Flight or flight.


It turns out the key to enjoying a flight (for me anyway) may be as simple as not fighting it…

As I write this, I am sitting in seat 18b of a Boeing 737-800, beginning our descent somewhere over the south of Spain, and despite all expectations, I am feeling fine. No, in actual fact I am feeling good. I am enjoying the flight, the views, and Gloria’s company (even if she appears a little less keen on the descent than I am).

I will not pretend I haven’t had a stressful morning, or that I was comfortable during takeoff – undoubtedly my least favourite part – or the majority of the flight, but for the first time in a long time I find myself excitedly peering out of a plane window at the lands below.

Early on in the flight I found myself unable to relax, my every sense sensitive to any change, my heart stopping at every noise, every movement. We’ve above the clouds, the seat belt signs are off, hostesses are going about their work as if they were waitresses in a bar; I begin to relax. Turbulence.

I reach for Gloria’s hand and turn to face her, wide eyed, adrenaline beginning to rush throughout my system. She then says:

“Shut your eyes and imagine you’re on a train. Feel like much movement now?”

And she is absolutely right, on a train this wouldn’t be cause for concern, perhaps reaching for a handle if standing, but nothing more. The fear starts to fade, and I think of my destination and the adventures ahead… I can’t believe what I’m feeling: excitement.

And so, the man who previously couldn’t sleep because closing his eyes made him too aware of movement (and scared of missing a sign of danger like smoke or flames, despite being powerless to stop either), found that by doing precisely that he could relax.

And he’s even relaxed enough to write!

X.

Airplane!

 

My next adventure is taking shape! But before I can let myself fully slip into adventure mode, I have to tackle undoubtedly my least favourite part of any trip: flying.

On paper, I am a seasoned traveller and no stranger to the phenomenon that is aviation. Throughout my life, I have clocked up an enormous number of hours above the clouds (often pushing three digits in a single year). I have though, unfortunately, spent a significantly greater number of hours fretting about this facet of journeying.

Flying is the safest form of travel. We’ve all read the statistics – or anyone also afflicted by a nervous disposition when confronted by air travel likely has, anyway – and if you haven’t… But fears don’t need to be rational. And for this reason, no amount of flying or number of comforting statistics has ever totally eased my nerves (although both undoubtedly help).

Lucky for us aviophobes, it is by no means a rare or embarrassing fear (just have a look at the number of famous actors, musicians, athletes, business people, and even world leaders who have openly – undoubtedly a tiny fraction of the total – discussed their fear of flying if you don’t believe me). This is truly a blessing; nothing is worse than suffering in silence. If fact, writing this in itself helps me process my thoughts and rationalise my fears.

Unfortunately I have no real solutions to offer you, but one thing I’d recommend to anyone is to never let your fears control you. Unless I am actually on a plane (where ironically I tend to relax a little, until I- “What was that noise?” “Why did the plane move like that?” etc…) I have only a toxic way of thinking to blame for my anxieties; I often let myself obsess over the process of flying itself, instead of the adventures to come, the reasons I am flying in the first place, and the fact that I am fortunate enough to have both the freedom and means to afford the luxury of travel at all. Ultimately, I suppose the truth of the matter is that for flying to genuinely be of such concern to me, I must have it pretty good.

And with these things in mind I start to relax, and look forward to touching down in Malaga tomorrow after a brief 3 hour flight from London.

Anyway, got to go: I’ve got a bag to pack.

X.

How to fight loneliness and win.

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Thanks to the development of new technologies the world is continually getting smaller.  Travel and communications have become easier, faster, and cheaper than ever before. Social media allows us to keep in touch with people that in days gone by would have had nothing more than a bit part in our lives, and offers the opportunity to get to know people we’ve never actually met.

So why do we still see so many articles about the “loneliness epidemic”? Maybe society is forgetting how to really connect, and the importance of genuine human contact? Or maybe it’s because people only show their best on social media, and we’re forgetting the uniting (and healing) power of sharing our insecurities, pains, and secrets in private with another person? Maybe it’s because we are more aware than ever of what we weren’t invited to or included in by our “friends”, or because we can see that person our crush (or ex, etc.) is spending a lot of time with, at the click of a button…

The truth is the reasons why don’t really matter. What really matters is what you do about it: loneliness may seem utterly debilitating, but it can also be defeated. It may affect people differently – from mild to devastating, short lived to seemingly endless – but it will affect everyone and anyone indiscriminately, if it is given the chance. In fact, everyone I have ever spoken to about it has felt the same at one time or another.

Here are the five things that I have found to be most powerful against loneliness, and help to keep it at bay when it comes for me:

1) Exercise. The endorphins will make you feel better, as will the satisfaction of swimming a length that little bit faster, or lifting that little bit more, or even being a little less out of breath when you walk up the stairs. You’ll also start to look better too, which will only help your confidence grow and make you feel happier in your own skin. It’s also hard to find time to feel lonely when you’re trying not to notice that your lungs are burning and your muscles aching. Outdoor exercise can get you out of the confines of your lonely room, and simple things like an amicable nod from a passing stranger may have a subconscious effect on how you feel for the rest of the day. Joining a club, participating in team exercises, or even simply working out at the gym can also lead to new friendships!

2) Set goals and document it. What the goal is really doesn’t matter, whether it be getting a new job, passing an upcoming exam, eating a cleaner diet, or even just sleeping more (which is also proven to help boost one’s mood, and will help get you through the next day’s exercise!), set some goals and fill your free time working towards them. Not only does filling empty time reduce how much time you have to wallow in your loneliness, but by documenting your progress you can look back and see the progress you have made, which will not only give you the satisfaction of having improved yourself but can help keep you motivated until you have completed your goal. And once you have, give yourself a pat on the back and get busy setting yourself some more!

3) Find a creative outlet. Loneliness is a powerful emotion, and one best not left to build up inside you. Creativity is a wonderfully powerful emotional outlet, and a great way to express yourself, work through problems in your head, or to simply let off some steam without needing to rely on anyone else. Paint, sing, sculpt, make, design, write, dance… Whatever works for you.

4) Find people like you. Loneliness is not the same as being alone. If you feel like you don’t belong, find where you do. Go to see bands you like in concert, or to watch your favourite sports team. Find your niche – be it a religious centre or a car meet. Don’t be afraid to do things alone, and go with an open mind. I have been to Reading Festival twice, once in a group, and once alone, and genuinely had as much, if not more, fun on the latter occasion – meeting new people and doing my own thing!

5) Disconnect. Get off social media! And if not completely (it is a phenomenal resource for keeping in touch with people after all), why not try to limit the time you spend using it? Social media feeds typically show a mixture of posts from all your contacts, so it can be easy to compare yourself with everyone else collectively rather than as individuals, compounding feelings of isolation and exclusion. What’s more, it can be hard enough to live your own life, without simultaneously trying to keep up with everyone else’s.

X.