When I talk to people about flying, I find that most people love it or they hate it. The response is immediate. I see a child-like smile crack at the corners of their mouth when they love it. If they hate it, their face grimaces, brows furrowing, eyes narrowing.

I have never really loved air travel. The first time, I was young (12) and curious and glued my face to the window. Then I grew older and watched with growing trepidation as others panicked around me. If they were afraid, I thought, then maybe I should be too. Turbulence began to tie my stomach in pretzel loops. I refrained from drinking too much Sprite for fear of unsettling my stomach as the air pressure changed rapidly. I admit the fear is mostly in my head and I hate to let it show. I frown or pretend I am sleeping as the plane jerks, hiding behind a strong bluff. It helps. If I can control my exterior, then maybe I can control the panic. I certainly can’t control the plane. The terrorist attacks a few years ago didn’t help, yet I still fly. I see it as a necessity to do what I love to do: travel. But, by no means do I actually enjoy boarding a plane over which I have no control.

If I was in a car and was about to get in an accident, I could grip the steering wheel and hope to yank myself out of harm’s way. I’ve done it before. I can pull over and run into the bushes if I get sick. I can jump out of the car if it catches fire or stop and stretch my legs at a rest stop. If I get in an accident, I have a good chance of surviving. I might have a broken leg or a cut to the forehead, but the chances that I will live are pretty good.

In a plane, things aren’t quite the same. I have no control over the plane. None. I can’t yank the steering wheel out of the way of another plane or a bird. I can’t zoom to a better altitude if the turbulence has my stomach in knots. If the plane has an accident, I die. Period. The real world is not like Lost.

Terrorists have only heightened my fear. Now I think too much about crashing. It’s too bad that terrorists have made air travel a source of fear and terror. It used to be about the exhilarating feeling of flying, of soaring like the birds. When I was young I tried to make wings of out several sticks tied together and wrapped with plastic bags. I wanted to escape gravity, to soar freely. My heart, my spirit ached for it. I have had more than one dream about flying, of letting go and letting my body float upward into the sky like a lazy balloon. One Halloween I dressed up like Superman. The Wright Brothers and others after them have all shared the same fascination with taking to the skies. Yet, terrorists have taken the very thing that excites our hearts and minds, and use it to strike fear. Now I can’t help but think about crashing, rather than soaring.

A friend of mine once told me that she would never let fear keep her from doing what she wanted. If she wanted to fly to Spain, to India, to visit Egypt or Jerusalem, she would. Screw fear, she said. Those chances, those sights were too valuable to her. I nodded.

The movie Love, Actually begins in an airport as travelers come home, or go visit friends and family. People hug and smile and laugh. They kiss and touch. They connect. That’s why I travel.

The point of air travel isn’t really about the trip. Its about the destination. And some destinations are worth every bit of fear.

© Seth Crossman