I love travel. The bustle of the airport, the anticipation of the departure lounge, the caress of economy seating. Obviously I’m lying. Discovering new countries is exciting. The process of getting there; not so much. I often wonder if we had the right idea a century ago. The pain of travel was still there, but spread over the days or weeks of the journey. Today, it’s compressed into the space of hours. And concentrated pain, just like electric shocks or nuclear waste, can be deadly. On the other hand, when sufficiently diluted, all things fade to background levels.
A few simple travel rules make all the difference. Start by embracing the “Zen of travel”, and practicing “acceptance”. Some things are under your control; some are not. You control the beginning of your journey; packing, bringing your passport, and arriving at the gate on time. But once you place your fate in the hands of an airline, everything changes. So when something goes wrong, as it invariably will, it’s important to first ask yourself “whose problem is this anyway?” In the unlikely event that it is your problem to solve, act quickly and decisively. Otherwise, find out who does own the problem and politely but firmly, hand it to them. Then be calm and patient. It’s called the “Zen of travel” for a reason.
Once you understand this, flying becomes much easier. Hardly pleasant, but certainly tolerable. Perhaps with even a hint of beauty, if you know where to look and what to avoid.
It doesn’t really have anything to do with flying, but somehow this picture fits. It captures the fine line between beauty and pain, showing that a little distance can make all the difference.
Postscript: For those interested in actual details, we are waiting (patiently) in Paris CDG for the final flight of our journey to Jordan. The first “flight” was a bus from the Ottawa train station to Montreal airport. When we tried to check-in at the airport, the machine refused, telling us to see an agent. But the guard wouldn’t let us through to talk to an agent until we had a boarding pass from the machine – the same machine that refused to issue a boarding pass, and instructed us to talk to an agent. I handed the problem to the guard, and pondered enlightenment.