Considering I’ve traveled to 31 countries and only some of them via boat, it might surprise you that for the past few years I’ve dealt with serious plane anxiety. I sit in the chair staring out the window at the tarmac with sweaty palms and a racing heart, and as the plane takes off I’m only one ounce of self control away from a nervous breakdown in which I yell like Kristin Wiig about the colonial woman sitting on the wing.
With this kind of outlook on airplanes, the thought of hopping in the front seat of a tiny 12-seater Cessna was further from my mind than the desire to ride a hippopotamus—yet that’s exactly where I found myself not long ago.
While living in Queenstown, New Zealand my job involved selling tours to people, and most local companies offered free trips to familiarize us with the products we were selling. I happened to sell a lot of flights to Milford sound on Air Milford, so I decided to suck it up and take advantage of this opportunity, even if I fainted and/or vomited on myself in the process.
For once, the weather was on my side and we glided off the runway and up into calm, blue skies. As we ascended, my anxiety completely dissipated while I stared out the window at the jaw dropping views. I’m not exaggerating—my jaw was literally hanging for most of the flight, I was in such awe.
We flew above the sparkling turquoise waters of Lake Wakatipu and between the peaks of jagged, snow capped mountains. We passed by a lake in a high basin that spilled over its edges into a waterfall with no end in sight. I felt like I was in a scene from Lord of the Rings but without any scary orcs chasing me.
We reached the coastline and turned back inland to fly in through the famed Milford Sound. We landed at the base of the sound and boarded a boat for our cruise through the waters. It was like some kind of magical Lucky Charms commercial: dolphins splashed alongside our boat; seals lounging on rocks raised their flippers in a lazy wave; a rainbow arched across the sound above us; a waterfall cascaded down a green moss-covered cliff.
The only price we had to pay for the clear day was the wind.
We finally had to return to the plane for our flight back to Queenstown. With all anxiety long forgotten, I requested to be co-pilot and was granted the chance to sit in the cockpit for the flight back. As we flew back through the craggy mountains and breathtaking scenery, I didn’t want the flight to end.
Not wanting to get off of a tiny airplane? I consider that a fear conquered.