Ever had something you were dreading turn out to be a magical experience?
I can pinpoint the exact moment I became a terrible flyer, I was 19 and travelling back to London from Dublin. It was my 20th flight in 5 months (don’t judge, I was an excitable kiwi on a university exchange*). The turbulence was terrible, and I mean terrible; the flight attendants did not leave their seats for the entire flight.
I had experienced turbulence before, I think anyone who has flown probably has. But this was the first time I have ever seen flight attendants worried, and something in my brain just flipped. Ever since I’ve been flying on a hair trigger, the slightest bump enough to make me dig my nails into the armrest or the person I am travelling with. My brain knows that flying is totally safe, that I’m more likely to die crossing the street in London but for some reason that knowledge just doesn’t help.
Over the last 7 years (man that makes me feel old) I’ve been working to overcome this ‘falling to my death from 37,000ft in a tin can’ fear. After all, I’m a kiwi so travel is in my DNA. And I’m getting better, I swear I’m getting better. Essentially I’ve gone from terrified before arriving at the airport, to just being irrational during the actual turbulence. But I knew I had really turned the corner when I had my moment over the clouds.
I was on my way to Stockholm for work and had gone through my usual mid-flight armrest grabbing, to be honest I was just willing the plane to land so I could be on the safe safe ground again. Something made me look out the window just then, and my heart just filled with magic (yes I perversely always try to get the window seat).
We were landing at dusk and all I could see was a sun tipped forest. It was like a Disney scene out there, just endless woods against a multi coloured sunset. As we kept pace with the sun descending lower and lower the trees became shadows against the sky. Only if you looked closely could you pick out the details, and soon even they were lost to the setting sun. A black paper cut forest against a navy sky.
Flying is such a privilege. Both in that it gets to to amazing places but also that I am one of the lucky few born into a society where as a girl I can choose where to go, and travel there alone and on my own terms. This silly fear of flying will not dictate my life, I will travel because it brings me joy, tears and magic over the clouds.
*Nothing like a quick trip to Egypt as ‘research’ for a Middle Eastern Politics essay