Fear in the Air: Sometimes the journey is the adventure

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As we fly over the Swiss Alps in what only can be a hurricane-type of storm the plane we are on is dipping and swerving, its engines groaning against the finest Northern hemisphere winter storm nature can muster. My poor beloved is trying to calmly stroke my shaky white death grip that I have clasped around his hands, all the while plying me with wine at a very inappropriate time of the morning to avoid me from having a breakdown and scaring everyone else on the juddering plane. But my mind is doing a hyperventilative marathon deciding which one of the passengers we might have to eat first after we emerge from the snow covered wreckage. ( all pictures my own)

I know for a fact that there are many people like me out there in the atmosphere who get a glaze of cold sweat forming between their shoulder blades every time a plane hurtles off the runway. Just look at how many people downloaded the Virgin Atlantic fear of flying app, I am not alone.


The problem is that I fly all the time. The anxiety would start kicking in the day before I knew I was to board any kind of plane to anywhere. I would cringe and cramp over the weather, the time of day the plane was taking off, the type of airline, the neurosis list went on and on. And heaven help the poor sod that had to sit next to me. I would clutch my safety belt like it was the missing link in my life in-between furiously flicking through magazines and wiping clammy shivering hands on my jeans all the while jumping and twitching at every ...single...noise. I think I actually let out a scream once when the planes wheels clinked back into place.


Eventually after the umpteenth time of arriving somewhere with my heart pounding through my chest I realised that I was either going to become an alcoholic or a hermit if I kept this up. There was a whole world of adventure out there, just beyond the bags, trolley and security guards. One beautiful, crisp inked stamp and I would be on my way to anything and everything.


And I refused to give that adventure up.


If I didn’t get on a plane I would never have made friends with Cervran’s wife. She ran the only cold beer joint in a small village on the border of the Congo and was obsessed with braiding my hair and getting me to give her one of my underwire bra’s. She also gave me the gift of a deep love for Nigerian soap operas, which no one else seems to understand. I would miss drinking vodka on the side of Lake Bykal on the tip of a cold Russian winter, stuffing my face with Omul fresh from the water sidled up to thick steaming bread heaving with caviar. Forget about digging my toes into the cool sand of a Tanzania beach paradise cold killi in hand or getting chased down by a gorilla crashing though the undergrowth in defence of his family.


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Yes my fellow fear-of-flying friends, there is hope for us.


Like finding out that you are twentytwo times more likely to die in a car than on an airplane. Many, many things have to go wrong before there is a serious problem-and as the pilot who successfully aquaplaned into the Hudson River in the States proved- the people behind the wheel are very well trained for every niggle. Every day over six million people travel by aeroplane worldwide, and taking my numerical cue from my home country’s Wildebeest- those numbers make me feel very comfortable.


And now adventure for me is not just what is on the other end of a plane ticket. It’s not just in the white sandy beaches; the picture perfect sunsets or the smiling family members waiting arms open. These are all just the rewards you get for committing to the adventure, and the adventure starts the minute you get into the airport and flows out from that into where you are landing, even if it’s just around the corner.

When I stopped fretting about every bump and bleep I started to see more exiting things happening all around me. Like the free foot and leg massages in Singapore International, why on earth had I not noticed that little treasure before! I enjoyed sleeping on my backpack huddled next to an Indian family on their way to America from Dubai, listing in to their nervous chatter even though I could not understand a word of it. It was somehow familiar and comforting, like the way your mother use to speak to you on the night before Christmas.


I now love arriving and leaving from King Shaka Airport, blinking into the sauna that is Durban and having my auditory canals blasted by drums and singing from traditional Zulu dancers. I know they are there for the tourists, but I still pass them imagining that they are my own personal welcome and farewell.


And I’m even getting adventurous with the different food choices you get when you fly. Look, I’m not about to tuck into the Camarones a la Diablaat the start of a 19-hour flight from South Africa to Mexico anytime soon, but there’s no harm in getting a feel for where you are going by just sampling something different a few hours before you land, within reason.


Yes I also don’t like being squelched up to some weirdo who feels the need to saunter on the plane right before the doors close and then take up residence next to you, drop his jaw open and snore like a sweaty buffalo. But as in life, there are speed bumps, and they don’t last forever even if it does feel like it. Handy tip: if you think this might happen to you invest in really good headphones that cover your entire ear. Or fart when the buffalo is in awake mode, they will either get the hint or you will make a new friend.


Maybe this is what adventure is all about? Being able to face your fears and failures, but not let them change the reason why you chose to get off your butt and walk out the front door in the first place. Even if it’s just a hop and a skip over to the next town, let go and start enjoying the ride.


Trust a reformed fearful flyer, it’s better than you can ever imagine.


Entry for the Travelstart blogger experience contest to win two flights; support beating the fear -http://www.travelstart.co.za/blog/blogger-experience-contest

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