I don’t enjoy it, but realise it’s a necessary evil if I want to holiday anywhere outside the UK. Since my dad died in a light aircraft crash, and I've got older, my fear of flying has become worse, but I manage it. I try to be part through a good book and bury myself in that during the whole flight/airport/taxi experience. That combined with some deep breathing and it’s ok. And that’s just for a two hour flight to France!
Last year we went to Australia. It was my second time, after I went in my gap year before uni, in the nineties, and it was my BF’s first time. That’s a twenty three hour flight and two internal flights of at least 3hrs each.
So in preparation of this, I decided to take a different approach to flying. I embraced it, loved it, welcomed it in a few different ways.
1. I revelled in the campiness of flying: the flight attendants, the uniforms, the ‘lights along the aisle and emergency exits’ movements. Kylie even has a song – Light Years and there’s Pam Ann, whose cabaret about the campness, the difference between airlines, is legendary. And of course, there’s The High Life, which I’ve always loved and is mentioned in Best Friends Perfect of course. On a flight to France recently, the woman looking after the gate was so strict I felt like I was at boarding school. She ran her gate with a rod of iron. I was in awe of her ripping the boarding passes, moving people from priority boarding to the other queue without hesitation, deviation or toleration of anything. So I embraced all that, and more.
2. I made the most of the enforced isolation away from the internet & phone. How often do you get a break from the pings of social media, emails, and your phone? Never really. I leaned into the situation of being everywhere, but nowhere. Rather than watching 23hours of films, which would have given me a headache, I made the most of this time to think and more...
3. I brought a notebook, 2 pencils and pencil sharpener & wrote. On the flights to and from Australia and the 2 internal flights I managed to hand write 24,000 words on my work in progress at the time. The advice about taking a notebook and pencils on a flight was one of the best pieces of writing advice I've ever read. This was the first time I'd tried it, I thought a long flight to Oz would really test out if I could do it. It was the perfect distraction from the flight, and a productive use of the otherwise dead time. I rested my notebook on the table and the post it notes of scene planning underneath and I wrote. Interestingly, when I typed up the 24,000 words in February at my New Forest writing retreat, I didn't change much, I think writing it slower by hand meant it was already a bit more 'self edited' than my usual frantic fast drafted typing. We'll see how it works when I edit the whole thing together.
4. I disappeared into a big thick book that would normally take me a few weeks to read, and ploughed through 600 pages with no distractions. When we flew to New York in 2012 to avoid the Olympics in London, I read most of The Best Of Times by Penny Vincenzi, and I loved it. I dreamed about the characters.
So that's my four point plan for future flights, I threw myself in the deep end with a long one to Oz, but I like a challenge.
How do you feel about flying?
What tips do you have to help with nervous flyers?
What do you like to do on a flight?
I’d love to hear from you,
Until next time,
Liam Livings xx