The getting there…finding my inner compass again

Call me crazy, but THIS is one of the reasons why I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE traveling:


I love the getting there almost as much as the destination. But PLEASE don’t put me in a car. No siree, the airplane’s the only way for me.

One thing you should know about me is that I am absolutely terrified of heights. Even if I were offered one million dollars to skydive or bungee jump, I would decline without even blinking. It’s not just a fear of falling, I am physically debilitated at extreme heights (or not so extreme heights). Maybe I’m not really afraid of heights per se, but the feeling associated with heights, which for me occurs mostly when I’m high up on an ledge without an enclosure. Supposedly, the sensation of heights-induced vertigo is an inner ear problem. I get freaked out because I feel like I’m falling, even if I’m not. I feel dizzy and nauseous, like I’m going to faint. I can’t trust myself not to fall over because I feel like I have no balance whatsoever.  Therefore, I avoid heights at all costs.

However, for reasons I’m not able to explain, I feel perfectly safe at 40,000 feet inside a metal tube going over 500 miles an hour. Flying is a different sensation altogether. Flying feels like freedom.

What does freedom feel like? It feels limitless. Inspired. Thrilling.

I have an embarrassing sappy secret. Before I spill the beans, there’s two things that you should know about me:

1. Being born under the Cancer zodiac (July 5), I can’t help but be super emotional. I mean, tears at the drop of a hat emotional.

2. I get teary eyed with extreme emotion, whether happy or sad. I am just like  Kristen Bell (watch the video, it’s super cute!). If she’s not at between a 3-7 on the emotional scale, she’s crying. And she’s a Cancer too: July 18! I don’t even know her and already she’s one of my favorite people.

Okay, here it is. The big secret. Every time I fly, the takeoff and landing makes me teary eyed with joy. I’m at like a 10 on the emotional scale. Sometimes even the sight of an airplane makes me teary eyed, mostly with joy, but sometimes with an occasional tinge of sadness, because airplanes sometimes mean goodbye. (And if you think airplanes make me emotional, think of how emotional I get with goodbyes.)

I am in awe of airplanes. That somebody had the genius to make heavy metal fly like a bird is beyond my comprehension. That I can fly over the North Pole. That I can close my eyes for 10 hours and be in Paris or Rome. I just feel so connected to the world. There’s nowhere I can’t go in an airplane.

I get an adrenaline rush when the airplane takes off and I’m thrust into my seat by the centrifugal force, as the aircraft effortlessly lifts higher and higher into the clouds. It is breathtaking and humbling to see life reduced to the size of a child’s toy set. It reminds me of the Disney/Pixar movie, A Bug’s Life. (Warning: spoiler alert!) At the end of the movie, the camera pans out and the bug’s world, which seemed so large is merely a tiny tiny tiny plot of earth on a riverbank. It makes me think that my whole world, which seems so big and important to me, is just a tiny speck on the earth, and in the universe. Talk about humbling.

The departure and landing are a big adrenaline rush, but during the in between, I’m just calm. I am able to endure a long, sometimes boring transcontinental flight because I know that I will get to my destination eventually. I adore watching the map that shows the airplane’s flight path. (I am such a geography nut!) It keeps me focused on the destination, and not the cramped space that I’m temporarily inhabiting.

When I fly, I actually enjoy the process of getting to my destination because I know exactly where I’m going and that I’ll get there eventually, which makes me feel at peace with the process of traveling. I can just relax during the in between, and look forward to the thrill of departure and arrival.

I see my goals the way I see traveling: a goal is a future destination, just as Rome or Paris might be.

Throughout my twenties, I set goals that I had control over achieving, such as getting a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s, living in this country and that country. It’s all worked out because I made it happen. I set a single pointed focus for the future and didn’t stop until I got there. The in between wasn’t in vain because I knew that it was getting me closer to my goal.

Now, I feel like I know approximately where I want to go, but all I’ve got is a scooter and I’m supposed to cross the Atlantic. There’s no comfortable airplane ride with a destination map to chart my progress. I just don’t know how to reach my goals anymore, or where I’m going for that matter. Everything is out of my control. It’s the scariest feeling I’ve ever felt, moving blind like this. But life continues on, whether we know where we’re going or not.

There is one good thing about being out of control. Miracles that you never expected can happen. Sometimes we can’t predict or even wish for the blessings in store for us because they are beyond our wildest imagination. This, I know to be true in the past. Now I just have to trust that it is true for the future as well.

“Life is a series of arrivals and departures.” View from the Top, one of my all time favorite movies


  1. I’m a Cancerian too but can’t say I get tearful when taking off… maybe some butterflies but that’s about it! Although like you, I am really aware and grateful for how planes connect me so easily to the rest of the world. Enjoy your next fight and here’s to all those little miracles that your future will undoubtedly reveal. :-)

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! I guess I don’t really get teary with all flights, just the international ones! ;)

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