I’m a bit ashamed to admit the most recent addition to the list of things I can’t control. I can’t pinpoint when it became an issue, I just know that I’m ready for it to be a thing of the past.
Y’all know I love to travel. I’m all about it. My [as of late, debilitating] fear of flying is definitely cramping the plans I have for my life.
I am writing this post-overnight flight to Rio and I’m feeling a bit traumatized. Not necessarily due to anything that happened with the airplane itself, a beautiful Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but rather, what was going on in my head.
My mom has been particularly anxious about the idea of me traveling to and staying in Rio by myself, but I was honestly only worried about getting here. I’ve become increasingly dependent on having somebody next to me (preferably Nic) who I can wake up and force to entertain me until either the turbulence subsides or my worries pass. I realize that statistically speaking, it is an irrational fear. I try to comfort myself by studying the flight attendants, remembering that they chose this as a career. I try to gauge how frightened I should be by the expressions of fellow passengers. On this particular flight, the guy nearest me slept for the entirety, through every bump & overhead announcement. I was so incredibly jealous. My issue is my scary inventive imagination combined with “why not me?” periodically crossing my mind.
Prior to arriving to the airport, I mentally pumped myself up for the trip itself, knowing that just ten hours stood between me and my destination. My positive energy took a hit when I was checking in and the United employee started asking me about Rio. She said she always wanted to go, but didn’t have anyone to go with. She said she had been trying to convince her sister, but she absolutely refused to fly due to a dream she had that involved being on a plane with her when the flight attendant began telling everyone to call their loved ones… I’m standing in front of the kiosk, passport in one hand and boarding pass in the other, nodding along sympathetically. I say “that’s such a shame, to let fear control your life.” I then told her to go by herself and that I hoped to see her there one day.
If you didn’t already know, I recently got a tattoo. A tattoo of an airplane, to be specific. It has an obvious meaning behind it, but also one that’s not so straightforward. I’m a big believer that fear can be a positive motivator. It’s my way of acknowledging this fear and choosing to continuously face it head on, rather than decide to retire from flying.
Knowing that there is no turning back doesn’t make the actual flight a breeze. In fact, my somber self has already decided that if something does happen, I will show everyone my tattoo and laugh manically while singing Alanis Morissette’s Ironic. Anyhow, I was so physically exhausted from last night’s flight not only because did I not get any sleep, but my body was so tense that I found myself shaking more often than not. I read, watched Inside Out and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, which were probably poor selections in hindsight, and picked at my food. Hell, I didn’t even finish the little ice creams they handed out, so you know something was wrong! I suppose I looked content enough from the outside, but I was furious at myself for being so afraid for no apparent reason. I was also frustrated because the fancy new plane didn’t have shades on the windows. There were buttons that allowed you to control how much light was let in. Only they disabled this feature for the majority of the night, so I could only see my reflection when attempting to look out the window. Seeing myself looking anxious and sleep deprived wasn’t comforting, especially in place of the constellations that still my racing mind. Fortunately, around 5 am, I saw the most cotton candy colored sunrise coming in from the other side of the plane. I assumed some of the light was muted, so the pinks & purple hues were so deep and fantasy-like that I decided it made up for the lack of starlight.
We landed, I maneuvered my way through customs and baggage with ease and then ended up having the longest/most frustrating conversation with my taxi driver [because he wasn’t asking si o não questions] I’ve ever had in Portuguese.
I guess my point is that this doesn’t come easy to me. I’m not always an easy going travel buddy. Anxiety and fear don’t rule my life, but they surely have their place. I just wanted to remind everyone that you’ll probably be okay and that agoraphobia does not make for an exciting, fun-filled life.
Here is a quote by a crazy guy, Hunter S. Thompson, that my mom recently sent me and explains why you should do it anyway despite the risk.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”