I thought it was appropriate to write this from aboard a flight to Sydney.
The irony of my flying around the world for PWG is that I have a shocking fear of flying, after being in a horrible helicopter crash. We walked away with just minor cuts and bruises, but it was the mental scars that took a lot of work to “get over”.
This leads me to this blog post. Over the past 18 months since our crash, I have befriended a wide range of fellow airplane passengers, grabbing their hands mid-takeoff in terror, with tears streaming down my face. I relive my story about our crash and tell them about my fear of flying, and then the obvious question comes up: what do I for a for a living? “I have a travel show”, I reply… Then, they always give me a strange look and say: “Good on you for facing your fears.”
How I Got Over My Fear of Flying by Flying
The truth is that I really have been facing my fear of flying. The issue was that my “fear” was actually getting worse. A psychologist told me the only way I would get over it was to get into the cockpit of a major commercial plane, just so I could have a better understanding that turbulence is normal.
This is where my story gets interesting!
I was in Vanuatu filming for the current series (I discovered whiskey on the way over – it helped a little actually!) and was in the airport checking-in on our way home. I was all relaxed after lapping up the healing energy of the islands. In the tiny airport in Tanna, out of the blue, our flight’s pilot appeared and I told him what a spectacular country he lives in.
Within the hour, I am on the plane, and our film crew is asking me if I want a whiskey. But before I can answer, the flight attendant walks up, and says: “The pilot has invited you into the cockpit!”
I got up before she even finished her sentence. I floated into the cockpit convinced this was fate – this was going to be how I got over the post-traumatic stress that had begun to take over my life.
As soon as I opened the door, the pilot and co-pilot had smiles that lit up their faces. They said they had the best job in the world flying around over these spectacular islands.
I actually asked them to stop talking to me and concentrate on the flight. They laughed and said: “Do you have a real fear of flying?” I replied: “Oh just a little”. I think the pilot could see my white knuckles clinging on for dear life! I really wanted to cry. But moreover, I really, really wanted to be brave… and just get over this.
He looked at me and said: “Put it this way, if we didn’t have turbulence, we would be worried. These bumps are like bumps in the road. It’s just our road up in the air.” Of course, I have heard this before, but for some reason it finally clicked. The two of them just laughed and were more interested in talking about our show, which they had enjoyed on Discovery Travel and Living.
From that moment on, something just made sense to me. The anxiety comes back in little waves every now and again, but then I think of their smiley faces. And here I am flying to Sydney. The only tears I have now are ones of complete joy that I can tell the world my little story. And it no longer cripples me with fear.
To all those passengers who have held my hand over the past year (one lady was even a nun!), thank you all so very much for being such kind-hearted fellow travellers. You have no idea how much it meant to me.
And to anyone reading this who has a fear of flying, I hope there is something in my little blog that alleviates your fears too!
Do you have a fear of flying? Or do you have other fears? What did you do to overcome them?