Tale of a First Time Traveller
Updated: Dec 3, 2022
My entire life, the idea of flying in an airplane has terrified me to the point of having frequent nightmares in which I am forced to do so. I have woken in a panic on countless occasions, breathing heavily, only to realize it was just a dream and that I am safe in my bed; not 30 000 feet above sea level. At the age of twenty-one, I had never been on an airplane and, honestly, I was fine with that.
The year I turned twenty one, I became the dialogue editor for Discovery Canada’s show Mayday; (National Geographic’s Air Crash Investigation). Fresh out of film school it was very exciting for me to work on such a well established show, but you can imagine what spending an average of 32 hours a week reviewing various air emergencies did for my extreme fear of flying.
Plot twist; I became obsessed with the idea of traveling and airplanes. What’s wrong with me? I don’t know. I have zero explanation as to why working on a show where the airplane doesn't usually reach it's final destination suddenly gave me, not only the desire to fly, but erased my paralyzing fear of doing so. I began to research airlines, travel destinations, different cultures...and booked my first flight to an international travel destination: Iceland.
As the wanderlust mounted, approaching my departure date, I constantly called and texted various family members with travel experience to check and double check and triple check that my carry on would meet all requirements. When my boyfriend Ramin and I arrived at the airport ready for our adventure, I marvelled at Toronto Pearson Terminal Three, excited by everything from the duty free shops to the opportunity to flash my passport. We got our boarding passes and found the gate for our Icelandair flight. At this point I wasn’t nervous; any nerves were overshadowed by the overwhelming excitement and inability to comprehend that in 6 hours I would be standing in another country on another continent.
Then we boarded the plane.
As I enter the cabin I suddenly feel claustrophobic. This is a smaller sized aircraft for an international flight, with only one aisle down the middle. I take my seat next to Ramin, alarmed by the striking resemblance of this cabin to the set of the episode I cut in the weeks prior. I fasten my seatbelt. The safety video begins to play.
“Do they always show this?” I ask Ramin casually, as the automated voice describes what we should do in the, “Unlikely event that the aircraft lands on water.” Ramin, who is a frequent traveller, seems to find my concern amusing.
“Yeah they have to. Legally.”
Is it too late to get off?
I try to calm myself. Where did she say I could find my life vest? The Captain comes on over the PA.
“Good evening ladies and gentleman, my name is Oscar Oscarsson, and I’ll be your captain for this flight to Keflavik.”
Okay, I don’t remember his name; I made it up. But he did a good job because - *spoiler alert* - we made it to Iceland. The plane begins moving. I grip Ramin’s hand tightly.
He eyes it with distaste. “Wow, your palms are really clammy.”
Duh, remember what I do for a living?
“Are we taking off now?!” My voice is climbing to an unnatural pitch.
“No, we’re [taxying] to the runway,” Ramin tells me, looking slightly concerned as he gauges my emotional stress level.
My stomach is in my chest as I visualize 30 000 feet of air between me and the ground. I know my face gives my thoughts away as Ramin encourages me to select a movie and stop looking out the window.
City of Stars...
I choose La La Land. Ryan Gosling will distract me.
Are you shining just for me?
We start moving again, picking up speed. Things are flying past the window. Lights are a blur in the dark Toronto night. Ramin cannot escape the grip of my sweaty palms.
Nobody warns you that the plane literally feels like it’s vertical as you climb. It seems obvious, maybe, but in a smaller aircraft it blew my mind that I could clearly see the incline of the plane. I forgot to breathe....and then I looked out the window. I wasn’t scared after that. The city lights got smaller and smaller, and I was in pure awe of the view as we climbed to cruising altitude. When I couldn’t see Toronto anymore, I settled back in and let Ryan Gosling sing me to sleep.
Sunrise above the clouds was easily one of the best moments of my life so far. I love when the natural wonder of the world puts into perspective how tiny we are in the grand scheme of things. A part of something so much bigger. When I saw Iceland from the sky, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I’m sure other passengers were rolling their eyes at me and my iPhone videos, but I don’t care. As the captain announced we were preparing for the “Final Approach", I continued to stare out the window at the Land of Fire and Ice. The landing was smooth, and some people clapped as if they had been expecting a worse outcome and were pleasantly surprised by the way things turned out.
I have flown six times since that day, just under a year ago. Every flight has been different and carries a sense of nostalgia for me, related to the destination it brought me to. But I think that Icelandair Fl602, my first flight, to my number one bucket list destination, will always hold a special place in my travel addict heart.