My wife and I and the kids are getting on a plane in a few days for a quick vacation to Texas. It will be the first time my daughters have flown on an airplane. They’re excited. So are Mom and Dad. But we are also a bit nervous about how they will behave for two-and-a-half hours.
I was 12 when I flew on an airplane for the first time. My parents took my brother and I to Disney World for vacation. [Editor's Note: I flew to Virginia when I was two. That doesn't count because I don't remember it.] The highlight was waking up early to watch the space shuttle take off in the distance. And getting Mickey Mouse’s autograph, of course.
I didn’t fly on an airplane again until I was 19 when my Dad took me to Wrigley Field to see a baseball game. I took another flight to Chicago a year later, then my wife and I flew to Mexico on our honeymoon in 2006.
And, that was it. Four flights in 26 years. Hardly a frequent flier, was I.
So, when I had to take my first business trip to Denver, I was a bit nervous. I was by myself, 30,000 feet in the air, flying to an unfamiliar city for the day.
On the way there, we hit a rough stretch of air over Nebraska that caused the plane to plummet hundreds of feet in a few seconds. That was not supposed to happen. When the pilot told the flight crew to take their seats, this inexperienced traveler broke out into a cold sweat. We made it to Denver, but I had a death grip on the arms of my seat the entire way home.
From that day on, I was terrified of flying. Whenever I was sent out of town for work, I spent the days before the trip in a mild panic, which only got worse as I drove to the airport. I always forced myself to board the plane, but I never much enjoyed it.
As someone who has dealt with anxiety for the better part of his life, I understand what it’s like to not enjoy doing something because I’m afraid of what might happen. It’s the very definition of anxiety.
I’ve grown to enjoy flying (or at least not hating it) because it allows me to see different parts of country and take awesome Instagram pictures. This would not be possible had I chosen a different career that offered less travel, got a doctor’s note prohibiting me from getting on an aircraft, or turned down opportunities with friends to travel to see games in different baseball stadiums.
Overcoming travel anxiety has led to experiences.
As a parent, the last thing I want my kids to encounter is anxiety that cripples their wanderlust. I want to give them experiences. I want them to fly on an airplane early, at an age when they can remember it. I want flying to be no-big-deal to them. I don’t want them to put off adventures because they have to board a plane to get there.
In an age where kids can’t sit still for five minutes because we’ve programmed them that way, giving them an opportunity to do something that goes beyond iPads and iPhones is a good thing.
We can show them there’s more to be seen than just what’s inside their comfort zones.
And, who knows, maybe we’ll help them become better people in the process.