Those who've known me for a while know that I haven't been on a plane in probably 20 years. It was hard for people in my life to understand but I had my reasons. I'll tell my story here and try to make it as succinct as possible. Here's why I stopped flying:
In another life I was a purchasing manager for a regional electronics distributer. I flew between Portland and Seattle pretty frequently as part of my job. One stormy spring day I set out lightly packed for a quick day trip to the corporate office via a quick commuter flight. These flights were almost always on a small jet that never really settled in to a cruising altitude for long enough for more than a quick soda and some peanuts before descending at the destination. On this day, the attendants had just pulled out the drink carts and were about half way through the plane when we hit a down draft that sent drinks flying and people screaming as they flew out of their seats. Everyone was pretty shaken up. I know I certainly was. I got off the plane and swore to myself I'd never get on another plane.
Over the years, I've had many opportunities to fly again but I held my ground. Many people who knew me well were mystified at my lack of desire to travel internationally given my interest in world history, geography and social anthropology. Some called me stubborn. I never thought of it as stubborn. I always felt like I simply had conviction. I think there's quite a difference between the two. In my mind, stubbornness is conviction bereft of self-reflection. I had been asked, cajoled, harangued and even pleaded with to travel. Not compelling reasons; for me at least, to reevaluate my conviction. I was happy in my corner of the world because I chose to be. My conviction was very closely tied to one of my core philosophies in life that I feel is the backbone of "choosing to be happy" and that is: Always be grateful for what you have. Wanderlust represented a desire for something I don't have.
Then, along came Jen. We met and fell in love about five years ago, not long after my divorce. Jen is a passionate world traveler. She; of course, invited me to travel with her and naturally we had many conversations about my conviction not to fly. We had some of the most healthy conversations I'd ever had around my desire and rationale for not traveling by plane. As I ruminated on those conversations, I came to some revelations. I didn't need someone to try to logically convince me that I should have a wanderlust to roam. The catalyst I needed was someone sharing the passion and wonder of the experience. Jen and I had a conversation over a glass of wine one night and she asked (I'm paraphrasing here) "Do you see yourself ever traveling?" to which I replied "I think so. I think I'm going to be tired of being left behind while you're off having so much fun". She didn't push me or harass me. She just travelled as she was want to do and brought home her passion to share with me.
As time went on, I thought "I might want to travel." Then later "I could see myself traveling." Finally, "I want to travel."
So it began.