Anyone who travels for work knows that air travel can be soul destroying. A barrage of mind numbing processes – the taxi ride though traffic, queuing to check in when the line snakes out the door, another queue to get through security where the person in front of you seems to be carrying more metal objects than humanly possible, airport coffee (no explanation necessary), delays, and yet another queue to board.
This time the person in front of you seems to be moving the contents of their entire house and trying to shove them in the overhead locker. Cramped seats, bad food, smelly on-board toilets. The ways in which your senses are assaulted seems to be endless. At least three more chances to queue and wait before you can make it safely to your destination. The seat next to you is taken by a large sweaty person who drinks his weight in red wine and then falls asleep on your shoulder. Time seem to stretch, minutes take hours and your patience is tested on every level.
It would be very easy to let the whole experience tip you over the edge. Indeed many people fail to display their perfect selves under these conditions. I myself have barely suppressed the urge to throttle the child behind me who is kicking my chair and then do something equally nasty to the parent who is allowing it to occur.
Several years ago I recognised that I had become a very unpleasant person when I travelled. My body language and the scowl on my face screamed “get outta my way”. I would sigh loudly when I saw a parent with a baby boarding the flight, I became selfish with my luggage space, I didn’t care about who was behind me when I reclined my seat, I ignored my seat companion. I plugged into a device and only stirred when it looked like wine was being offered. I pushed in front of people in the rush to get out at the other end. Not nice.
Something had to change.
Now every time I fly I try to bring to mind the feeling I had when I first flew. Watching my bag disappear on the conveyor belt, wondrous that it would make it on to the same flight as me. 100% success rate so far. Wow.
Being thankful that I had chosen to spend my hard earned money on an airline club membership – free food, free coffee, free papers, even free champagne – how awesome is that? Comfortable chairs, clean toilets, boarding announcements, thank you!
Then on to this giant metal bird that soars into the air, a miracle if I have ever witnessed one. Full of people all with their own lives and their own stories. Where are they going? Where have they come from? How amazing that these few hundred people are all going to the same place as me. I invent stories about them to keep my childish mind busy or just relax into my perfectly comfortable seat.
A quick “howdy” to my neighbour, a smile. I look through the window at the unbelievable earth below. Hills and houses, rivers and barren plains, big cities and small dots on the landscape. I laugh at the oily mark my forehead has made on the plane window. I then take time to appreciate how awesome it is that I can spend the next few hours doing my favourite things: reading, dozing, eating, watching movies, listing to music or playing on my computer. Some flights even have wireless! Is there no end to this joy?? When I get restless I remember to meditate a little , either focusing on my breathing or taking in all the good that is around me.
We land, on those tiny wheels (wow) and I feel the excitement that I am either home or somewhere novel and exciting – both are wonderful. I thank the gods of travel as my bag arrives on the carousel, take a deep breath or two and pray that the taxi gets me to where I am going safely. I haven’t quite mastered bringing joy to taxi travel but I am working on it!