Dubai: As a toddler, young British expat Joe Thompson used to love flying with his expatriate parents as many as four times a year to far-flung corners of the globe.
But the 11-year-old Abu Dhabi schoolboy’s recent development of a fear of flying has left him grounded as his perplexed family prepares to permanently return home from the United Arab Emirates.
After attempting everything from counseling and hypnotherapy to help calm Joe’s nerves enough to allow him to return to the UK via passenger jet, five attempts in recent months have all failed, forcing the family to consider the last resort – an overland journey from the Middle East to the UK.
Joe’s father, Tony Thompson, 63 – a former aide to past UK deputy prime minister John Prescott – told Gulf News on Sunday that he has no other choice but to abandon any flying plans and chart an overland journey home with his son Joe.
“If we can get through Saudi, Jordan and Egypt to Alexandria, I can then go to Greece and pick up the Eurorail link,” said Thompson, who works as quality manager at Al Noor Hospital in Al Ain.
Thompson said he is looking at taking some form of bus transport later this week through Saudi Arabia and looking at further coach travel afterward but until he can work out visa requirements, it is difficult booking any solid dates and advance plans.
The trip through the scorching sandscapes of the Middle East by land will be only the beginning of a 5,000-plus kilometer trip via Europe to return home to England, he said.
Thompson said he has asked for help from the British Embassy mission staff in Abu Dhabi to help him plan his long-distance trip.
His wife Pauline was scheduled to fly out of Abu Dhabi Sunday evening.
The family dog was already airlifted home to the UK days earlier.
Thompson said young Joe managed to fly home to England in March and return to the UAE with Pauline but since then, Joe’s fears of flying have escalated to the point where flying simply isn’t an option.
Joe isn’t worried about the plane crashing, said father.
“He talks about the height of it, the long distance,” Thompson said.
Asked if he had any advice for expat parents with children, he advised that decisions of moving to a country that requires a lot of family flying should be made cautiously if children exhibit any early signs of fear of flying.
“If you pick them (warning signs) up in your home country, leave the child there until you get the matter resolved,” he said.