Fear of Flying (and Why I Love the Window Seat)

Fear of Flying - In Flight Over the Dolomites
Fear of Flying - In Flight Over the Dolomites

Whenever I talk to people about travel, one of the first things that comes up is that I used to have a fear of flying. I don’t know where, exactly, the fear came from. My brother used to say it was because I saw the movie La Bamba when I was younger and the plane crash scared me. I guess that may have contributed to it a little bit. I’ve always attributed my fear to having seen a story on the news that I only vaguely remember now. It was about a little girl who’d been the only one in her family to survive a plane crash. After many years and some research, I’m pretty sure that story was not actually what I remember it to be. Never the less, whatever it was that I watched that day left me with an almost life-long fear of flying.

The thing about my fear was that after a while, it molded itself into something different. Almost a habit, or an excuse: “Come visit me.“I can’t. I’m afraid to fly.”  It was my default response for all things regarding travel. People came to visit me, but if I couldn’t get there by car or train, I wasn’t returning the kindness.

Twice a year, my family would either take Amtrak or drive down to Florida to visit my grandparents. We were in four Amtrak accidents and made countless overnight car trips. Even with three siblings, I was unwilling to shorten the voyage down to two hours by getting into a plane.

Despite the fear, I had a growing desire to travel. Italy (specifically Venice) was at the top of my growing “Places I Need to Go” list. I had maps of Italy pinned up on my bedroom walls, I had books and CDs on learning to speak Italian. It was getting a bit silly. Eventually, I wound up making a deal with myself (and anyone who asked me to travel somewhere): I’ll fly, but my first flight HAS to be to Italy. After that, I’ll fly anywhere, but Italy first.

Hey, it had to be something worth it for me to go through with the plan.

This became my new default, (’cause trips to Italy don’t just happen overnight for me). My response was now: “Sorry, I’m afraid to fly… but if I’m going to Italy, I’ll try to get over it.” After making several trips out from California to visit me in New York, a friend finally decided she’d had enough of the “I have to go to Italy first” speech. After another failed attempt to get me out to California, she decided that we should go to Italy together. Then, according to my own rules, I would be able to fly out to visit her.

We began planning our trip. Our initial plan was to do Italy (Venice, Florence, and Rome), Paris, and London, but with work schedules and all, we only had about 2 weeks to fit it all in, which would leave us with roughly 3 days per city. In the end, we decided to leave London for another time. In the end, I agreed to fly into Paris (it was more cost efficient to do so) and our final plan wound up being fifteen days, 2 countries: 5 days in Paris, 3 days in Venice, 4 in Florence, 3 in Rome.

It didn’t seem real to me until I received all my travel documents in the mail. Plane tickets, hotel vouchers, trains between the different cities. It was happening. I was actually going to get over my 27 year fear of flying by taking a 6-hour flight over an ocean. More importantly, I was actually going to see Venice.

Rather than continuously trying to make this post shorter, I’m just going to divide it into a short series of posts with some photo excerpts from my travels. Hopefully, someone will find it interesting!

Stay tuned for the next installment!


i'll let you know when i figure it out.

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