On my recent trip to the Philippines I had a midnight flight from Los Angles to Seoul and had an epiphany about flying. The following is what I wrote in my journal at 2 am with the help of a Budweiser and some whiskey:
Legendary NFL coach and commentator John Madden and I have something in common. It isn’t often that I can say I have something in common with a celebrity so forgive for milking it for all it is worth. It is certainly not the number of playoffs games won or even attended and it’s not a love of his Madden video game franchise that has spawned a technological empire in his post coaching career.
No, it’s that we both hate flying. I’m not an extremist by any means and I recognize John’s stance is that he will NEVER fly is far more serious than my preference not to fly. However both of our views on the flight have lead us to criss-cross the country in a recreational vehicles and meet countless people on the way. His of the luxury custom built variety while ours is just big enough to suit our needs.
While our aversion to flying is similar we both have it for different reasons.For me it is not a fear of heights or the horrible plane crashes that some envision. For me it is the process of flying.
- – The premeditated planning.
- – The fact I always feel like I am accidentally booking the wrong flight or on the wrong day.
- – The fact that if I do book the wrong flight it is cheaper to book a new one then switch it to the correct time.
- – The fact that I leave my home three hours before my flight is scheduled to leave.
- – The unnecessarily complicated process of confirming your flight and getting a boarding pass.
- – The ever increasingly long lines at security.
- – The boarding process.
- – Getting a seat next to or near a screaming child or chronically coughing germ carrier.
- – The seats with just enough leg room to that you can’t fully extend.
- – Trying to sleep sitting upright.
- – The unboarding process.
- – Arranging transit to and from your starting and end destinations.
- – 4 hour layovers.
- – 4 minute layovers.
- – Airport shuttles.
- – Baggage claim.
After traveling in an RV for close to four years I realize why John Madden refuses to fly. It’s because we were meant to travel through our world, not over it. I would rather view the vast country sides of the plains and the endless peaks of the Rockies then view the clouds from above.
By traveling through instead of over you encounter new regions and cultures even if it’s just through their billboards about God’s wrath or local campaign signs singing the virtues of candidate A over candidate B. The mom and pop cafe’s and diners that have been there for 20 years and hope to stay operating for another 20. The local food that can’t be replicated anywhere else Beach it relies on local ingredients.
Flying, for me, is a means to an end and not something to experience unto itself. I know that I am spoiled and not everyone has the flexible schedule to take their time with travel…and that is part of the problem. We have been raised to value time over experience and sacrifice our comfort for “convenience”.
Flying was designed to do one thing well and that is to get you to the next place as quick as possible (once you are in the plane that is). It strips away anything that non essential to reach that goal. Sure, some airlines will add little things to make the experience less annoying, but they aren’t really trying to make it enjoyable.
As a designer I know that there are solutions to the issues above, but I also know that unless the bottom line is threatened that there is no incentive for the airlines to do anything about them.
So to you beer traveling jet setters I appluad your efforts. Business travelers of the world can relate the plight I have layed out and know that a local craft beer is their reward for putting up with the system.
And to John Madden I salute you for taking the stance that anything worth traveling for is worth the time to get there.