A career, friends, family, and place to call home–I gave up life as I knew it for the possibility of life as it could become. Five years later as a seasoned and serial expatriate, I've lived in four countries on three continents and currently reside in Singapore. So far, it's been a wonderful ride!
It’s that time of the year. Throngs of expatriates pack Changi airport to leave Singapore behind. Some travel for only a few days, spending their holidays in even more remote and exotic locales. Others make longer treks to reunite with family and friends back home. No matter where or for how long, I suspect that Singaporean citizens and permanent residents alike do some sort of happy dance at the mass departure of all the foreigners during this time of the year.
At this point in the post I had originally written a Survivor-themed analogy to explain to you why the locals must be gleeful to see us exit Singapore. But today I am not in the mood to share snarky, if not somewhat insightful comments, about how some expatriates are like loathsome, 20-something beauty pageant winners about to be voted off the island. Maybe another time, another post. Today is not about loathing; it’s about dread. Like many expats, I am about to travel home for the holiday vacation, and I am losing sleep over the prospect.
Understand that I suffer from what is known as an “irrational fear” of flying. Although I think it is completely rational to respect the scientific realities of metal fatigue and gravity especially when you’re traveling in a steel tube 35,000 feet above sea level. Irrational or not, I am afraid. This is my reality. And yet, I am about to spend a solid 21 hours in 3 different planes to get home to see my family and friends back in the United States. This will be the longest trip I have ever made, and one that I have been dreading since the first time I was told we were moving to Singapore six months ago.
It doesn’t help that my otherwise supportive husband, who is also a licensed, private pilot, doesn’t understand my anxiety. Despite the inconveniences of today’s air travel, he still enjoys it and loves nothing more than to sleep to the sound of a humming jet engine. Of course, he cannot sleep when I travel with him. “What’s that noise? Why that bump? Can you ask for another glass of wine to calm my nerves?” I am constantly looking for his reassurances once we reach cruising altitude.
Some people watch movies to pass the time while flying, I study the faces of the cabin crew during the entire length of the flight for any hint of anxiety. I watch to see how many times the main flight attendant picks up the phone to speak to the pilot and what her/his reaction is to the conversation on the other end of the line. I listen closely to the intonation in the pilot’s voice over the intercom when he talks about weather conditions and altitude. Sometimes I study other passengers to see if they sense something is out of the ordinary. And then, I drink even though free booze on cross-continental flights never seems to help the way I hope it will.
I know all the statistics about traveling by airplane when compared to traveling by automobile. I understand that the 8-hour trip I will make down I-95 to Florida this weekend will be far more dangerous than the 21 hours I will spend in the plane. But then again, I will be too entertained by all those funny billboards from South of the Border, America’s self-proclaimed “favorite highway oasis” (a.k.a. rest stop) to care a thing about safety statistics. That’s it! Maybe the secret to fear-free air travel are high-flying, South of the Border billboards featuring a winged and witty Pedro counting down the number of miles to South of the Border.
I can see it now:
Pedro says that’s not smoke in the cockpit, it’s a hot tamale! 21,000 miles to South of the Border
Pedro says there’s nothing to fear but too much te-killa! 10,000 miles to South of the Border
Shall I continue?
Didn’t thinks so.
And then again, maybe I just need to spend my air travel conquering negative emotions with positive ones by imagining the all the rewards at the end of my voyage–the big smile from my sister Christina who will be waiting for my husband and me once we finally touch down at Raleigh-Durham international airport, seeing the kids try on those Singapore Airline outfits I bought for them to play dress up, catching up with best girlfriends over a glass of wine, and yes South of the Border billboards.
Pedro says he hopes you all have happy and safe travels wherever you happen to find yourself this season!