t worry, you are not alone! Flying with children really is a MAJOR distraction! You might still need that wine!! :D
Such great tips. I am going to get my mum to read your post this minute! She’s terrified of flying and has to fly back home on her own next week. I’m sure she’ll find your advice helpful x
Thank you! I really really hope it helps her, it’s not fun at all when you feel like that!
Manana Mama says
I will put your tips into practice tomorrow….any special advice for surviving ten hours in the air with kiddies???
Thanks Rachel! Click through to the link at the bottom of the post, there’s a post from my old blog called “flying with children” :) Have a great trip, sounds exciting :)
Great advice. I am so much the opposite to you I adore flying
Although I am no longer really bothered, I would love to adore the experience! Jealous! Thanks Jen :)
oh my, this is meant to be quite serious, but i couldn’t help but chuckle about the posh sounding captain, and also the bit about the devil on your shoulder! i don’t suffer from this fear, but i know a few people who do and i TOTALLY sympathize.
Oh and down below, those antlers are absolutely fantastic. so serene and beautiful in their resting state. you have very good eyes!
Thank you… Don’t worry, I am never that serious! :) Glad you like the “antlers” as well :)
Ohhhh how great to read this blog – only distance makes me brave enough to say ‘I told you so’ !!! Mx
Ive certainly found that my fear of flying has lessened since I became an #expat. What helped me was thinking about where I was going and what I’d miss out on if I didn’t get off the plane.
For me flying alone has been the best experience as I’m in control of what’s going on, where I choose to sit and wait etc. When I do have to fly with hubby and kids I make it very clear that they are to leave me alone. If they want to join a different queue at check in or feel they want to ask for a different seat just to get on and do it and not ask me to sort it out.
My immediate family have the ability to make my errational fear worse by telling me I’ll be fine and to calm down, which actually makes things worse.
Flying out of San Franciso to Denver a few years ago. I informed the cabin crew that they had to re seat me away from my family or I’d get off the plane and they’d have to unload my bags. They moved me to a new seat, I was much more relaxed and actually enjoyed flying for the first time.
I must add it’s only take off and landing that freak me out and more to do with the sensation. Sitting over the wing at a window seat gives me something to focus on and I can see how the plane is moving as I’m always fearful that, like a rollar coaster, it will reach the top on take off and plummet downwards.
Definitely sounds like you are getting there… Sitting on the wing is supposed to be a big help. I totally understand your need to be left alone, and to sit alone. In fact, that sound positively lovely, and I may well try it next time around ;) !! I couldn’t agree more with those less than understanding people who think you should just “get over it” and it’s “nothing to worry about” etc. etc. Not at all helpful! :/ I also think that my determination not to let on to my kids that I was scared has kind of cured me too. Thanks for commenting :)
Michelle | The American Resident says
Excellent tips and these are the kinds of tips only people who have had this fear can come up with! I speak from experience… ;) I also agree with Kellogsville, avoid those stupid disaster movies/docs. And I love the way Florence describes turbulence as a displacement of air and that the air will always catch it again! Perfect! It totally makes sense described like that.
I try to move around during turbulence. I know we can’t always leave our seats, but if I’m in my seat I just act as if I’m adjusting the way I’m sitting–for about five minutes! I must look like a real fidget but it actually really helps because if you’re moving, you don’t notice the movement of the plane so much.
Thanks Michelle, I knew fellow sufferers would understand!! :D Love the turbulence tip! I won’t care if I look like a fidget if it helps, will be trying it next time! :)
I also recommend not watching ‘airline disasters’ on the discovery channel for at least 3 months leading up to any trip! If you choose a particularly crappy budget airline you can spend the whole flight being so put out at how bad all the staff inside the plane are, you won’t have a moment to concentrate on whether they bother to train their ground crew!! Also dropping a cup of red wine over OH or having a bottle of suncream explode in your hand luggage (pre 9/11) are great ways to distract you. LOL. I reckon everyone finds religion when turbulence gets really bad!
Brilliant! I remember your disaster trip post very well :D
I always used to watch programmes on airline disasters, so that I would be “well prepared”! In fact, air-disasters of the past 50 years would be my chosen subject on Master Mind…
Good advice, cuz! As a frequent flyer & expat myself, I can also vouch for trying for an upgrade at every possible chance you get, don’t assume you won’t get it, especially if you are flying alone. For the long haul flights I swear it makes all the difference between a nightmare and a dream flight!
Also, when it comes to turbulence, I would like to add that it’s just a displacement of air, and though the plane might feel like it’s dropping down, the air will always catch it again. Turbulence does not bring down planes, ever. Happy travels!
Morning Florence, thank you!… Have only been upgraded a couple of times, once to First! Although it was fantastic at the time, the few flights afterwards were incredibly “painful” in comparison!! :D