I Hate to Fly, Except That I Absolutely Love It

I have a total love/hate relationship with flying. It’s stressful and inconvenient and uncomfortable, except when it’s peaceful and beautiful and honestly one of my favorite things in the world.

Getting ready to go on a trip sucks. Airfares change without any rationale, so you pore over half a dozen websites daily trying to figure out when the price is the lowest. You scour the airlines for the magic combination of flights that gets you the cheapest airfare without any ridiculous layovers that have you zigzagging across the country for a full day for what would be a four hour trip if you could just find a bloody direct flight. You have to figure out how to actually get to the airport; when I lived in the city it was just a matter of flagging down a taxi for the 10-15 minute drive to LaGuardia or JFK, but now that I live in the boonies it involves calling multiple car services and then sucking it up to just pay for damn parking at the airport. And then it’s a matter of figuring out what time to leave the house so we don’t get bogged down in rush hour traffic but still have plenty of time to get through security and grab lunch before the flight.

Packing sucks, too. Getting all your liquids into tiny bottles and plastic bags. Digging out the extraneous lip glosses from the depths of your purse lest they be confiscated as contraband. Trying to figure out rules that aren’t explained very clearly (I currently think it’s OK to bring a juice box for my 3-year-old to drink on the plane, but haven’t the faintest clue if I can put an ice pack in her lunchbox to keep it cold). Figuring out what kind of clothing you need when your destination will have a high of 70º on Friday (yes!) but lows around freezing the rest of the trip (son of a bitch!). Finding toys and books to hopefully keep the kiddo occupied on the plane, but convincing her that she really doesn’t need to bring all of her favorite stuffed animals.

And all of that is before you get to the airport! I’m still trying to figure out if we have to bring the kiddo’s birth certificate as ID. Going through security is a right pain in the ass. There’s the logistical juggling act of trying to actually haul around all the carry-ons while keeping track of a rambunctious kid who will hopefully think it’s fun to pull her own tiny Dora bag around, but will probably demand to be carried at some point (or more likely, that’ll be the only way to keep her from wandering off). Airport food choices suck, especially at LaGuardia since most of the options are outside security and just mean one more damn bag to keep track of at the X-ray machines. For some reason, the airlines have decided to board people in the most illogical fashion possible. It makes more sense and things move more quickly if the people seated at the back of the plane get on first! Fine, let the dozen people in first class on before everyone else since they paid five times as much for their tickets, but the aisles get clogged when you board front to back! And don’t get me started on the tiny-ass seats.

Photo taken out an airplane window of the mountains outside Los Angeles with a few puffy clouds in the sky.
I live for views like this.

But somehow, it all becomes worth it. I’ve flown enough over the years that I’ve developed comforting routines that make me feel better about hurling through the air in a metal tube. I always touch the outside of the plane as a good luck charm as I step from the gangway into the cabin. I get an adrenaline rush at that magic moment when the wheels lift off the ground at last. I make a game of trying to spot people walking around on the ground before the plane gets too high and even the cars turn into tiny dots (parking lots and construction zones are your best bet for this). Even when it gets a little turbulent, I absolutely love flying through clouds. I love looking down on the landscape to see all the features you just don’t notice the same way from the ground – oxbow lakes, tree-lined rivers and streams, the patchwork pattern of farmland, the way cities glow at night. And then a few short hours later, you land in a different place, ready to start on whatever adventure you have planned. There’s really nothing like it.

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[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

12 thoughts on “I Hate to Fly, Except That I Absolutely Love It”

  1. I love flying. I do it alone about 95% of the time, so it’s great ‘me’ time. It’s also a great for people watching and of course, excellent views. One of my favorite flying moments was watching a thunderstorm up in the air. The lightning was so beautiful.

  2. I like flying by myself. Drop me off with my carry-on, early enough so I can people watch and read, with enough $$ to buy expensive airport food and start my trip a few hours early, and I am a happy camper.

    I should note that I’ve done that exactly like 2x in my adult life.

    Flying with other people I’m responsible for? Not my idea of a good time!

  3. I’m 25 years old and have NEVER been on an airplane. Even being in an airport induces crippling anxiety. A few years ago, I took my dad to the airport and as soon as he hugged me before going into the security line, I burst into tears. He was going to be back in like 2 days.

    I don’t even know where the phobia came from. Cars and trains for me, thanks!

  4. Just everything about this is true for me. I always get to the airport ridiculously early. Every time I’ve tried to give myself some leeway, I almost miss my flight. So yeah, ridiculously early.

    I also have an innate fear of flying. Yes, I’m more likely to be killed driving my car, but I have the illusion of control there. My life is in the hands of a pilot and engineering.

    But since I’m an American living in Asia, I have to fly and I’m kind of getting the hang of it. I get that nervous/excited feeling every time I go to a new place. I’m however not looking forward to the pond jumpers I’m gonna have to take next week. Yeesh.

  5. “I get an adrenaline rush at that magic moment when the wheels lift off the ground at last”

    I always imagine the pilot’s (or my) foot on a big ass gas pedal, stomping it to the floor and hauling ass when the light turns green :-D

    Damn, it’s been way, way too long since I’ve flown ….

  6. I have a habit of making friends in the security line. I somehow always end up next to people who haven’t flown since 1998, so they have NO idea what’s going on. I also show people how to use the check-in kiosks and stuff. I must look competent or something.

    I’m the person who’s always absurdly early for flights. Like, I’m at the gate before the previous flight has even boarded, so I tend to blow through at least half a book or more while I’m waiting. And since I like to check bags, I don’t have to do the scramble on the plane/elbow people out of the way/fight for overhead bin space. That’s all just way to exhausting.

    Oh, and I like airplane coffee. I’m a weirdo.

  7. I fly mostly for work, so I like to think of it as a perk to not have to worry about anything other than the flight for the whole day. I typically bring an empty water bottle and a packet of some flavored tea/drink so that I have a caffeinated drink that isn’t 3 bucks (or more). I wish they made powdered Diet Coke. And I always try and get a window seat, because no matter how often I fly, I never want to take the view for granted!

  8. I could’ve written this.

    I always tell myself that to see the world, I will have to deal with flying. It’s also the clearest sign that you’re going on a holiday and yay, holidays. But then there’s the small space and complete lack of control. The loud people. The gorgeous views. The might with which you land or go up.
    And I always get horribly giggly around security, which isn’t the best idea at some places (I was so nervous last time in the States, especially because you have to pass men with guns when you get in).

  9. Something I did on the last flight I took that I will never do again: carry all of my luggage on. Even for a weekend trip, it’s much less of a hassle to just check the bag (I usually fly JetBlue so it’s free) so I can bring my regular bottle of shampoo and sit on the plane watching people struggle with bags so big they look like they need their own flight. Nope. I’ll sacrifice the extra 15 minutes and wait at baggage claim.

    Half the fun of boarding first if you pay to (I get the more legroom seats sometimes) is that you have early access to the overhead bins. Maybe instead of that they should have assigned luggage space. You are guaranteed it’s there if you need it, then they can board from the back.

  10. Security is the worst, because everyone has so many things to do while in line (take off their belts, take off their shoes, take out their laptop, take out their baggie of mouthwash, take off their jacket, etc.) that I feel like they panic, as if the people behind them will murder them if they don’t do it all in seven seconds. Unless you’re late for your plane, there’s no rush. If someone behind you is impatient, you can tell her to go around you. And if I’m behind you, I don’t care. :)

    1. I always feel like people are waiting for me, and then I panic!

      Flying does have a certain excitement to it, but it can also get boring while waiting and sometimes you don’t find many good food places. Philly’s airport had a nice food court. I haven’t flown very often on my own, and I don’t have very much experience. Maybe that adds to the thrill of it.

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