I Finally Took My First Flight - At 45

One of my life goals was to travel to distant places like Egypt and France. Can’t do that in a car. So at the age of 45, we got a trip to Cancun as a Christmas present from my then boyfriend's parents. I couldn’t turn it down. In fact, prior to going I read some books on Mexico (more on its rich history) and was excited about the trip.

airplane interior to scottsdale arizonaBut I wasn't excited about my first plane ride. I had never taken a Valium but I was trolling for some. I got a couple from someone I knew. I was excited to go to Mexico but I still wasn’t looking forward to flying there.

In fact, I envisioned the scene in Airplane where a woman is going crazy and everyone goes up to her to punch her (or hit her with something) to shut her up. Even a nun hit her with a baseball bat! I could imagine myself being that screaming woman.

My friend, who is a travel agent, made sure we got to sit in the first seat (the bulkhead) so I’d have more foot room (I’m claustrophobic, which is part of my fear of flying). Needless to say, staring at a blank wall didn’t help with that and I have never sat there since. Plus, you can't put anything on the floor in front of you and I like putting a backpack under the seat in front of me.

I couldn’t sleep for weeks before my first flight. In fact, when we boarded I kept my eye on the exit door. I was honestly thinking of bolting. Then the valium must have started kicking in.

I made sure to watch the flight attendant's safety demonstration and I still do. I realize that most people don't even bother, but I want to make sure I remember what to do in case of trouble.

I was amazed at the smooth flight. I don’t remember any turbulence or airplane window on trip to scottsdale azanything very exciting with the exception of hitting my head on the drop-down tv screen that we couldn’t even see. It made a loud thump that made it sound like it hurt, but it didn’t). It was just embarrassing, and the thump was loud enough that people nearby gasped and asked if I was all right.

They played a trivia game and I won a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt. Flying wasn’t too bad after all. Or was it the Valium?

On our landing back home in Chicago, we were greeted with 55 mph winds and it was a very rough landing. My fingers dug into my boyfriend’s leg. After we landed, I asked, “Is that normal?” He said, “I’m so proud of you. That’s the worst landing I’ve ever had.”

Cancun was nice although it was very built-up, something I wasn’t expecting. It was like being downtown Chicago with palm trees, iguanas, and an ocean in back instead of Lake Michigan. It was fun visiting Mayan ruins and a natural “aquarium” we could swim in with "dolphins" - which were really dolphin fish. I do love Mexico and would love to return but I don’t think we’d do Cancun again.

tulum in mexico
A photo I took of Tulum in Mexico

I’m flying now, I have no excuse not to visit my folks

When I started dating my now-husband, he couldn’t believe it that I had never visited my parent’s home in Mesa, AZ, especially since they had been living there for over 10 years. He knew I had only flown a couple of times. He said we were going so we did, and it changed my life.

It was my 3rd flight when I finally ended up in Arizona. And for the record, I took Valium on that trip and I was groggy for days. I never took it again.

I still don't enjoy flying but it's the lesser of two evils since I don't want to drive too far. I hate the take-off and landing, although take-off feels worse to me.

When there is turbulence, I try to relax but if it's bad I'll look around to see other people's reactions. I'm freaking out and others are talking, playing games on their phones or computers, watching a movie, etc. Maybe they're just trying to keep their cool. I especially like it when I'm sitting in front and can see the reaction of the flight attendants when turbulence is bad.

I've flown a lot since. Florida, California (many trips since my Mom ended up moving to California after my Dad passed to be close to my 2 brothers and their families), Louisiana, Ohio, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, Colorado, Mexico, and France. And of course, many trips to Arizona.

I loved the French Riviera but I can’t see flying for around 10 hours (in two planes). I promised my granddaughter that we’d go to Paris when she’s 21, but I’m sure not looking forward to that flight. The south of France was tropical and with the exception of the history and the quaint historical towns, I thought that I could get that kind of weather in Florida with a much shorter flight, and not have to worry about not speaking the language.

cannes cinema, the famous painted building in france
The popular painted Cannes Cinema - this was fun to see

It’s a balmy 18 degrees today in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Woo hoo!

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