I don't fly well. I know at least part of it is due to motion sickness, but I don't think that's all of it. I think airplanes are perfectly safe. I've flown enough to be comfortable with the various noises and idiosyncracies of everything from seventeen-seat propeller planes to 747 jumbo jets. I know for a fact that there are fewer deaths and injuries per passenger in airplane-related accidents than car accidents (at least, I'm pretty sure I remember hearing this somewhere).
I also know that flying is a necessary evil. If I want to go home, I'm on planes for about ten hours. On our honeymoon, we flew from Maryland to Oklahoma to Florida and back to Maryland. I have something like 20,000 frequent flyer miles with British Airways alone. Still, all that flying hasn't made it any easier.
It's not really the take-offs or the cruising that does it, either. Sure, if there's a lot of turbulence, it's no good. However, after lift-off, planes usually break through clouds quickly and only experience turbulence for a short time, if any. Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, there isn't much turbulence until the descent.
Then, once I've been doing pretty well for the entire journey, the descent begins. And that's what usually does me in. As we slowly passes through layer upon layer of clouds, the entire plane shakes and I feel like I left my stomach a couple hundred feet above us. I break out in sweat and my body can't decide whether it's hot or cold. My mouth gets dry and my hands start getting numb. I cram starlight mints into my mouth, in an uphill battle against nausea. All I want is to be on the ground and off the plane.
The weird thing is, these feelings often aren't accompanied by nausea. Maybe it's the starlight mints or maybe it's not motion sickness at all: it could be fear. I don't consciously fear crashing during a landing and I don't recall feeling anxious about it (other than being anxious about getting sick). Whatever the case, I just want it to end.
If I'm lucky, we land quickly and everything goes back to normal by the time I'm off the plane. If I'm unlucky, we circle the airport for what seems like hours on end. Or, we land, but we don't pull up to the gate. Or, I'm at the back of the plane and these people can't understand that I have to get off!
I've tried all kinds of things to ease my journeys. Starlight mints (white cirles with red lines coming out from the middle) usually help a bit with nausea. I'll take Dramamine if we're on a long trip. That stuff messes me up. I'm completely useless. I have some wrist bands that are supposed to help by stimulating pressure points. I've tried some sort of patch, but I think it had did something weird to my eyesight.
If things get really bad, I try to find ways to keep my mind busy. On a recent trip, I started counting in Norwegian (which I was just learning at the time). On another trip, I did multiplication tables in my head. I'll do pretty much anything to keep my mind occupied and away from the idea that I'm going to be sick. Just don't make me talk. Opening my mouth is usually the last thing I want to do.
Rebekah and I are taking a trip back to the US at the beginning of March. This will be our first plane trip with Sara Ellen, so we're a bit concerned. We know how everyone complains about crying babies on planes and we hope we won't have one. Personally, I hope she didn't inherit my problems with motion sickness. Both my parents suffer from it, so I have a feeling it could be hereditary. And I also hope that I don't get sick. Then poor Rebekah would have to put up with a crying baby and a sick husband. Bless her heart.
I look forward to the day we all use teleporters. When I was in elementary school, I had plans to build a teleporter and be the champion of travelers everywhere. That hasn't quite worked out yet, but who knows where my life will go in the next fifty or so years. Don't hold your breath, though.