Two years ago, as we set off on our round-the-world trip, I was worried (heck I was terrified) that I wouldn’t be able to hack the flying. I could handle leaving my job, selling my home, putting all our stuff in storage and saying goodbye to friends and family but the thought of spending hour upon hour in a flying sardine can…well, that just about did me in!

I can say that, although it wasn’t always pretty and often I just white-knuckled it, I managed all 19 flights of our trip.

I flew a lot this June. Almost half as many flights as our whole round-the-world trip. Nine flights in three weekends. Yes I count every take-off and landing as a flight…even if I don’t get off the plane before it takes off again. It counts! And I did them all with no anxiety, no heart palpitations, no sweaty palms…and no drugs.

Here are 7 ways that I went from Flying Phobiast to Flying Diva:

  1. My office is at the airport (I know, strange place to have an office…when you work in health care!) so I am at the terminal every day but with no impending flight I am there without any anxiety. Every lunch break I make my way to the terminal and watch planes take off and landand notice that every single one of them is successful, day after day after day. I take note of how smooth they look and imagine all the stress free, relaxed passengers on board.
  2. I don’t watch the news and so don’t hear of any possible airplane mishaps. Unless something big happens I am unlikely to hear about it. No filler news of planes having to turn back because some warning light didn’t work properly or because the pilot was hungry or any reason what-so-ever. I don’t fill my brain with pessimistic outcomes.
  3. I do have Ativan in my flying kit but I haven’t used it since before we returned from our RTW trip. I like having it though; it’s a safety blanket. If, for some reason, I became anxious I know that it is there to help me through it. I wonder if I stopped taking it because there are very few pills left in the container – every one I take is one less for when I might really need it!
  4. I like to get a seat in the front of the plane; rows 4, 5 and 6 are my favorites and I usually have either an aisle or middle seat. The front of the plane (ahead of the wings) is a smoother ride and in the aisle or middle I can stare toward the center of the plane and pretend I’m on a bus if I have to. I did notice these last flights though that I was coveting the window seat…a sign I’m progressing even more?
  5. I have a ‘flying system’ that I have perfected over many flights. First is the seat selection (see point #4). I have a ‘flying kit’ which includes the Ativan, a Sudoku book that I only use for flying, my iPod with my favorite tunes, and a book. The iPod is on as soon as the attendants can’t see me any more. I don’t like to hear the noise changes in the engine so I always either have music on or the TV once we’re at altitude. For taking off and landing I like a good song with a strong beat – preferably some new song that I can totally get lost in (current faves include Black Eyed Peas ‘Dirty Bit’ and ‘Rolling In The Deep’ by Adele). I have the easy Sudoku puzzles at the ready to keep my brain engaged (ie. not thinking about falling from the sky), the Ativan is in the seat pocket just-in-case, the music is pumping in my ears and I rock/move to the music to minimize feeling the plane movement. It’s ritualistic, and it works.
  6. I look down. During a particularly harrowing bus trip alongside cliffs and crevasses in Peru I wrote to my sister and told her how I was so scared that I couldn’t even look down. She replied urging me to look down; that I was missing out on the experience if I didn’t and that looking would not change the inevitable, whatever that might be. She was right. Looking down from an airplane gives an unbeatable view of our world. Watching cities disappear in the distance, seeing entire mountain ranges, viewing meandering rivers, being above the clouds and then reversing it all as we descend; it really would be a shame to never really see it.
  7. I drink; not because I have to but because I would anyway. If I’m on a flight then I must be on a holiday (I generally don’t fly for business) and, if I’m on holiday then it must be time for a drink. Of course it helps relax me and, believe me, I have paid a pretty penny in airport bars getting relaxed! But I don’t feel I have to anymore – in fact a good portion of my flights in June were dry flights and I did just fine.

Are you a Flying Phobiast or a Flying Diva? What do you do to get yourself on a plane? Do you have a system, or just try to get through it? What advice do you have for others?