I am not afraid of flying. Though I can relate to the phobia (I’m terrified of snakes), it doesn’t bother me much to think about the possibility that my airplane might drop to the ground. I know the statistics, and I know that the likelihood for something like that to actually happen is minuscule.
However, I’m not overly comfortable in an airplane either. This all started when I flew to Japan the second time (in 2006). Prior to this I had always enjoyed flights – I love the view from airplanes, I like the buzz of airports (except Newark, but that’s another story), I even enjoy airplane food. I adore travelling, and the airplane part has always felt like a bonus at each end of a journey.
When you are flying from Oslo to Tokyo (and beyond), it is sensible to fly east. Well, I started by flying west. See, the cheapest tickets I could get my hands on were British Airways (amazing, I know…), and they required a stop at Heathrow. This added several hours to the travel time (flying there and back again, plus the wait at the airport), but the savings were considerable enough for me to ignore this. After all, I liked flying. And I liked waiting at airports. I thought.
The flight to Heathrow was fine, and the wait wasn’t so bad either. Fortunately this time I was not travelling alone, but with my friend, Linette. When we got on the plane that actually was taking us to Japan, however, things started to go downhill. First of all we were not seated next to each other. Annoying, but not to be helped (we tried). Secondly, and more importantly, there was something wrong with the plane. When there is something wrong with a plane, the solution always is to stay on ground. I get that. What I don’t get is why they had to keep all the passengers on the plane, for more than an hour, with no air-condition. By the time we left London I was very hot, very dizzy and I had a terrible headache.
The flight to Tokyo was about 12 hours. During this time, the only thing I could do was concentrating on not getting sick. I was really, really unwell. By the time we landed in Tokyo I could hardly walk, and it is one of the most discouraging things I have ever done to get off that airport, get on a bus for an hour and a half to get to another airport, and from there get on yet another plane. The second flight was almost as bad as the first, but thankfully shorter. When we arrived in Akita (where we proceeded to spend four delightful months), I felt exactly the way you do a Sunday morning after having spent your Saturday drinking 7 cans of beer, two bottles of wine and 5 tequila shots.
After this I developed a certain hesitancy for flying. I have flown afterwards, naturally – for one thing, I got back from Japan, and it’s not like I took a ferry to the US. I have also had a number of shorter flights in the three years between. Most of these are okay, it’s the long ones that really kill me.
When I went to the US it was the same thing all over again. Well, except this time it wasn’t an over-heated plane that was the cause, it was turbulence. A lot of it. For at least an hour before landing the entire plane was shaking heavily, and my face was as green as a European Tree Frog when we finally hit ground. It was possibly the worst way of arriving in a foreign country (followed by a delay in my connecting flight, hence my dislike for Newark airport), and believe me – had there been another way for me to get home than getting back on a plane – right there and then I wouldn’t have hesitated.
Thus I was not entirely happy about the thought of flying to the Midwest this week. I tried looking for train options, but as it took everything from 17 to 29 hours to get to Chicago or Detroit, I gave it up as a bad case. Instead I booked three individual flights between Baltimore, Minneapolis and Detroit. Two of them have stops, meaning I will be on five airplanes within one week. I try to comfort myself with the thought that at least they are all short flights, but I can’t ignore the fact that I am dreading the flying. Fortunately I have some travel sickness pills, and hopefully this will make the flights a little easier. When I get on another airplane in a few weeks – this time to back home to Norway – I think it will be my last flight in a loooong time. There are better ways of feeling hung-over.