The Ironic Calm of Air Travel

PlaneOverhead-flickr-vox_efx-editedI find air travel soothing. I'm also aware that this isn't a common view. As an aeroplane passenger you're often suffering from cramped legroom, dry air, poor ergonomics, difficulty sleeping, crying children, mediocre food, and all the other thoroughly non-soothing things going on.

There's also the occasional total scheduling clusterf***.

But when I'm on a plane, and things are going ok, it is one of the few times in my life that I have absolutely no ambiguity that I could or should be anywhere else.

On a plane, you have no responsibility. There's nowhere else you need to be, nothing else you should be doing, and no possibility of an urgent phone call that you have any chance of doing anything about. You just have to sit there, have food occasionally delivered to you, and chill out in whatever manner you like that doesn't massively disrupt your fellow passengers. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, catch up on the last season of Breaking Bad.

It's entirely possible that my love of air travel is symptomatic of severe time management problems. I often find it hard to schedule actual dedicated relaxation time without feeling angsty that I should be somewhere else doing something productive.

Hence why a long haul flight in particular - say the 16 hour journey from Melbourne to LA - is a blessed chunk of completely utterly enforced free time. A plane journey gives me no option other than to chill the heck out, particularly when the ultimate achievement is to sleep through most of it.

There's also the stress contrast. Usually the hours or days leading up to a flight are anything but relaxing; planning, packing, rushing to the airport, suffering the security checks, standing in queues, worrying about customs and passports and confirmation codes and everything else. So when you finally make it on to the plane and sit down, the sudden drop in stress levels is startling. You're there, your job is done, and now you get to do absolutely nothing for the next however many hours.

It's got to the point where I have such a strong pavlovian association of "air travel = relaxation" that even if my flight is in the middle of the day, I sometimes pass out within minutes of getting to my seat.

I'm aware it's not a common association, but it gets the job done.


(Image by Flickr user Vox Efx, licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0)



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