August 11, 2022

Flying high on a rollercoaster

Are you a nervous flyer? I used to be. Not to the extent of avoiding necessary flights but just enough that, at least once a flight, I wished I was on a long-haul bus ride instead.

Not anymore. I am writing this at 30,000 feet from Seat 17E after enjoying the take-off. The change is a direct result of a year in which I spent a lot of time on rollercoasters.

When I moved to within cooee of the Gold Coast, I knew that, at some stage, my family would take advantage of the ‘locals-pass’ that Gold Coast theme parks kindly offer. With the clarity of hindsight, it was fortunate that our year was 2019, just before Covid-19 would have interfered with my kids’ aim of riding roller coasters every weekend.

I’m talking about rides where you accelerate to 100km/hour in two seconds, experience the force of 2.5Gs, plummet nearly vertically into a pool of water or shoot 60 meters into the air with minimal warning.

The first time we hit a theme park, I was terrified just looking at the rides, let alone getting on board. I spent most of my first time screaming with genuine and heart-rendering fear. My brain was so overwhelmed on the descent that I was barely aware of what was happening.

However, it turns out there’s no better inspiration than teenage kids laughing at you. So, I decided to try to overcome my fear. Instead of holding the bags, I kept on riding. Being able to do the same ride multiple times – on quieter days, immediately after getting off – meant my body and brain could start anticipating the sensations. By stretching myself to scarier rides – including ones I swore I’d never even consider – the less intense ones started to feel more manageable.

By the end of our locals-pass year, I did something I assumed was waaaaay out of my league – riding backwards on Movie World’s DC Rivals HyperCoaster. Not only did I survive, I smiled and even laughed while riding.

Thanks to my year of rollercoasters, I’ve realised it’s possible to get used to – and even enjoy – sensations that were once terrifying. And, just like I am doing now on a plane somewhere over outback NSW, I’ve learned to trust in the elements that hold me in place, even though they sometimes seem way too insubstantial.

Today, as the plane banked steeply during take-off to avoid a thunderhead cloud, I channelled the feeling of being on a theme park ride.

Rollercoasters might not fly as an official treatment for fear of air travel but, for me, my year of theme parks has freed me to enjoy flight.

Vivienne Pearson is a freelance writer whose writing lives at viviennepearson.com

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