I feel a bit like I’m at an AA meeting…my name is Twin Mum and I used to be scared of flying.
Seriously, up until three and a half years ago I was terrified of flying. The thought of being on a plane turned my stomach upside down and brought me out in a cold sweat. I flew a couple of times before I was 21 without any problem so I really don’t know what happened to turn me into someone who would become a nervous wreck at the thought of setting foot on a plane.
It wasn’t like a switch got flipped, it was more a gradual feeling of dread that started after seeing some high-profile plane crashes on the news in the late nineties. As I couldn’t afford to go abroad it was something I could easily avoid. The more I didn’t fly the more the feeling of dread grew. I was always aware of my fear clouding my opportunities. As I developed an interest in travel I began taking coach trips to Europe – which I loved. Even my honeymoon was a cruise leaving from Southampton and it was awesome, so I told myself that it was perfectly possible to explore the world without having to get on an aircraft.
But I knew I was lying to myself. I wanted to travel more than anything and so did Hubby. And the only way to travel far was to fly.
We started saving for our round the world trip in 2006, putting every penny possible away. It still felt unreal so I could stick my head in the sand at first – maybe something would come up to stop us from going. Then Hubby’s friend announced he was getting married in Spain the following year. Husband accepted the invite. I decided I had to bite the bullet and the wedding was the deadline I needed to help me conquer my fear.
I bought a few fear of flying books online. Understanding some of the details of flying was surprisingly reassuring but I was still petrified. I read that booking a flight and failing to board was the worst thing you could do for your confidence, so rather than risk that happening for the wedding trip I decided to invest in a Virgin Flying Without Fear course.
It cost something like £200– which was a lot for me, but I felt it was money invested in my future.
On the course I met a bunch of other people who were all just like me – regular people with an irrational fear. We helped each other through the day, listening to pilots speaking, practicing hypnotherapy techniques and trying to come to terms with our own unique fears. Even though the day was relaxed, we were all terrified about the climax – a short flight from Bournemouth International Airport. There was silence as we queued up to board but we were all in the same position and we encouraged each other along. I found having people more scared than me around took the edge off my fear as I tried to ease theirs.
The flight was fantastic. I felt inflated and proud to have gone through with it. After so much dread it really wasn’t so bad – everything I had feared was created by my mind rather than reality.
I just wanted to tell this story as I know that millions of people worldwide are terrified of flying and do everything possible to avoid it. I wondered for years about whether it was worth paying out to do a course and I would definitely say 100% yes it is.
I flew to Madrid for the wedding two months later. I was a bit nervous but I knew I could cope with it. Then six months later I embarked on a round the world trip that included 26 different flights – some which were small, rickety looking sea planes – and I survived.
My goal was not to ever love flying – that’s never going to happen. I just wanted to feel comfortable enough to watch a film or have a conversation where I wasn’t just thinking about the fact I was in the air. The Virgin course helped me do that.
Next week I fly to Menorca for my first holiday abroad as a family of four. I’m more scared about how Hubby and I are going to keep our toddlers on our laps than I am about the flight. Thanks Virgin – you changed my life. Even if the course had cost £1000 it would have been worth every penny.