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The Joy of Flying, or The Conundrum of Air Travel

The Joy of Flying / By Ben Holbrook from
Rose reclines. Somewhere over Spain.

I’ve always adored flying.

As a restless and somewhat anxious person, I find it seductively soothing to be locked away in a metal tube up in the sky.

Hurtling through the thin icy air, I am liberated from my impatience and indecision, unshackled from the pressure I put on myself to do.

There is little you can do on a plane, so I don’t feel the usual guilt I feel for not doing more with myself and my life.

As Margaret Atwood writes so poignantly in The Handmaid’s Tale, there are two types of freedom: freedom to and freedom from.

Up here in the clouds you are free from expectation, free from action. Time is suspended. You no longer belong to the world.

Maybe I feel this way because I so rarely feel that I belong to the world.

I don’t know, perhaps I love flying because, for those few freeing hours off the ground, I have a legitimate excuse for feeling so detached.

Perhaps this is the only time I am right to feel the way I do the rest of the time, back down there.


Barcelona Airport - by Ben Holbrook from
Barcelona curves.
Barcelona Airport - by Ben Holbrook from
Barcelona lines.

Barcelona Airport - by Ben Holbrook from

Airport grit - by Ben Holbrook from


As much as I love to fly, I am aware that this isn’t the case for everyone. I often fly with people who are terrified of it.

My mother, who worked as a travel agent for 40-something years and travelled more than most, trembles at the very thought of getting on a plane.

I remember, many moons ago, she would calm her nerves with bottomless gin and tonics and whole cartons of cigarettes. This was on the plane itself, mind you, when travellers were gifted with ashtrays, free drinks and a reasonable amount of leg room.

At take off, her body would seize up, her nails digging into the skin on my hands as she clung on for dear life. I’d feel sorry for the poor soul sitting on the other side of her, for they would invariably suffer the same treatment. Still, it was a good way to make new friends, at least.

My girlfriend Rosana also has a tremble-inducing fear of flying. So much so in fact that she has had therapy in the hope of getting to the root of the phobia.

I can’t help but think it would be easier for everyone if they just brought back the free booze.


Oviedo/Asturias Airport in the rain - by Ben Holbrook from
Oviedo/Asturias Airport in the rain.
Somewhere over northern Spain - by Ben Holbrook from
Somewhere over northern Spain.
Spanish mountains - by Ben Holbrook from
Spanish mountains.

Heavenly clouds - by Ben Holbrook from

Heavenly clouds - by Ben Holbrook from DriftwoodJournals.comHeavenly clouds - by Ben Holbrook from


I suppose whether you do or do not enjoy flying and, to a certain degree, travel in general, depends on your willingness and/or ability to relinquish control. To surrender.

I firmly believe that we are all the architects of our own destinies, that fate is nothing more than what we make it.

But this is an awfully big burden to bear and I for one am more than happy to let somebody else worry about it for a few hours while I sit back in my chair with a fun-sized bottle of overpriced plonk and fall into a deep, chin-drooling slumber.

I mean, really, what’s the worst that could happen?

Eilat Airport a couple of weeks before it closed) - by Ben Holbrook from
Eilat Airport, Israel. A couple of weeks before it was closed.



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