Vacation Assignment: How to Conquer Fear of Flying

We all have fears, right? Spiders, heights, public speaking. For me it’s the dreaded fear-of-flying. But recently I had a breakthrough and wanted to share what happened in the hopes it might help anyone else who would like to overcome (or manage) this fear.

It’s about putting the different modes of transportation into perspective.

How did I do this? By planning our family’s Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (though not in this order) trip. Our vacation also included travel by foot, subway and Uber. For additional perspective, I recommend boat rides. This will really teach the fundamentals of motion.

To be truthful, I’m not exactly sure when things got out of hand for me. As a kid, I had a slight distrust of airplanes, but after 9/11, having children, and one bad flight where it felt like we fell from the sky, my distrust expanded to an all-out terror, beginning each time I purchased a ticket.

Simply put, I don’t want to die this way, but flying is statistically the safest, quickest, and most cost-effective mode of transportation for expansive distances. Our schedule: We drove 25 hours from Houston with stops in Memphis, Columbus, Niagara, and Syracuse. This took 4 days. We then traveled via Amtrak from Syracuse to NYC. Fun and beautiful! After four days of marathon touristy-stuff in Manhattan, via walking, subways, and Uber, we flew home. Spoiler alert: flying was the smoothest, least bumpy mode of transportation during the entire journey. But it’s imperative you book your plane trip for the last leg of the trip in order for this to work.

So here’s how the breakthrough occurred:

  • The car ride was long, making it somewhat miserable because four people are trapped in a car. And even though we took main highways, sometimes the roads were in need of repairs. During these times, I closed my eyes (only if you aren’t driving) and meditated. I imagined I was on a plane. Within a few minutes of doing this you understand that despite the potholes and erratic traffic, the driver has control of the car. And after 10 hours in car, you’ll wish you were on a plane.
  • Next was the train ride which was my fav and I totally recommend the northeast during the fall. It was awesome not being anxious in the train station like I am in an airport. In fact, on that very day a trainwreck had occurred in Iowa, but for some reason, these statistics don’t faze me. For the most part, the train ride was smooth, though sudden thrusts occurred, so when you’re walking to the snack car, keep a hand near the railing so you don’t wind up in someone’s lap. Once again, I closed my eyes, sank into my chair, and realized the conductor had control of the train.
  • Then we arrived in NYC, baby! For the record, no one was rude and I didn’t get mugged. Our three modes of travel, walking, subway and Uber, each came with a #couldgethurt warning, and believe me, there were moments of concern with each. The subway had the most shakes, drops, lunges and curves of all. I nearly fell down two separate times, and yet, I knew everything was going to be okay, I just needed to grab onto a chair or pole the second the doors shut.
  • Lastly was the flight home. It’s very important to have music when becoming the fearless flyer. I used it partially in the car and on the train, but on a plane stick the earbuds in your ears right away even if you have to keep the sound low so not to block out family members such as children. Here’s the plus side to kids on the plane. You have to help them. It’s not about you. You get out of your head. But it also helps that you are excited to go home and thrilled you survived this journey with your family. During take-off, close your eyes, keep your feet flat on the floor, and lean into the chair. Be the chair. Also important, have a game ready to go on your phone or tablet. Occupy your mind. For me I need strategic games. This really helps during turbulence. My brain is trying to accomplish something, and sporadically succeeds, helping me to focus on the task and pass the time.

Best feeling ever is when the wheels touch down on the tarmac!

Keep in mind movement is normal on any mode of transportation, but it doesn’t mean drivers, conductors, pilots, and captains don’t have control.

The last piece of advice is very important: please don’t beat yourself up over any limitations you may have when it comes to conquering fears. Just keep trying to find your courage and you’ll get there. Setbacks can occur. However, when you accomplish something of this magnitude, whether it’s speaking at your company function, staying on the 27th floor, or avoiding a hairy spider, a sense of pride kicks in, making you want to try it again and get that euphoria back. When you get home, schedule something that pushes your boundaries, it doesn’t have to be a big, but get used to the tension in the pit in your stomach, and get comfortable with it.

Remember this, with time the memory of the vacation with family or friends will outweigh the fact that you don’t want to fly!

Vacation Assignment: How to Conquer Fear of Flying
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