Now that I’m back living permanently in Bangkok since New Year’s Eve 2014/15, I’m staying put! My sister who teaches in Manila visits Bangkok regularly, and my parents come out here from the UK for a couple of weeks at Christmas. Unless there’s an emergency I’ve no intention of visiting the UK. I hate flying. It scares me.
People just love to tell me that it’s an irrational fear, that plane crashes hardly ever happen and that I’m much more likely to die crossing the road than in an air crash. When did ever say I was afraid of crashing or dying? I’m scared of flying, and at last count, every time I got on a plane it flew.
My fear of flying would be irrational if it was without good reason. I get that flight is scientifically sound and I understand the basic principles behind aerodynamic flight. I’m scared of flying because I’m scared of turbulence, and almost every flight I’ve been on has encountered it, with few exceptions.
Over the years I’ve experienced some pretty rough turbulence. Being hurled around tens of thousands of feet in the air isn’t restful and it makes me scared and anxious. I liken it to a fairground ride. I don’t enjoy them and the idea of getting on one fills me with dread. Those rides are not subject to air flow, weather patterns, or the pilots skill, yet there is almost nothing that would get on one. If I was forced to, I’d be terrified from start to end and my fear and anxiety would start while I’m in the queue.
For a year or so I dated a guy who lived in Chiang Mai and was studying his masters there as a mature student. It’s about an hour or so flight from Bangkok, and I used to travel up to see him regularly, even during monsoon season. As you may know, Thailand has 3 seasons; hot, damn hot, and damn hot with rain. The latter brings with it some monumental storms, and for a period while I was making this regular trip, there would almost always be major turbulence on the evening flight, about 20 minutes before landing. This wasn’t some prolonged shuddering, or the gentle undulations which really make you feel you’re flying. It was a good 5 to 10 minutes of being flung around in the sky. G-forces pushing you hard into your seat as the plane pulls up at force, followed by a total weightlessness when your stomach says hi to your tonsils and you’ve the impulse to hold on to something….anything, followed by the desperation that comes with the realization that what you’re grasping at is falling with just as little control as you, and you’re strapped on to it.
I’ve also been on one flight from the UK to Thailand which, with very little warning, and just after breakfast had been cleared away, dropped out of the sky. Just as we came over land after the Bay of Bengal the seat belt sign lit and the pilot came on the tannoy to ask people to return to their seats. Before he could finish the announcement the plane dropped several thousand feet in a few seconds, to an audible gasp throughout the craft. For all it was the worst, most dramatic drop I’ve ever experienced, there was thankfully no forewarning. When it happens quickly and unexpectedly like that, it’s over before you’ve time to be scared, and in this case it was isolated.
I find the prolonged type of turbulence which fluctuates between very mild and a bit scary to be the worst. Eyes clenched, hands grasped together in lap, I’m braced for the bad stuff and I just want to cry. I keep asking myself over and over again in my head, “are you OK right now? In any danger?” and replying to myself that I’m fine at this moment. Then the next moment. Then the next. This continual reassurance is on loop, interspersed with asking myself why I got on the plane in the first place and promising myself I won’t fly again. When the scary stuff starts, the only choice I have which allows me to cope is to mentally throw my arms up in the air, wave my head about and shout whooopie!!!! Much like I was on a rollercoaster.
While I won’t choose to fly if I can help it, and not during storm season, I’m determined not to let it restrict me too much. I just about manage short flights as they’re quickly over, but the UK’s 12 hour flight is 12 hours of torturous anticipation, anxiety and sheer boredom. The only flight I really enjoyed was in Business Class, because there was plenty to play around with and keep me entertained. I once got upgraded to a flat bed as the entertainment was out in my seat in economy plus, but while that started out fun, a hangover in the sky is definitely to be avoided.
Flying is not fun for me, and I am scared of it whether my friends think it irrational or not. Easy solution – come visit me. Bangkok is great.