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The Travel Column 2003-2-13

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We are pleased to bring you The Travel Column, written fortnightly for "The Trinidad Guardian"

Discover the Possibilities – Overcome your Fear of Flying

If you are one of the millions of people worldwide who are afraid of flying, you know what it’s like. When booking your ticket you examine the type of airplane you will be flying – how old is it? What is its safety record? When was the last time this aircraft was involved in an accident? You repeat the process for the airline and quickly rule out unknown airlines or those that have had an accident in your living memory. Last, but certainly not least, you look at the dates, just to make sure there is not something inherently unlucky about the date – Is it the 13th? That might just be okay, but definitely not Friday the 13th. Do the numbers of the date added together and subtracted from the flight number display any sinister warning when viewed as wingdings on Microsoft Word?? Okay, this may be a little wacky, but if you suffer from aviaphobia or fear of flying, it is anything but a laughing matter.

Fear of flying limits life’s possibilities. You don’t visit those places you have dreamed of your whole life, attempting to convince yourself that there is plenty to see at home. The phobia is usually based on the fear of dying, and yet by its very nature, you stop living because of it – Ironic, don’t you think?

So, if you know all the statistics about it being the safest form of transportation and that doesn’t work, then where do you turn for help? Is there anything you can do to overcome the grip of terror and regain life’s freedoms?

Unfortunately, like most worthwhile things in life, the solutions do not come easy. It’s easy to be afraid, it’s not easy to confront your fears and work through them. With some determination; however, it is possible to board that plane and not spend the entire time with fists clenched, heart racing and jumping at every sound or movement the airplane makes.

Preflight Suggestions

  1. Visit your nearest airport and watch the airplanes take off and land. Think about the fact that over 300,000 planes take off and land every day without incident. That equals over 1.6 billion passenger journeys a year!
  2. Educate yourself. Find out how a plane gets up in the air and stays there. All those weird and wonderful noises that you hear during take-off and landing have a perfectly simple scientific explanation.
  3. Learn some relaxation or breathing techniques. Practice them frequently until you perfect the technique.

Booking a Flight

  1. Book the most direct flight possible. Not only will this reduce flight time, but also the stress accompanying transfer flights is eliminated.
  2. Choose your seat carefully. Figure out what scares you about flying. Do you feel trapped inside? Then choose an aisle seat. This will give you more room and leave you feeling less confined. Do you worry about evacuating in an emergency? Then ask your travel agent to book you in an emergency exit row. Are you worried about turbulence? Then book a seat at the front of the plane where the journey tends to be a lot smoother. If all of the above are an issue, then an aisle seat at the front of the plane, preferably on an exit row is your ticket!

Preflight Rituals

  1. Many people make the mistake of thinking that if they keep busy before a flight they will stop the fear from taking grip. This is actually counter-productive. Running around at the last minute only leads to more anxiety. Wherever possible, plan on arriving at least 30 minutes before your scheduled check-in time. This will allow you time to relax and work through your feelings rather than being consumed by them.
  2. Eat a well-balanced meal and avoid caffeine.
  3. Practice your relaxation and breathing techniques. Focus on being calm, nothing else is important right now.

During the Flight

  1. As you enter the airplane, introduce yourself to the flight staff and tell them you are a nervous flier. They are used to this and they will be able to reassure you.
  2. Continue with your relaxation techniques during take-off and whenever you feel your panic is taking over.
  3. Distract yourself throughout the flight. Be one of those annoying travelers that talk incessantly to their neighbor! Listen to music; watch the in-flight movie; read a book; knit a sweater for your niece – anything except dwell on the fact that you are 35,000 feet in the air!

If none of the above helps, then consider these facts:

bulletYou would have to fly every day for 31,000 years before it would be a statistical probability that you would be involved in an airplane accident.
bulletEvery plane is flown by a flight crew. Flight crews, like you, also have friends and families that they love. They want to return home to them. They will do everything in their power and beyond to make sure that happens.
bulletYou have a 1 in 46 million chance of being involved in a plane crash; whereas you have a 1 in 125 chance of being involved in a car crash – Maybe we should start flying to the office!

Above all else, think of your life and focus on living it. You have been blessed to live in a lifetime where the world is smaller and yours for the taking, if only you have the courage to take the first step…

Carolyn Duffin
February 13, 2003


Previous Travel Columns

bulletThe Travel Column 2003-1-30
bulletThe Travel Column 2003-1-16
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-11-28
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-11-14
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-31
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-17
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-3
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-9-19
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-9-5
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-22
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-8
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-25
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-11
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-6-27

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