After a close call on a flight over New Jersey, writer Jen Rose Smith wanted to learn more about how travelers can better deal with risk and uncertainty. So she got in touch with Allison Schrager—an economist, of all things.

It was somewhere over Newark, New Jersey that all hell broke loose on the plane. To my right, I could see the tips of buildings, too close. In the center aisle, the flight attendant seemed to choke back sobs as she demonstrated the brace position for an emergency landing. Around me, passengers cried and prayed. Someone threw up in a bag.

But my palms had been sweating since take-off, long before the pilot announced that an engine had failed. It was the first leg in a journey from my Vermont hometown to Bogotá, Colombia, where I’d planned a month-long bikepacking trip through the Andes.

Ever shared an armrest with a humming, nail-biting, nervous flyer? That’s me. In total defiance of the facts, I’m more afraid of airplanes than of riding my bike in Colombian cities known for gritty crime.