Most people will tell you that they hate the airport. The whole process – checking a bag, going through security, finding your gate, boarding – is stressful. I won’t sit here and tell you that I don’t get anxious before I leave for a trip and that my nerves have not caused me to snap at a TSA agent or five when they tell me I have to put my watch, cell phone, iPad, MacBook, camera body, long lens, and short lens in SEPARATE BINS. To be honest, the actual time I spend on a plane between 10 minutes after takeoff and 10 minutes before landing makes my list of top three least favorite activities.
But have you seen the places you can go?! Despite a few traumatic experiences that led to my airplane PTSD, my serious case of wanderlust has driven me to push past the anxiety and just go.
This past weekend, I boarded a plane bound for Norfolk, Virginia to attend a dear friend’s wedding. As we taxied down the tarmac, I looked out my little window across the wing just in time to see another jet accelerating down the runway. There is something about watching a plane take off that gives me chills. The noise of the engines, the weightlessness you feel 30 seconds after the tires leave the ground, the idea of not truly knowing what awaits you on the ground at your destination. THAT. That is what makes the stress worth it.
From the perspective of a stranger sitting across the aisle, I probably look like a perfectly calm, seasoned world traveler. What that stranger doesn’t see is the scopolamine patch on the right side of my head just under my ear to prevent motion sickness. They don’t see the Benadryl or Xanax that I might have taken 45 minutes before I walked down the jet bridge. They don’t see that I have not eaten anything or drank anything but water since four or five hours before the flight, nor do they notice that I do not eat my airplane snack or ask the flight attendant for a beverage.
The stranger might see my headphones, but they probably don’t realize that I only listen to specific songs to keep my heart rate normal. They don’t notice that when I look at my watch, it’s to regulate my breathing so I don’t hyperventilate. They probably don’t realize that I never look at the people behind me or in front of me because if I did, claustrophobia would set in. The stranger might think that I’m just looking out the window because the clouds look cool, but it’s actually because I will get horribly dizzy if I can’t see the ground moving beneath me.
This is how I sit for the duration of my flight. Every minute is spent wishing time would speed up so that I could get back on the ground, but guess what would happen if I didn’t get on that plane? I would never get to my destination. Despite everything I have to do to ensure I don’t have a complete meltdown in a flying metal tube over some body of water somewhere around the globe, travelling is the ultimate high for me.
Most of the time, the things we dislike are just a means to an end. And if you think about it, we usually like the end result of something we’ve worked hard for. Getting a college education means a lot of sleepless nights spent studying. Each semester is a struggle, but you get a really cool piece of paper that will help you get a job. Working out and eating healthy can be downright miserable. Every sit up you do and every salad you eat makes you miss the chocolate chip cookies you used to eat for dessert, but one day you won’t crave them anymore and you’ll be able to run for as long as you want.
Flying is a means to an end for me. I truly hate sitting in that seat 36,000 feet about the earth, but I absolutely love the thrill I get from adventure. It’s that thrill that makes my hair stand on end when my plane takes off, bound for the unknown. Get on that plane. Even if you hate it.