Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Into Thin Air: Travel Traditions & Flying

I've been thinking about travel traditions quite a bit lately. Maybe it's because I have an upcoming trip home tomorrow and I'm eager to hop aboard the flight. Or perhaps it was because of seeing the Polish airliner that safely crash-landed in Warsaw yesterday. Either way, the traditions we associate with travel and what they mean to us have been on my mind.

Even if you don't realize it, I'm sure there is some tradition (or perhaps superstition?) that occurs whenever you travel.Whether it's triple-checking to make sure you locked a car door, or calling/texting a loved one after your flight lands, these are characteristics that define us just as anything else might. 

So why are they meaningful? Why do they become a habit in the first place? As unpredictable as life can be, I think the real question is, how can they NOT become a habit?

 Let me give you an example. Before I studied abroad, I'd only been aboard a plane once before in my life. My mother is terrified of flying, as is my grandmother, so most of our family adventures were had via roadtrips. Don't mistake me here: I treasured those trips; every single one of them. But flying by myself at 30,000 feet in the air was an experience all in itself. 

There's an aspect to flying that you never quite forget--watching as everyday roads become a patchwork of varying designs, the not so pleasant ear popping, and trying to get used to the lack of legroom in coach (I don't think that last one you ever get used to).

Ever since that plane ride to Scotland, I've been on many other trips, in numerous airports and on varying airlines. There is one thing that hasn't changed, though. As the plane taxis and begins to take-off, I always think of my family. Call me superstitious, call me crazy, but I always have my family and friends on my mind as the plane's wheels leave the ground.That first moment of weightlessness never fails to make me catch my breath and marvel at the technology that allows for this to be possible.

I know, I know. How many flights ACTUALLY go down? Why play this "what-if" game with myself? I've heard more times than I can count that you're more likely to get in a car crash as opposed to a plane crash, but as we all know life can work in funny ways, bringing about surprises when you least expect them. Who's to say you won't be on a flight where everything doesn't go according to plan? 

Weary traveler? You could say that!
Thinking you're immune to such an occurrence is just silly, if you ask me. I'm not trying to be morbid, but rather to get you thinking about our own mortality. If we don't consider it, how then will we ever live as if tomorrow may be the last? It wouldn't be a life well-lived if we didn't take risks or chances once in awhile, or showcase passion for the things that matter most.

Sure, some travel traditions may be sillier than others. I happen to like sitting in the window seat whenever I can--and not because the wall makes an ideal head rest; that's just a side benefit--but because I like watching the whole world drop away at takeoff, and come back into view upon landing. Silly? Perhaps. But it's living in the moment with such silly traditions that make us who we are and allow for a better appreciation of the little things. So silly or not, I'll be embracing each and every tradition I can :)

What are some of your travel traditions? How have they had an impact on you?