Traveling is odd. People find discomfort in being picked up and reshuffled far away from their cats and their refrigerators. If they aren’t having Woody Allen-type anxiety, however, they feel freedom from traveling. I used to have a terrible fear of planes, but not because of the planes themselves. Rather, it was the idea behind them and the events that could take place upon them. Though a “thing” and the “ideas behind it” seem inseparable, they are not.
I was never afraid that the plane I was on would crash and burn. Nor was I afraid of landing on a desert island, regretting leaving my teddy bear and blankie at home because now, I would be stuck for a lifetime without them. I never did well in times of transition, and perhaps traveling was, for me, a transition. Though temporary, I was moving from one place to another. Change never bothered me much, but transition did. The in-between from where you were and where you’re going to be was terrifying.
Once, I took a trip to Florida with my uncle and my cousins. Beforehand, I was scared shitless of the 3 hour flight and the Fountain Bleu that awaited me in Miami. A week before the vacation, I was speaking with a friend who was flying to Canada alone. “Why are you so scared?” she asked. I told her I didn’t really know, I was just naturally an anxious person about everything. “Airplanes relax me,” she said too enthusiastically. “I just think about how I’m going to somewhere better, and it’s all good.” I’ll never forget that conversation. She made it look so easy. When I spent the entire flight from Newark to Miami clutching my cousin’s thigh in a death grip, I realized it wasn’t. That vacation, I was too anxious to eat anything besides Piña Coladas, which naturally made me incredibly sick, inducing my anxiety even more.
I’m no longer afraid of flying. Now, I fly alone, and I actually enjoy it. Humans are creatures of habit, and so the same thoughts run through my mind every time I fly (actually, I have a conversation with myself… seriously):
Sitting in my seat, directly before take off: They say that that planes are most likely to crash in the first five minutes during take off or during the last five minutes during landing.
During the flight: No turbulence, so no vomit. We are in the clear.
During descent: They say that that planes are most likely to crash in the first five minutes during take off or during the last five minutes during landing.
Somewhere in between Thought Processes 1 and 2 I let the most terrifying thought of them all slip through my mind–worse than projectile vomit in a contained space, worse than a smelly person sleeping on my shoulder, and worse than dropping 300 feet in 2 seconds. I don’t think people are afraid of the mechanics of an airplane as much as they are the concept of one. The permanence freaks the shit out of me again and again and again. There’s no escape and there’s no turning back. There’s nowhere to go.
Then I realize that there is, in fact, somewhere to go. And, of course, I am going there. I am getting there. There’s no turning back, but I’m getting somewhere else instead. When I really thought about it once, I realized the funniest thing. Isn’t that just another way of explaining life?