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 a vague memory I have in my child-brain of seeing a sad news story. 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 this story was not actually what I remember it to be. Never the less, whatever I watched that day, left me with an almost life-long fear of flying.

Twice a year, my family would either drive or take Amtrak 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.

Every now and then, I would summon up all my courage, go to my mom and say “I think we should fly to Florida this year.” When she’d stop whatever she was doing, turn to me and ask “Are you sure?” I’d always take a few seconds and then, unfailingly, say “No, never mind.”

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.

Despite my 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’d fly, but my first flight HAD to be to Italy. After that, I’d 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 for Italy (Venice, Florence, and Rome), Paris, and London, but with work schedules, we only had about two weeks to fit it all in. Rather than limit ourselves to only two days in each city, 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, two 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!

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

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