Phoebe......My Incredible Journey.....To See My Family In Australia

How do you ever begin to thank complete strangers (who I am now proud to call friends) for giving you the confidence to achieve something you never ever thought was possible, and helping you to believe in yourself by supporting you, encouraging you and believing in you.

My first thankyou (and I am sure you will all understand why) is to Keith, for caring enough about people like us to start this forum. Without the forum, yours Keith and my friends (you all know who you are) support right from the beginning, I could never have made this journey and what a journey it has been…………for all your kindness, support, encouragement, advice and friendship, I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

It all began 19 months ago. For the benefit of other forum members who have supported me more recently I have copied my original post to put you all in the picture (posted on The Captains Page 28th March 2007)

Terrified to fly and don’t know why

Hi everybody
This is the first time I have posted just getting the hang of forums but so glad I have found this one. I have a terrible dilemma. I have never flown in my life before and I’m getting on the wrong side of 50 !
My daughter recently told me that she is applying to emigrate to Australia very soon (months in fact) along with my son in law and 2 very young grandchildren. I am devastated at the prospect of never being able to see them again. Yes they have said they will come and visit whenever they can and I’m sure they will but the realities of settling in and a young family to raise, you see what I’m saying taking a 23 hours flight to see nana isn’t going to be a high priority.
The wrench of saying goodbye would be so much easier to bear if I could say I’ll be over to see you in a few months. I just don’t know where to start can anyone help/advise I would be so grateful......................

Keith and other members replied to me almost immediately to encourage me I could do it. I have to say I didn’t believe them at the time but I clung on to the hope that just maybe....

I made my first flight to Jersey in July 2007, not great but I got on 2 planes, then more recently in August 2008 I got on another 2 planes to go to Dublin, these flights were worse than the first due to the fact that I felt unwell and the Madrid incident had happened on the day of departure but I still did it.

This forum has always been about being open and honest, so I suggest you make yourself a cuppa (or stiff drink) because this is going to be a long, long, long post lol. Here goes...........

In the weeks and days leading up to my flights to Australia I got more and more anxious and couldn’t sleep (we have all been there !!) but I knew that no matter what, I had to give this my best shot so I never intended to cancel the flights but I had never made any plans for what I would do with the family when I got to Australia in case I couldn’t go through with it.

I had in my mind to take it a step at a time, leave for the airport, then check in, then security I didn’t think beyond there. Even after going through security I did not know if I was going to be able to step onto that first plane in Newcastle and I was leaving it as late as possible before I had to try, but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that if I couldn’t do it this time, then in all probability I would never do it, I’m not sure if this helped or not. (Thankyou for Tuesday 7th October Keith, it was a massive help being able to talk to you prior to boarding).

Without warning fate took over. A call came over the speaker for the last 2 passengers to board flight EK… (that was us!), they had boarded early and everyone else had boarded so hubby took off like a bat out of hell and left me standing, sadly, although he had been supportive, he obviously still didn’t realise the extent of my fear.

I had made sure I was very organised so could put my hands on the paperwork easily, this turned out to be a very very good plan because I have to say I was a complete wreck, to be truthful I was a lot worse than I had expected to be. I was shaking badly from head to foot and was a complete basket case. I went to the desk and handed them my passport. My hands were shaking so badly the girl asked me if I was alright, I said no I’m sorry but I’m petrified. Another girl took my hand and kept talking to me as she took me down the air bridge, my legs were threatening to give way underneath me and I was on the verge of tears. I just knew I was walking down that air bridge dragging my hand luggage behind me to the gallows and certain death…………!!

She handed me over to the girl who would be looking after my section and said to her ‘this lovely lady is a bit nervous’ I said no I’m petrified. My crew member was nothing short of an angel, she was very pretty and gave me a lovely smile took my hand and told me she would look after me. All I can remember is I kept saying thankyou, thankyou. She took my hand luggage put it in the overhead locker, sat me down and fastened my seatbelt. I was still shaking terribly and my tummy was in knots. She went away and came straight back with some ear plugs, she showed me where the sick bag was just in case !! When she gave me the ear plugs I remembered I had my ear planes in my pocket so I used them. She said she had to take her seat for take off but would be back and the plane started to move........

Although I was really annoyed at my hubby for leaving me standing in such a mess I still clung onto his hand when the engines started. I was so scared I didn’t even hear the pilots announcements all I remember was the plane starting to move. All of the relaxation I had learnt went out of the window, my chest felt tight and I felt I couldn’t breathe. The plane lifted from the runway and the bottom fell out of my tummy but thankfully I didn’t need the sick bag. In what seemed a very short space of time my crew member came back and asked how I was feeling, I put my hand out to show her I was still shaking, I couldn’t speak, she took my hand and said ‘The worst bit is over we are cruising now, I used to be a fearful flyer, now its my job and I love it’. Then she brought me a drink of water and showed me which button to press if I needed her. She was absolutely wonderful.

I eventually started to settle down after an hour or so. I told hubby how disappointed I was that he obviously didn’t realise the extent of my fear by leaving me standing when I was in such a mess, he apologised and said he was worried in case we missed the flight, it would have been a waste of time and energy to try and tell him again I didn't even know if I could get on the plane so I left it at that because I didn’t have the energy to argue. He obviously needs more work on understanding.

I started to look around at the size of the plane and couldn’t believe how big it was, even hubby who loves planes and flying was in awe of its size. Other passengers seemed relaxed, watching movies, sleeping etc (Oh how I envied those who could sleep). I got it into my mind that I was now on the plane and (rightly or wrongly) that if anything was going to happen there was nothing I could do about it so I took out the entertainment guide. The crew began to serve us a lovely meal and asked if I wanted anything to drink, I decided that I deserved a stiff drink so ordered one, G** it tasted good. The rest of the flight was pretty smooth and in all uneventful. We were served with another lovely meal, water, tea, drinks then the pilot announced that we would be landing in Dubai in about an hour (this first leg was 7.25 hours. The crew began to prepare for landing, passengers began to sort themselves out and my crew member was taking photographs of people with babies in the bassinets. She came over to me and said I will take your photograph. I was taken a bit off guard so just turned round and smiled into the camera, she gave me the photograph to keep, its horrendous !!! I look spaced out, like a ventriloquist’s dummy lol.

As we started the decent my crew member came over and asked how I was with landing, I told her I thought I would be ok, as were coming into land I looked out of the window at all the lights (it was 12.15am Dubai time, I put the TV screen onto the forward camera to watch the approach and landing (how brave was I !!!) The touchdown was so smooth I hardly felt it, I was amazed at how gentle it felt with being such a huge plane. Throttle back and we stopped. I had survived the first leg of my journey. I gave my angel a kiss on the cheek as I left the plane and thanked her again.

We were to change planes at Dubai to a 777. We had a 8.40 hour stopover but had decided not to take the complimentary hotel room, rather we opted to stay within the airport (BIG MISTAKE) we were going to go into the quiet lounge that an Emirates customer service person had told us about. We had been told there was lazy boy chairs and a washroom to freshen up, it would cost £8 each but we thought it was worth it. The lounge only had upright chairs Ok they were more comfortable than the airport ones but you couldn’t stretch out in them, there was no washroom and it was packed full, the representative suggested we find somewhere else so we ended up wandering around Dubai airport for the 8.40 hours. This for both of us was one of the worst parts. Hubby had managed to lie on the floor and get about 45mins sleep and I eventually found a chair around 3.30 am (it’s a very busy airport) but didn’t manage to sleep. By the time we had to go to the departure gate we were both inside out, hubby through lack of sleep and me with lack of sleep and all the stress.

I wasn’t petrified this time but still very nervous although it didn’t enter my head that I might not get on the plane which had been one of my fears i.e. that I wouldn’t be able to continue the journey. I went to a washroom, had a wash brushed my teeth and generally freshened up so I did feel a little better although very tired. As we boarded the crew welcomed us on board and I told one crew member I was very nervous, she said she would send someone to talk to me, sadly she didn’t but I was ok. As soon as we were all seated and were taxiing down the runway the crew came round with face cloths soaked in warm lemon water they smelled lovely and really helped to freshen me up. As the pilot asked the crew to prepare for take off I grabbed hubbys hand again. This time I was aware of the engines and acceleration and managed the deep breathing. I knew my tummy was going to sink again so tried to concentrate on the fact that it was a normal thing to happen and it wasn’t as bad as on the first leg. I immediately looked at the entertainment guide and put the headphones on with some music. All of the safety announcements etc came through the headphones so it was ok to use them. As soon as we were airborne we were fed again and I treat myself to another drink, well actually it was all in with the price. The flight again was fairly smooth, we were constantly fed and watered again and the 6.40 hours seemed to pass in no time at all. We landed in Singapore for a fuel stop so left the plane to stretch our legs, we had 40 mins but it made a difference to be able to move around a little.

We got back onboard for the third and final leg and were welcomed back with a new crew. I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone I was a nervous flyer possibly because I was so exhausted at this point I really didn’t care it was a case of ‘just get me there’. It was odd because one of my fears was that I would be even more anxious if I was so tired but I wasn’t’.

The pilot announced that it was forecast for variable winds, which was covered in the book so I understood what he meant. Again we were given the warm lemon towels and as we started to taxi hubby fell fast asleep. I didn’t want to wake him so had no hand to hold onto. I tried to relax as much as possible and told myself I would be fine and I made a point of not clinging onto the arm rests. Take off was ok and I realised at this point what it was that scared me about the take off, it was the moment the plane left the ground, the weightless feeling so I rationalised that it was just like going down a hill fast in a car or when you were in a lift.

Very soon after take off we had to put our seat belts on and there was quite a bit of turbulence. I had kept a cup of water in front of me all the time and it sloshed about a bit on a few occasions. It got really bad at one point and I have to admit I did feel anxious (hubby slept through it !) the water in my cup was sloshing over the sides, the bad part lasted for maybe 5 minutes or so. Everything I had read in the book came into play, I kept repeating turbulence is uncomfortable not dangerous, I looked at the overhead lockers and they were moving around a lot as they are designed to do, but again I rationalised that a lot of the noise would be the baggage moving around in the lockers and the galley equipment rattling about and it was NOT the plane falling apart because they are designed to take a lot more than they are ever asked to do. I told myself that this wasn’t going to last forever and it would soon be over. This really got me through the roughest bit and I thanked god (and Keith) for the book.

We were duly fed and watered again and within no time the crew were preparing for landing. I had been watching the flight plan for the last 2 hours and as we approached Brisbane I was getting more and more excited. I had a wash and brush up, tidied my hair and it was time to land. The landing in Brisbane was a bit rougher than the last 2, I’m not sure if it was the weather or if it was a shorter runway but I was still ok. I was on the runway at Brisbane in Australia and I couldn’t believe it. I knew my daughter and grand daughters would be waiting for me, they had been up since 5 am to pick us up. We landed around 7am but they couldn’t get the air bridge attached so we were stuck on the plane for another 10 minutes or so. I thought to myself this is S**s law, I had flown halfway round the world and I was stuck on the plane on the runway. I don’t know what made me do it but I shouted down the plane ‘has anyone got a big ladder in their hand luggage’ and everyone laughed, put it down to jet lag, excitement, lack of sleep, whatever, it seemed after total lack of sleep and approximately 36 hours of flying and in transit, I still had my sense of humour lol.

The air bridge was eventually attached but another international flight had landed in the meantime so it took 1.30 hours to clear customs and quarantine, then eventually at 8.40 am I walked from arrivals into the airport and heard Nana, Nana. My 2 beautiful grandchildren came running over to me (hubby was left with the cases serves him right lol), I scooped them both up in my arms and gave them a big hug with tears in my eyes, then gave my daughter the biggest hug ever and said ‘I made it, I cant believe it, I made it’. I had just completed a 36 hour very stressful marathon. I felt like a zombie but I had survived and I was on the other side of the world in Australia…….

Those hugs and kisses that were waiting for me made it all worth while. We had to go down one floor to the car park so took the lift with luggage, pushchair and 2 little hands in mine, we were all laughing and chatting. As the lift started I said to the little ones ‘tummy tickle coming up’ meaning the sensation of the lift and as it started they both held their tummies and laughed. I thought at that moment that’s what I am going to say on take off from now on so the weightless sensation we feel when the plane leaves the ground is now officially called the ‘tummy tickle’…I was on the other side of the world……….I was shattered, excited, happy and I still couldn’t believe it………..

You might want to freshen your drink at this point lol…..

The homeward journey.

During the time I was away naturally the return flights did occasionally come into my mind. I did my best to ignore them and enjoy the time I had with my family but the last few days were difficult. I knew I had to come home sometime and it started to play on my mind. The last day (Friday) was particularly difficult for us all I think. The worst part was having to say goodbye to the little ones before we left for the airport (we decided it would be better for them if they didn't go) and worse still when I said goodbye to my daughter at the airport. We clung onto each other crying. I said we knew this had to come but we have to be positive I got here and I never thought I would, if I hadn’t we wouldn’t have had this time together, and we had had some real quality time.

We went through the security checks, I was naturally still upset and getting on the first plane started to hit me. I decided maybe a small drink would settle me down, unfortunately there was no bar………!!! The flight was called and we were boarded by row numbers, ours were called last. I felt nervous and uncomfortable but oddly enough I didn’t feel the need to tell the crew because although I did feel anxious and nervous I somehow just ‘got on with it’. One tummy tickle later and we were on our way. The flight was fairly smooth just a few odd bumps here and there, the service and crew again were fantastic. I still wasn’t able to sleep but I just got it into my head that I was on my way home now and the first leg went by with just the odd bump.

We had a fuel stop in Singapore again so left the plane to stretch our legs then boarded again. Another tummy tickle and we were away. I was really tired by this time and rested on and off for a couple of hours although still couldn’t sleep, the flight again was fairly smooth only having to fasten the seat belts a couple of times but there was nothing major. We got to Dubai and I was pleased we didn’t have the long stopover, we only had 1.15 hours to change planes for Newcastle and it was from the new terminal 3 that had just opened so the time was taken up finding it. We boarded and I felt some sort of relief that it was the last leg. I have to say the last leg did seem to drag and I was pretty uncomfortable, I had to get up and down all the time to ease the stiffness. At this point I just wanted to be off the plane but not because of panic just because I wanted to be home. Australia is a very long way………

I have to say the service on this flight, in comparison to all the other flights was quite bad, other passengers also commented, we had to go and ask for water etc if we wanted it, apart from serving the meals we never saw the crew at all unless we went to ask for something. The entertainment systems weren’t working properly and we had no flight information. This seemed to make the time go slower. I found it much better when we could check on our progress on the screens. I had mentioned to two of the cabin crew about the flight information not being available as did the gentleman behind me, but it was only when I mentioned it again to another crew member that the pilot came on to apologize. Please don't take this as a reflection of Emirates, the service on the other 5 flights was fantastic and the first flight exceptional (in my case). The good news was that we only had approximately 1 hour to landing. Apart from that again the flight was fairly smooth and I have to say I felt very relieved when we did land but more due to the fact that I was very tired, stiff and sore.

We had left Australia in 28c of sunshine and came out of the airport to the freezing cold of Newcastle, it was quite a culture shock lol.

What my fears were:
Not being able to cope with the journey because of health
Not being able to board that first plane, or any of the others come to that !
Having a panic attack or being totally out of control.
Feeling claustrophobic.

And what have I learned?
I have learned (like others here) that the build up prior to the flights is a million times worse than the actual flights.
That no matter HOW BAD you feel, if you really, really want to do it, with positivity and determination YOU CAN.
That the mind really is a powerful thing so positive thinking breads positive thoughts as negative thinking breads negative thoughts so stay positive at all times.
That you won’t panic if you concentrate on trying to relax
That claustrophobia doesn’t happen, you don’t feel as though you are closed in because of the air conditioning.
That you should always follow your heart.

This journey has meant so much to me. It has enabled me to visit my beautiful family, see where and how they live and meet the friends my daughter has told me about. Now when I talk to them via the computer and telephone I ‘can see’ what they are doing. They have a lovely circle of friends, live in a lovely area on the Southern Gold Coast and the little one's are thriving. I can now fully understand why they moved to Australia for a better life, it is a beautiful country (I keep getting wrong off my son for saying it’s awesome lol) and I have proved to myself that I am much stronger than I thought. Ok the jetlag takes a bit of getting over but I will in time and it was worth it.

For any of you with flights coming up please take strength from what I have achieved, this was a journey that I never ever in a million years thought I could make, but with all your help, support and encouragement BY G** I DID IT and so can you. I have seen and experienced things that I thought were never possible and I am so proud of myself for having the strength to do it (along with support from all of you).

If you think flying is scary, you want to try getting on the back of a 90kph Jet Ski with my speed freak hubby for a ‘Jet Ski BLAST’ along the Gold Coast………now that IS fear……….!!!

Sorry for such a long post, but I wanted to share this incredible journey with you all…………………..THANKYOU ALL SO MUCH....:)

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Hi Kim
That's what this forum is all about. Friends here believed in me when I dudnt believe in myself. You'll be fine and remember the tummy tickle lol.

Phoebe

amazing, i really enjoyed reading that as i can relate to parts, well done

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