I’ve realised that it’s less than six months until this epic journey happens. And it does feel like it’ll happen, now, because I’ve been talking about it to lots of friends – apparently I’m one of the last people in the world to visit Australia (or so it seems). Talking about things often makes them seem more real, I find.
The downside of these conversations is the inevitable question: ‘But what about your massive fear of flying?!’ It’s been a long-standing joke, my aversion to getting on a plane, and I’ve been trying to deal with it for a lot of years.
Back in the mists of time, when I was not a parent, I flew to Saudi Arabia a couple of times, to visit my Dad who was working there. I also flew to the Czech Republic, Greece and Paris. Bizarrely, I can’t remember being utterly terrified in those days – I mostly just enjoyed the food-in-a-tray excitement, and the biggest dread was about having that toddler playing peek-a-boo for THE ENTIRE JOURNEY over the seat in front. I do remember not particularly liking taking off or landing, but there was no gripping of the arm rest, or hawkishly watching the cabin crew’s faces to make sure I knew the minute something might be wrong. I know, I sound like a mad woman.
Anyway, somewhere in the mire of having children, I developed a proper, full on fear of getting on a plane. I think it’s something about being a responsible grown up – several of my friends have been able to relate to this idea.
So in 2010, I had to go to Belfast for a conference. Believe me, I looked at every possible way of travelling that didn’t involve planes – a combination of car and boat, or train and boat, or train, boat and car… But they all took too many days, and I decided I should face my fear. I heard Chris Moyles talking about how he’d used a self-hypnosis app to conquer his fear, and thought this sounded like something I could do to help myself.
I have no idea whether the app worked – I never managed to stay awake long enough to even hear what was on it. I always woke up to a lovely, calming sound that told me it was over. I think I may be worryingly susceptible to hypnosis… Anyway, I got on the plane, and I felt as okay as someone who’s terrified of flying might feel. But I did find myself tapping my arm rest part way through the flight, and tapping is not something I’m usually prone to, so I wonder whether it did work in some way?
Since then, I’ve continued to avoid flying. I’ve only been once to Amsterdam (with my son, who told everyone when we got home that I was so scared, he had to hold my hand…), and twice to Dublin. Each time, I feel a little worse, and I’m beginning to wonder whether I might soon turn into one of those people who demand to get off the plane mid-flight?
So, coping strategies for a massively long flight: I’ll probably try the self-hypnosis app again, and I’ll perhaps combine it with some kind of sedative – given the length of time in the air, maybe I can sleep the whole way there?! One thing I’m very sure of, however, is that no alcohol will be involved. I’m a cheap date at the best of times, and I don’t know whether you’ve seen ‘Bridesmaids’, but there’s a hilarious cautionary tale there about not mixing sedatives with alcohol…