I can still recall a time about 15 years ago when my Myspace page said "I'm terrified of flying, but traveling is one of my favorite things." It's always been a fact of my life, but I've never let it slow me down. I've never really been able to pinpoint what exactly it is I'm afraid of, because it's not heights. My best guess is it's the lack of control of my own outcome and knowing that if a problem arises while flying, it could be catastrophic. I also know that statistically flying is the safest way to travel. It doesn't mean my brain accepts that fact.
When it comes to traveling, I feel pretty fearless. I've never been afraid to pick up and go somewhere new, despite not knowing the language or customs, because figuring that all out is exciting. Traveling alone doesn't scare me. Meeting new people in a new country doesn't scare me. Travel is a luxury I am thankful to get to have a lot of in my life, which is why something as silly as a fear of flying won't stop me from it. Over the years, though, I've figured out ways to manage the fear, because traveling is too important to miss out on.
1. I always watch the flight attendants
Watching the flight attendants on all my flights always calms my nerves. Seeing them calmly go about their business is reassuring to me, because if they aren't afraid, I don't feel like I have a reason to be either. If my plane hits a patch of rough air or anything similar, I'll swing my head around and look at any one of them for comfort.
2. I have a favorite seat on the plane
If I can help it, I sit in almost exactly the same seat every single time I fly because I know it's where I feel the safest and most comfortable. Literally the same side of the plane, window seat, right over the wing. If I can't get over the wing, I at least need a window seat. If I can't get a window seat, I don't do well for the entirety of the flight, especially if I'm by myself. Knowing how scared I get on planes, I feel it's a justified expense to pay more for the seat I want if I need to.
3. I thank every pilot I have
I'm glad the pilots always stand by the door to the plane as we're exiting, because it's important to me to thank them. As someone who likes to be in control, especially of my own fate, it's hard for me to deal with being in a vehicle that I am not driving. I'm always appreciative every single time I land back on the ground, and I need my pilots to know that.
4. I think of all the people I know who work in the airline industry
My uncle is a retired pilot. My cousin used to be a flight attendant. I have friends who work in air traffic control. I have countless other friends who are pilots and flight attendants. They live and love this every single day, which calms me down when I get nervous. Knowing simply that my uncle was a pilot for many years gives me the courage to put my trust in all my pilots.
5. I say the same prayer before every takeoff
I wouldn't call myself a very religious person, but I do still pray before every one of my flights takes off, just asking for safety for myself and everyone on my plane. Beyond the religious aspect of it, it has become part of my routine, which in itself brings a sense of calm to my nerves.
6. I watch the flight map
Some people do well with being distracted on a flight so the time will move quicker. I've learned that watching TV or movies or reading won't really do much for me because I can't relax my mind enough to focus on it. Instead, I put my music on and watch the flight map the whole way. The best is when the seats have screens in them with the map built in, but otherwise I'll get the plane WiFi on my phone and watch the flight that way. Knowing exactly how far we've come and how far we have left to go, in addition to the altitude, keeps my mind as distracted as it'll allow.