sheryl bee

practicing wholehearted, soulful living

Take a Deep Breath And… Fly

Home is my favourite place to be. End of. I love being surrounded by all of my familiar and comforts. My books, and pens and notebooks, and cushions, and bed, and mugs. My view of the river. My apartment is very small and sometimes it feels cluttered, but it’s home and I like being there.

Though labels are restrictive sometimes, I will go along with these. I am a Highly Sensitive Person. And an Introvert. I love my people and I love getting to know people. I just need a long time to decompress from social situations.

A few years ago, my neighbourhood experienced a 100-year flood and all residents were evacuated. I found myself at a friend’s home with three other evacuees. All of us teachers. All of us introverts. How do I know this? Well, we were all invited to a house warming party (in a non-flood zone).

Each one of use was sluggishly getting ready for the party (where there would be, GADZOOKS, strangers!), when our host called to say he was postponing the gathering. OK, dear readers, the relief in the room was overwhelming, it was a collective phew! Yay! Yes! We don’t have to go anywhere! Comical, yes, but real and in some situations, a bit stressful. Like travelling.

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes.” – Pico Iyer

Last year I took a solo trip to England. At least once a year I get on a plane and go to Ontario to visit family. And I’ve been to China. And this year, I’m in Thailand. Actually right now, I’m in a coffee shoppe in Chiang Mai. I spent the previous 2 hours wandering the area where my son works, getting in my steps and finding the right coffee shoppe to visit for my blog writing.

But, I digress. Somewhat.

When I have to get on a airplane, my heart starts racing days ahead of time. A month prior to my trip to Thailand, I was cleaning the bathroom and thinking, oh gosh, does the school year have to end? While most teachers (all?) are counting down days to end of year, I’m thinking oh gosh, end of year means I am getting on a plane for a 30-hour journey. Did I mention I’m also quite claustrophobic?

So. To recap: Highly Sensitive. Introvert. Claustrophobic. = Serious Travel Anxiety.

BUT WAIT! Sheryl! Didn’t you write that handy dandy guide to mindful breathing? Shouldn’t you just zen the heck out for the whole entire time?

Would that it was so simple. So, how did I manage the trip?

Here are a few strategies:

  • Have a good list. Making sure that I have everything that I need and want for my trip is essential. It’s common sense, but it’s also calming. I make three lists: What to do before I go. What to pack. What to carry on.
  • Create a solid and clear itinerary. It’s essential that I have a clear timeline of what is going to happen when and who’s involved. (e.g. who’s taking me to the airport?)
  • Book my seat ahead of time. I love the illusion of extra space that I get from having a window seat.
  • Part of my anxiety involves getting in other people’s way, and holding up the line at security. So, I make sure I pre-bag all of my liquids, have my “things that I need to take out” of my carry-on very easy to grab so that I can be efficient in the check. Incidentally, I almost always win the “HEY! You have been randomly selected to have a full body pat down! You want the 360 machine or the pat down? Yay you!” prize.
  • Have an “ask” strategy: On a domestic flight last spring, the gate keeper announced that the flight was over booked so it was going to be a tight squeeze for overhead space. ZIP anxiety went off the scale! So, I swallowed pride, and approached the gate attendant and said, as quietly as I could, “I’m sorry to bother you, but you see, I have very serious travel anxiety, do you think it would be a both …” She interrupted, very kindly and patiently said, “oh, don’t worry, you can board with the pre-boarding.” I wanted to cry right then and there. Ask. Ask. Ask. It’s O.K!
  • IF you can: I seriously, massively indulged myself and booked premium economy and business class for this flight to Thailand (coming here to meet my first grandbaby!). The cost was big, but not as big as I thought it would be. I got a nice sale on China Airlines coming here and with Cathay Pacific and Air Canada for my trip home. I sure wish that everyone could experience this level of service at least once. Four flights and four airports, I arrived safe and sound and more relaxed than I had after only one 8 hour flight from Calgary to London last year.
  • Have something to do. Knitting is again permitted on flights. It’s amazing how centering knitting and purling are during a long flight. I’m so grateful! If crossword puzzles, or sudoku are your thing, or cross-stitch, or doodling, or watching movies, have a plan for spending time doing what you enjoy in that confined seat space.
  • On the overnight, long-haul flights, have a pamper kit! Once the plane has reached its cruising altitude, I go into pamper mode: wash face with a cleansing cloth, apply an overnight moisturising mask, a lovely bit of lip balm, a dab of Stress Ease aromatherapy from Saje Wellness, a good slathering of hand cream, and settle in.
  • And, yes, mindful breathing. Every opportunity. Take a breath. Check feet. Have a beaded bracelet or a mala to count off the breaths.


Oh, and one last thing: keep in mind your reason for travelling. For me, this time, this was my reason.


Baby Ben and Jamma


Do you have any tips to ease travel anxiety? Any long-distance travel advice?

Hugs for a safe trip,
Sheryl xo

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