On Flying

Mariana Machado
4 min readAug 26, 2023

I used to be a very nervous passenger. Flying was the scariest thing ever for me as a teenager and although I wanted to visit new places, I dreaded the airplane part. For example, I still remember sitting at Porto’s airport with my parents, siblings and cousins waiting to board our flight to New York and getting a sudden urge to just go back home and ask to take the bags off the f****** airplane.

Then, I went through my sleeping pills era where I’d take a pill, but because I was so anxious, I would not fall asleep and just become a worthless zombie. My sister has a number of great stories about me making a fool of myself that she could definitely share.

A fun thing about that fear though was that I was not just scared of being up in the air. I’m a bit claustrophobic and that’s what I disliked the most — being closed in a space where I couldn’t open a window (for obvious reasons, I understand) causing me to think I was suffocating. I know, I’m weird. I’ve been told that a number of times.

Well, fast forward to now and I’ve just completed my 30th flight of 2023. This is hands-down the year I’ve traveled the most, however, I’m counting flights, not destinations.

If you’re wondering how I got here, here’s the breakdown:

  • Porto — Lisbon — Porto: 8
  • Namíbia: 5
  • Madrid: 2
  • Rotterdam: 2
  • Stockholm: 4
  • Athens: 4
  • Nice: 2
  • Faro: 1
  • Edinburgh: 2

As you see, I did some flights between Porto and Lisbon, especially at the beginning of the year when I was splitting my time between Braga and Lisbon, so those add quite a few to the total.

Now, I’m a very relaxed passenger. I sleep most flights, I’m very patient and I’m fine at spending time without opening windows. I truly don’t know how I overcame the fear but I’d put it down to being older, skydiving and a lot of YouTube videos about airplane ventilation. It’s actually been pretty useful as I can now not only go on airplanes without being a zombie, as I can even take elevators when I need to 😅

This said, I know some people who are still a bit nervous when flying so I figured I could share some things that helped me:

  • Plane noises or sounds are common
    I used to freak out every time there was a sound in the cabin or an engine noise that I hadn’t heard before. Don’t worry, if there’s something wrong you will know for sure, so sit back and relax.
  • Air is flowing
    Airplane ventilation is pretty advanced technology so you will not suffocate — shocking, I know. If you’re feeling a bit stressed, try standing up, walking a bit on the aisle or going to the bathroom. Getting out of your seat sometimes is a good distraction.
  • Get used to some turbulence
    No one loves turbulence but being in the air, it’s bound to happen. If you almost have an heart-attack when the plane giggles, I recommend you watch the “jelly advice” video.
  • Download some games and songs on your mobile
    Being distracted is the best way to pass the time, both on the ground and in the air. Try downloading some games like Solitaire, Mahjong or Subway Surfers to play when you’re stressed. Having a cool playlist with your favourite songs is also mandatory, and I also have a friend who has a meditation playlist to help her deal with her anxiety, so that could also be helpful!
  • Use your airplane pillow as an extra bag and extra comfort
    For longer or early-morning flights, I always tend to sleep a bit. I don’t usually carry one of those neck-pillows as I don’t find them that useful, but since I’ve seen a hack of putting extra clothes inside the pillow, I think my opinion changed. This way, you not only get more clothes as you can also sleep more comfortably, helping you pass the time.

I understand this won’t make your fear go away, but these were some of the things I’ve realised over the last few years that really helped me. If anyone has different tips, feel free to share them!



Mariana Machado

I used to dream about becoming a poet and I’ve always loved writing, so I made it my job.