A Control Freak With Aerophobia


Two days ago, I rebooked my flight back to the Netherlands for Christmas break. My parents do not know this. They think I am coming home December 23rd, but I decided I wanted to surprise them so instead of the 23rd, I will be seeing them the 17th. 

Sounds really fun and all, and believe me, I cannot wait to go home again and see everyone again.  But I am already stressing out about the fact that I have to go on a plane again. 

I am lucky enough to say I have been able to travel far away in the past and all the different places with their different cultures made me realize I would really like to include traveling in my job later on. And then I ask myself: how in the world am I going to do that if I am scared to death to fly?

It all started when I was selected for an exchange trip to Canada when I was in high school. It was October 2016 and I was 16 years old. Now I think of it, it probably was also the first flight I was about to go on without any of my parents. Luckily, one of my best friends, Florence, who I have known since I was five years old was selected for this trip as well. 

I remember that we left school for Schiphol Airport Amsterdam really early in the morning because our plane was supposed to depart around 7:30 – 8 a.m. Once arrived at the airport, we found out that our flight was delayed for at least three hours. What a great start…

The clock had already passed noon when we got on our plane. The airline was AirTransat, I will never forget. Thankfully, I was seated next to my best friend because that 8-hour long plane ride to Toronto, Canada was the worst one of my life. 

As soon as we got off the ground, the plane made this weird squeaking sound and the little window was shaking so heavily the whole time, that I thought it could break at any moment. All red flags. 

We probably were up in the air for about two hours and Florence and I were getting to know everyone in our group since there were also students from other high schools. After all the chitchat, Florence and I decided to pick out a movie we could watch together and that is when the turbulence started. 

“Hello everyone, I would like to inform you that we might experience some turbulence in the upcoming 30 minutes so please take a seat and fasten your seatbelt.”

Turbulence. My favorite word of all times. When the pilot told us that through the intercom, I did not think too much of it. I was thinking, it is not a big deal, I have been on a lot of flights already so there is nothing to worry about. 

The flight attendant continued to serve drinks and she just gave us ours when all of a sudden, the plane heavily tilted to the right side. The flight attendant fell and the cart with the drinks got up in the air, spilling all the drinks over the passengers. That is when I saw the purser literally ran to the intercom and a few seconds later we heard her screaming:

“If you are still not seated, go to your seat immediately and fasten your seatbelt right now!”

That is when it hit me. This was serious. Florence and I looked at each other and she must have been asking herself the same question as I was: is this it?

It took about 45 minutes for the turbulence to be completely over but after that, the tiniest movement of the plane would freak both of us out. I still panic when there is the slightest bit of turbulence. All thanks to that one flight. 

This made such a big impact on me, that I feel like I act like a control freak when I am on a plane. Before I get on the plane, I send everyone I love a message saying ‘in case I die, love y’all’, just to make sure. I fasten my seatbelt super tight; I never watch movies because I am too busy checking the world map on the little tv built in the seat in front of me to see if we are flying above land or water— I have convinced myself that crashing on land has a better chance of survival than crashing in the sea, which does not really make a difference when you are six miles up in the air; I always look at the flight attendants because as long as they are not stressing out, I am good; and even though I make my bathrooms breaks as quick as possible, somehow I always manage to use the bathroom when there is turbulence…

I feel so relieved when I see that there is only one more hour left till we land, because that means that in 30 minutes, the plane will start to make its way down and that means we are almost there. Even though, an hour seems long, it is short to me. 

Flying will never feel the same after that one flight in October 2016. Unfortunately, flying back home is the only way to see my family and friends so I guess I will just have to suck it up again. 

I believe the fear will never go away but I have definitely been doing a lot better. I am even able to sleep again and I do not start panicking right away when there is turbulence, so that is an improvement. 

For my family and friends I am willing to feel uncomfortable and scared for a good seven hours two times a year. When I feel the fear coming up, I start thinking of them and I cannot help but smile because seeing them makes it all so worth it.