>> Over the years I noticed travelling had an immensely positive impact on me. Especially solo travel can push us out of our comfort zone and teach us many aspects of our personalities. It highlights our strengths and weaknesses and helps us develop tools to live a richer & more fulfilling life. I knew I wasn’t the only one who reaped the benefits of travelling for personal development.
This guest post series ‘Travel for Personal Development’ introduces you to others who have, in one way or another, travelled for personal development: be it to learn a new language, to mend a broken heart or to overcome an anxiety. Hopefully it will encourage you to travel more yourself and perhaps even help you to overcome barriers. <<
Meet Kenneth who decided to conquer his anxiety and fear of flying to be able to fulfill his dream of travelling the world!
How to Overcome a Fear of Flying? – Traveling for the Fearful!
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The one single thing that holds more people back from being happy and achieving their dreams and living the life they want to live is fear. Fear of failure, fear of regret, fear of rejection, etc. Fear is a survival mechanism in the body, it keeps us safe, it keeps us aware, but all too often it keeps us imprisoned. We tend to fear that which we do not understand, that which we haven’t experienced, it’s completely normal.
While some fear might be healthy in some situations (maybe a hungry bear that wants you for lunch, which will strike healthy fear in you), it’s generally just a lack of knowledge in many other situations. The more you learn about something, the less fear you’ll have, and even then, knowledge can only take you so far.
So if you’re like me and want to travel, but have an unexplainable fear of flying, you probably have the same question I did for the longest time; how to overcome a fear of flying?
Growing up I always thought “I’ll never get on a plane, I just can’t do it” and for the longest time I believed it.
Then when I was 25 I ended up being set back further when I began to suffer anxiety attacks. I would be walking from the living room to the kitchen and suddenly be struck by the overwhelming sense of dread, believing that I was about to die. Fear rushed in and flooded my head and took over all my thoughts, ideas, and senses for a moment; loss of hearing, loss of feeling, terrible tunnel vision, and then I would just simply collapse under the stress.
After a visit to the emergency room during one of these episodes I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was told by the doctor who diagnosed me and also was told by my family physician that there is no cure and I would have to take pills for the rest of my life!
Fast forward about 4 years and the opportunity presents itself to travel for work to Wilmington, DE. My boss gives me the option to either drive 6 hours or fly for 50 minutes. After sleeping on it I decided “well, if I want to travel the world, I need to fly!” So, with that thought I chose to fly, besides, a 50 minute flight is probably one of the shortest flights you can take, so it’s a good intro for anyone.
Was I scared? Of course! Did I get anxious during takeoff? Absolutely! It wasn’t easy at all, even after we were up in the air for a half hour I was still shaking in fear, but as we began our descent I felt relieved, and when we touched down I was ecstatic and full of energy because I succeeded in facing my biggest fear.
You might be thinking “well, you had anti-anxiety pills which probably helped”, and you’d be wrong! I tried a few different medications, but I just didn’t like being on medication that alters my mind, so I started learning to face my fear and how to defeat it without simply masking it.
My suggestion on how to overcome fear of flying is pretty simple, break down every decision to fly to make the fear more manageable. When I booked my first flight I kept telling myself “I can always back out of it”. All the way until I’m at the boarding gate and I’m next in line, I continue to tell myself that “I can STILL get out of this, that choice is still available”. Make the small choices to take one more step and remind yourself you can still back out; by breaking it down into tiny decisions, you reduce a lot of the fear in every choice, try not to face the fear all at once.
When you book the flight, just think “clicking the mouse button isn’t scary at all”; and use that with each step of the process, “packing my luggage isn’t scary, it’s kinda fun!”, “driving to the airport can be hectic, but it’s certainly not scary, plus I can always turn around and go back home”. And when you’re at the gate, just tell yourself “a few more steps and I’ll accomplish something big in life”, which should give you that final motivational push! And if you need to, tell yourself “hey, I can always get off before they shut the door, let’s just see if I can sit down in my seat”.
Am I still anxious getting on a plane? Yes, but it’s different now. I KNOW I can do it, the fears and anxieties are still there, but I know for a fact that I can do it because after that first time is done, I have that ability now. I’m guessing this is how roughly 60% of all flyers can get on a plane, because that’s how many people that fly have the same fear as you; they have done it before and this is just another flight, no flight will probably ever be as scary as your first, because you learn what flying is actually like!
You may find another method on how to overcome fear of flying, but once you do it, it’ll be an accomplishment under your belt and something that’ll stick with you for the rest of your life!
What about you? Have you recently conquered a fear of flying? What advice can you give others who may be facing the same challenge? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
Kenneth is 30 years old. He was born and raised in Cleveland, OH and has been working in the IT field for the past 10 years and as of last year decided it’s not for him and that he needed to pursue his life-long dream of traveling the world. He’s always highly enjoyed writing, so he figured he would try to combine these 2 things by writing about his travels.
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