Sunday, 5 January 2014

too afraid to fly

(Train - Drops of Jupiter)

Fear is a funny thing. It would seem logical, rational, that as we grow older we become less afraid. We are more informed, more experienced, and so it would seem reasonable that the world is less unknown, and therefore less frightening. Yet, sadly, I find that for me the opposite has happened. It appears that the more I learn about the world, the more fearful I become, more convinced that there is catastrophe around every corner.

I don't think of myself as a timid child, I was sensible and thoughtful, rather than rash and excitable, but I generally think I had quite a common sense attitude to life. I found new experiences interesting, and relished opportunities to do something different. I loved trying new foods, I loved talking to strangers, I loved travelling by boat, by plane, by train, I even loved going to the dentist (honestly!).

These days though, and I don't really know why, I tend to brace myself for the worst in every situation. The prospect of flying, or even travelling on the underground in London, makes me incredibly nervous. Even The Husband has noticed the change as we have grown up together. For my 18th birthday The Husband (then boyfriend) bought us a trip to Dublin, our first proper holiday together. One of the things I was most excited about was the prospect of travelling by plane. I still remember the fact that I had assumed (based on how far an 18 year old's wage from a Saturday job at McDonalds would stretch) we were going by ferry, and how stupidly giddy I was when I found out we would in fact be flying.

Fast forward eight years to our honeymoon and I remember crying in Toronto airport because I was scared of flying home. On that occasion, I might actually be forgiven, as three men were sat in handcuffs with security guards, seemingly waiting to board our flight (although they eventually moved to another gate), whilst a solo female traveller was arguing with the air hostesses trying to check people in because they wouldn't provide her with a spoon.

In reality though, I do worry, quite extremely, about the worst-case scenario in any given situation. On New Year's day, having been walking Millie with The Husband, she was bouncing down the street on the lead, and a man coming in the opposite direction slowed down to smile at us (mostly at the puppy to be fair, she is far cuter than either of us), and as he did, she jumped up at him. Nothing aggressive, no barking, no growling, no teeth out, just shoving her soggy nose up towards him, probably trying to scrounge a cuddle. The man carried on walking in the opposite direction, and suddenly I spent the rest of the walk convinced he was going to report us to the RSPCA for having an out of control dog. Writing that now I can see how silly it sounds, and having told my mum about it that evening, she told me my New Year's Resolution had to be to stop worrying so much.

The truth is, I know she is right. Recently I had to travel several hundred miles by train, including a transfer on the London Underground. To sit and think about it I could have convinced myself of every possible negative outcome, crashes, explosions, ending up in the wrong direction, missing my connecting train. Do you know what, it went perfectly. I hopped straight onto the right tube and even had time to buy myself a yummy lunch for the final leg of the journey. I sat there feeling proud, content, and vowed to have more faith in my own ability, but also less cynicism and fear about the worst possible scenario always coming true. Four years ago, aged 21, I travelled solo to Australia by plane with no panic, no tears (except for the goodbyes at either end), and completely uneventfully. As part of my new habits for 2014 I think it would be best to listen to my mum, wise woman that she is, and resolve to worry less. Next time I fly I'm going to get giddy again.


  1. I went through a similarly anxious phase a few years ago, so much so that when my husband had a job offer in Italy I almost didn't want to go. We moved though, and I forced myself to let go of some of my more unrealistic worries. It was a gradual process, but as we traveled more and more I genuinely started feeling more excited about the prospect of adventure than concerned about unlikely disasters. I desensitized myself, maybe.

    I hope it works for you, too. Good luck!

    1. thank you so much for such a kind comment, I worried last night (predictably!) that I'd been too open with that post, so it was so reassuring to read your response. I agree, the reality is inevitably much more positive than the scenario I create, and I am gradually getting used to that! Congratulations on the move to Italy, what a lovely place to live. Many thanks for visiting!

  2. considering i used to travel at the drop of a hat and frequently lived out of a backpack i am now more worried - i blame this on my kids ;-)

    1. thank you so much for visiting and reading! I think what I am getting is that I should worry less and travel more!