The First Time I Embraced My Fear of Flying
By: Marissa Hill
I’ve always been a bad flyer. I’m one of those people who has an irrational fear that we’re all going to die every single time the plane hits a patch of turbulent air. I scan my memory for the last disturbing news headline I can think of. The ones about people dying in commercial airplanes, but there aren’t any that come to mind. However, I distinctly remember one from last year, where 10 people were injured in “extreme turbulence” as the flight dramatically dropped mid-air. What counts as extreme? Hopefully I’ll never know.
But this was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities I couldn’t pass up. My boyfriend, Greg, had just been offered a seat on his friend’s dad’s private plane chartering to Telluride for the day. Even though I lived in Colorado for eight years, I never made it to Telluride. It was a six-hour drive from my parents’ house, tucked perfectly into the top of the mountains in the southwestern side of the state.
Greg had just gotten home from work.
“I’ve just been offered an epic birthday present,” he said.
“Yeah, I know,” I grinned.
I had texted Greg’s friends earlier to invite them to his birthday festivities. Nothing was officially planned, but I asked them to keep their Saturday open. That’s when his friends told me Greg was invited to Telluride for the day. They would be back in time for drinks, they noted.
“But I don’t want to go if you can’t come,” he said.
My heart skipped. I would finally get to go on this amazing adventure? Greg went the year before with his friends and it sounded absolutely perfect. I had a feeling I would never get to go, yet here was my chance. Hell yes. I was all in. They were going to ski, and I’m not a skier, but I could still explore the town for the day.
This would be the first time I decided to embrace my fear of flying. The payoff, I’m sure, would be worth it.
We walked out on the tarmac to the 10-seater plane at Deer Valley airport, just outside of downtown Phoenix bright and early the next morning. Before I knew it, we were in the air. The ride there was surprisingly smooth. At first, I noticed every single bump the plane encountered. And, something was wrong with the autopilot function, and the noises sounded one beep short of those chaotic “mayday” sounds you hear in a movie.
I distracted myself with the views. At 10,000 feet, you can appreciate so much more of the terrain with the details still perfectly visible. I saw the Meteor Crater off old Route 66 -- a much more spectacular view from above, I must say.
The landscape was pretty similar until we reached the mountains in Colorado. But then, we were literally IN the mountains. Surrounded by pristine peaks covered in snow. The ride got a little bumpy as we neared Telluride. My heart racing, I bit my lip and tried to think happy thoughts. At least the fluffy snow will cushion our fall, I thought.
Once we landed, I hung back as the boys’ skied, which was totally fine with me. I would be stupid to try and ski in Telluride, after not doing so for more than 10 years. I soaked in the stunning views of the town and wandered in and out of every shop in downtown Telluride. A few short hours later, we were back on the plane.
I had to go home, so I didn’t really have time to decide whether I’d freak out over the return flight.
The ride back was much, much bumpier. At first I was gripping on to the back of the seat in front of me, white-knuckled and all. I tried my best to relax, but I just couldn’t. I wrapped a seatbelt around my arms, gripping them in some kind of twisted comforting way. Luckily, the pilot was the most laid-back person in the universe, which helped calm my nerves ever so slightly.
A couple hours later, we landed. My heart finally went back to its normal speed.
The pilot’s daughter turned to me and spouted her amazement at my seemingly cool, adventurous spirit.
“That’s so cool that you went just to explore the town. I’ve always wanted my boyfriend to come, but he’s deathly afraid of planes. He always thinks we’re going to die in a plane crash,” she said.
I laughed, and confessed.
“Oh, me too. The whole time I was freaking out,” I said.
Who knows if I’ll have the courage to do it again. But I at least now I can say I did it. And lived to tell the tale.
*Learn more about Marissa and her mad marketing skills at www.rambleandred.com.