A few weeks ago saw me in Berlin, which is good because I very much like Berlin and bad because I've been there five times and never quite managed to see much of the place - apart from the time I ran to Brandenburg Gate at 6am only to realise that it was actually 12kms away from my hotel, so took a quick picture of my foot and then had to get a taxi back to make it to my first (sweaty) meeting in time.
Apart from a rather boozy night at the Felix Club (involving a discovery that vodka is available in 3 litre bottles, and a 5am bedtime), it was pretty much all work and no play. One thing I did discover this trip though is, I’m definitely scared of flying.
I fly a lot. Roughly 30-40 flights a year. I can recite the safety announcements for every major airline, including the pronunciation and tone level of the words, "Brace! Brace!", which no doubt in real life would be screamed at the top of the cabin crews' lungs. The more I fly, the more scared I get. I think my chances of falling out of the sky are increasing, which, statistically, they probably are. I think that I know every sound in the precise order that it should happen, throughout the taxiing, take off, in-air, circling and landing process. This makes it worse. It means that any deviation sends me into a state of panic. Turbulence, which I used to relish because it broke the flight up (not literally), now has me gripping my armrests in terror and making deals with the big man (Richard Branson).
Here are my tips for mental survival. If you were after actual survival I'd recommend referring to the safety card in the seat in front of you:
1) Keep calm. Breathing helps. Take a few deep breaths and try and think rationally. There are millions of flights a year and almost none of the planes fall out of the sky. Absolutely none of them fall out due to turbulence. Just try and think of it as driving down a really bumpy road.
2) Take a look at the crew. If they're calm, you should be too. They fly all the time and actually do know what everything should sound like.
3) There's no shame in admitting it. If you're scared, sharing can help. I find that just by making conversation with the person next to you, you'll either distract yourself so that you're not scared or you'll find out that they're 'evacuating' bricks too – safety in numbers.
4) Plug in. I find that plugging into music or an audio book and distracting myself by working or writing really helps.
5) Upgrade. Ok, so this one isn’t for everyone, but I find that turbulence is much nicer when you’re horizontal. Kind of like a bumpy restaurant where nobody judges you for eating whilst wrapped in a duvet.
6) Think ahead. In a few hours you’ll be at your destination and all this will be a distant memory. Try to picture that time and don't worry about what's going on in the present as chances are it'll be absolutely fiiiiine. (Right?)