In 2008, I was woken out of a blissful, dreamless state on a flight to Kingston, Jamaica. Kudos to the sleeping pills I popped before boarding, as I was far too weary to do the conventional thing and cry in reaction to the shrill cries of ‘Oh my God’, the plane jerking violently, and the whole of economy class set off in a state of panic.
This was the exact point in time I decided turbulence doesn’t respect my feelings. And my trip to Cuba a couple of years ago was no different. As a couple of attendants were making their way through the aisles gossiping amongst themselves in hushed whispers – smoothing skirts, plastering on smiles, adjusting shirt buttons and settling themselves down on the fold-out seats at the front of the cabin – my anxiety started its nightshift. The monitor flickered; I tentatively removed my headset to better hear the announcement and peered over the seat in front of me. Passengers are kindly reminded to observe the fasten seat belt sign. We will soon be making our descent
And on queue the familiar wave of dread swept over me. My nails sank deeper into the armrest and my breathing became quickened and more pronounced. Occasionally, I entertained recurring thoughts of my family’s howls of anguish after viewing my swollen remains fished out of the Atlantic, and mulled over how presentable I would be in time for my funeral – dramatic, much?
Cabin crew, please prepare for landing
I found my friend’s hand and squeezed it tightly. In the quiet moments, the moments of calm, I was able to look out of the window, and I started to make out outlines of tiny scattered buildings, stretches of jagged streets and streams of cars slowly swimming into view. Patches of sky stained with a murky grey as a reminder of the rainy season. Palm trees stood resolutely: the ocean steadily slipping out of my line of vision. I sighed. The plane shuddered. My jaw tightened. The runway edged closer. I squeezed his hand tighter. He squeezed back. Reassurance. Acknowledgement. Buildings grew. Colours sharpened. Fear clung. Eyes shut. Eyes opened. Collected thoughts. Hushed prayers. Body tightened. Hands stiffened.
I made it.
When you love domestic/international travel as much as I do, avoiding a plane really isn’t an option. So, I’ve developed some coping mechanisms which have served me quite well – I’ve yet to cause a serious commotion on board (touch wood). Here are my personal tips for dealing with turbulence:
1. ‘Gin’ and his mate ‘Tonic’ (assuming you’re over the age of 18, in which case camomile tea).
2. Lavender oil – a couple of drops on your plane pillow and/or rubbed into your temples.
3. Meditation – breathe in for 5 and out for 10. Focus on the breath, only. Repeat 5 times.
4. In-flight entertainment – binge watch the shit out of a good comedy series.
5. Strike up a rapport with your seat buddies – you may need them for a cheeky hand squeeze.
6. Strike up a rapport with your flight attendants – extra snacks and they can tell you the inner workings of the plane, reassuring you that you have nothing to worry about.
7. Visualise yourself being in a car, as opposed to a plane – turbulence feels tame when you see it as speed bumps. It works, trust me.
8. Matthew 6: 25 – 34 – You can do absolutely nothing once the plane lifts off. This verse is so comforting and practical!
10. Visualise the destination and repeat all 9 steps as necessary
By Elisia Traveller Twitter: @ElisiaTraveller