life: examined is an invitation to be more curious; a compendium of ideas, thoughts, and questions about how to live a creative, intentional life. Thank you for your support.
I'm writing this from window seat 28F on a plane flying over the Atlantic Ocean.
The screen on the seatback in front of me displays the flight monitor, which shows we are traveling at 850km/528mph ground speed.
We are not on the ground. I don't think.
Wait, let me check—nope, still in the air. In the air, at least I think so—when I look out the window, I see a vast expanse of fluffy whiteness. I use my decades of experience and top-notch sleuthing skills to determine the fluff to be clouds, not marshmallows. So yes, in the air we are.
I haven't flown since December 2019, so it's déjà vu—at once familiar and a new experience, too.
So far, the flight has been hassle-free, unless you consider waiting in never-ending lines a hassle (I do). Check-in for the flight was seamless.
I have my negative COVID-19 results from Wednesday's test on my Portuguese national health system/SNS(Serviço Nacional de Saúde) app—the same app where my proof of vaccination certificate resides.
It seems I was one of the few to get the memo that the US requires a virus/test status declaration form in addition to proof of a negative test from every traveler entering the country. I had mine printed and filled out prior, so I walked past 30 or more folks frantically filling out their forms using any available surface they could find.
I'm glad I prepared because my old friend, anxiety, was lurking around the edges threatening to step in and take over where calm and reason were on the verge of mutiny.
Airports are stressful. I know, understatement of the century. It's essential to have a sound system of document and stuff management to keep the pressure cooker from boiling over—and traveling light always helps to keep anxiety to a low background hum.
Strange, Don't Like It
It's a strange new world of air travel in the COVID age, and I don't think it's changing any time soon. But, if we continue to travel by air, we'll need to get used to it.
I'm not fond of air travel. I acknowledge my privilege to fly, the physical freedom, and my financial ability to do so, but I still don't like it. Pre-pandemic, in fact waaaay before, I was already over it (environmentally and the physical toll it takes), but the pandemic delivered the final straw. Yet here I am, doing the thing I don't like or want to do.
We interrupt this essay for MAJOR TURBULENCE!
Since it appears that we'll be rafting the aeronautic version of class 4 rapids for a while, I suppose I'll continue.
I want to see friends and family, yet I also want to honor my ethics and commitment to those ethics, and air travel makes the honoring harder to do.
I endeavor to live with the awareness of the degradation to the environment brought on by activities like flying. Still, I realize that big corporations (hello, fossil fuel industry) need to take drastic measures if we are going to have a habitable planet.
Our individual actions are important, but at this point, they barely move the needle. Recycling? A feel-good activity as much of it ends up in landfills. But keep recycling, by all means (see: deck chairs & Titanic).
Better yet, stop buying and discarding consumables as if the planet is a trove of endless resources for our pillaging. It's not.
And if you think wearing masks and social distancing is annoying, boy, are you in for a treat.
Climate change is coming, is here, for all of us. However, those of us in wealthy countries might not feel the full effects yet.
Food shortages, soil depletion, droughts and desertification, flooded cities due to seawater rise, and the mass migration that follows will affect us all sooner or later.
Some countries are doing better to prepare for and mitigate catastrophic events—have you checked out what your government or municipality is doing? It's good to know what measures are in place and what you can do before it's too late (downer alert: it might already be too late).
Duck and Cover
The necessity to plan and think about survival and the existence of the planet and all her creatures reminds me of earthquake drills and preparation while growing up in Southern California. The difference is, with climate catastrophe, we need to ready ourselves and communities for multiple calamities that will bring challenges unlike anything we've known in our lifetimes.
I don't mean to be preachy, and this wasn't going to be an essay on climate catastrophe; I intended to write about the travel and airport experience. But how could I not link the two?
Charade in Scotland
As the PR event that is COP26 played out in Glasgow, with executives and heads of state descending on the conference, sometimes with just one or two representatives per private jet, it's contingent upon us to be critical thinkers and not be wowed by the theatrics of such spectacle and deceit.
Cop(out)26 should serve as a stark reminder that they aren't going to save us, and we can't keep deferring action by kicking this can to another generation.
Back to Flying
As I bring this essay/newsletter back to the intended topic, air travel and travel in general, I feel committed to drastically reducing my air travel.
It's not like I'm a jet setter anyway; it's been nearly two years since I've hurtled through the sky in a metal tube (don't think about it too much, don't think about it too much…).
The pandemic laughed at my proclaimed 2020 Year of Travel, but even if it hadn't, clocking lots of air time was not at the top of my travel list. Instead, I want to enjoy traveling slowly on terra firma—preferably by egalitarian means like train or bus.
Car-Free by Choice
Not owning a car is a pain in the butt sometimes, but I'm willing to endure the struggle and inconvenience if only to be able to face my reflection in the mirror and know I'm doing the best I can in a small way. That and not paying for insurance, petrol, parking, or maintenance is pretty cool, too.
Do I wish I had a car sometimes? Heck, yes, I do! Am I grateful to friends who've been willing to shuttle me around occasionally in their cars? Heck, yes, I am!
When my e-bike arrives in December, it will give me more range and be a tool for carrying heavier loads, but I probably won't do much riding during the wettest weeks of winter.
Again, I digress. But, dear reader, you are probably used to that already.
Air travel: I'm committed to making one transatlantic flight a year to the States to see family and friends as long as I live in Europe. Otherwise, I want to limit my sky time to short hops around Europe when rail, bus, or unicorn is unavailable.
I'd even fly shorter distances to European capital cities then take the train from there—rather than jet the entire way.
The time it takes to get from point A to B is part of a slow travel adventure.
Add up the time it takes for air travel, including getting to the airport several hours early, standing around until you can board, the actual flying time, and don't forget to include whatever fresh hell greets you when you land (like passport control or customs). So that 6-hour flight just took more like twelve.
This flight I'm on, with one connection, is about 13 hours in the air. Add the two and a half hours early to the airport and a three-hour layover, and I'll have been traveling for nearly nineteen hours. And that's not counting going through time zones or the time it took the day before when I came to Lisbon, dropped off my dog, and stayed the night in a hotel to get to the airport in a low-stress manner.
I'd rather book a long train voyage, knowing I can get to the station a few minutes before departure, keep my liquids in my bag, and not get pulled to secondary for a search. Plus, I like watching the countryside as the train winds its way toward my destination. Napping is easier on a train than on a plane, and you can't beat the legroom.
With just an hour left to go until my first stop and layover on this voyage, which I've dubbed the tuberculosis express due to the copious coughing coming from the passengers behind me, I will sign off for now.
How are you feeling about flying in light of the changing world in which we live?
Will you change any of your habits to tread a bit lighter on the planet?
Let me know—I enjoy hearing from you in the comments section.
It’s time for another… Favorite Auto-Translation of the Week!
Like last week’s entrant, this auto-translation came from Facebook and is an announcement for a class or course. Can you guess the topic of the class?
Apart from the courses in a virtual room with wonderful classes; good and deep, individual classes via Skype are so much fun and in the company of those we love most. you can even take a photo of the student and her big buddy who came from the street to join us.
her big buddy who came from the street?! Oh dear. Well, we all come from somewhere, just like big buddy. :)
“No sweaty striptease at airport security…” Why we need a new golden age of European rail by Timothy Garton Ash
What can I do?" Anything. The battle for a livable future is a battle against fossil fuels. Right now, it's all hands on deck by Emily Atkin
1000 Most Common Words in Portuguese via Portuguese with Leo
Thanks to last week’s generous readers for their support:
Roxanne, Leil, Elaine, Flip, Bill, and anonymous humans for supporting life: examined through Buy Me a Coffee.
Whether it’s a coffee (or two), a like, or a share—I’m grateful for all the ways you support me!
Until next time—be well, stay curious, and thanks for reading life: examined