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Thursday, July 31, 2008

On Traveling

I have been cooped up in a small town for almost two years.  When I started working for Microsoft I was (and still am, by the way) really looking forward to traveling.  In the past thirty days, I have been to Houston, New York City, Seattle, and I am scheduled to return to Seattle shortly.

Hooray!

Be careful what you wish for.  Haha.  Actually, I am thrilled to be out and about but I have noticed some changes over the years.  Ten years ago, when I worked for Microsoft as the Technical Product Manager for Microsoft Project, I traveled so much I spent the following ten years depleting my United Airlines frequent flyer miles on upgrades.  I had something like 178,000 miles racked up over just two years.   Those were the days.

It seems the biggest change is the mood in the airport.  Obviously the security context has changed dramatically after 911 and the cost of fuel has really done a number on the airline industry.  The net effect is that people don't appear as happy to travel.  I take issue with this because we are so blessed in this country--and the world really--when it comes to airline travel.  For most of human history, just traveling to the next village or town was a major ordeal.  Today, traveling to another hemisphere is both affordable and feasible for many, many more people than at any other time in history.

To travel is to celebrate our connectedness as a world.

That being said, taking a flight is a bit like being digested by a large animal.  You know your ultimate destination (and hopefully you come out feeling a bit better than that which comes out of an animal after a large meal).  You know the basic route.  You know that in spite of your frustrations and occasional delay, you really can't do anything about your situation until you come out the other end. 

My advice is this: go with the flow.  Learn to enjoy traveling again.  The security measures are there to protect.  The airlines are doing their best in a crippling situation.  The airports are really like malls with decent (albeit expensive) food and the people watching can't be beat.  Talk to a stranger.  Learn about why others are traveling.  And first and foremost, don't take this freedom for granted.  For most of the world, traveling for the first time on an airplane would be likely perceived as a life changing event if not straight up magic.

The one thing I miss is happy flight attendants.   I get why they are stressed out--jobs are on the line, crazy passengers, security threats, not enough time at home, and the litany goes on.  I go out of my way to thank these people for their work because I can imagine that what sounded glamorous--and may even was at one time--has turned into a stressful grind.

Oh, I have to go.  My flight is boarding.  One last note:  Thanks to Sky Dayton for Boingo!

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