The curious incident of the novelist who conquered his fear of flying with the help of Valium, Mogwai and Ethiopian Airlines flight 707 to Addis Ababa
The Observer, Sunday 18 May 2014
I have been terrified of flying for at least 20 years. I try very hard not to fly, but when I’m forced to I feel sick and frightened and angry for several weeks beforehand. I spend my time abroad thinking constantly about the inevitably fatal return journey and when I get home I suffer a mild form of PTSD in which I find even the sight of an aircraft upsetting. In the past few years my wife and our two boys have started to go on holiday without me. I console myself that I have a very modest carbon footprint, but I dream of visiting Iceland or the Canadian Rockies and increasingly I’m haunted by the idea that I’m going to find myself lying on my deathbed knowing that I’ve spent one life on one planet and that my cowardice has made it so much smaller.
Some years ago Oxfam asked me if I wanted to visit one of the projects they helped fund then write about it, so I travelled by bus to the Migrants Resource Centre in Victoria, London SW1 and despite meeting some extraordinary people there has always been a small part of me which believes I never quite stepped up to the plate. So I went back to Oxfam last year and asked if I could do it again, but this time visit one of the projects they helped fund overseas. It would be like sealing myself into a barrel several miles upstream of Niagara Falls. Once I’d agreed to go there would be no escape. I would fly further than I’d ever flown before, I could go on holiday with my family again and, hopefully, at some future date, die a happier death. Read more…