I’m grounded, but here are 5 reasons why not flying is great
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I bet that’s a headline you didn’t think you’d ever see on TPG U.K. I didn’t think I’d ever write it, either.
Like many frequent flyers, I had big plans for travel in 2020. It was to be the year I visited Montenegro, South Africa, Hong Kong and Australia for the first time. So far, Montenegro in August is not looking likely to go ahead, but I’ve still got my fingers crossed for my first time flying Cathay Pacific in business to Australia and for my thirtieth birthday trip to Cape Town in October.
While we’re all trying our best to keep positive during the scariest, saddest and most challenging time that many of us have ever faced, it’s also important to acknowledge and accept the situation that we’re in to help us to come to terms with it. Perhaps the hardest thing to deal with though is the uncertainty the coronavirus crisis has brought about. We have no real way of knowing when we’ll start to see a sense of normalcy creep back into our lives. One thing that is for sure is that flying will probably not be the same for a long time, if ever.
So, rather than wasting energy being sad about spending all of my time on the ground rather than in the air, I’ve been finding positives in the situation.
Jet lag knocks me for six each and every time I fly long-haul. It can take me anywhere between three days and a week to really get back to get to normal, and then it would only be a matter of days before I’d be up in the air again. That, plus the dehydrating effect that flying has on the body means that I often struggle to get in a rhythm with my sleep and spend about half of my days per month feeling and looking like a zombie.
I haven’t stepped foot on a plane for more than two months now — and I feel great. I’ve managed to find a proper sleep pattern so I wake up feeling fresh on a morning and don’t get hit as hard by that 4 p.m. slump (and sugar cravings).
A break for the environment (and my conscience)
One thing I hear a lot when people find out about my job and lifestyle is a variation of questions and comments about my carbon footprint. The answer, of course, is that I do care about the planet — just because I’m a frequent flyer doesn’t mean I don’t have a conscience. This is probably a good place to drop the fact that of all human-induced carbon dioxide emissions, only around 2% of that comes from aviation.
The effect of coronavirus on aviation means that already-low percentage is likely now even less. The reality is that the number of global weekly flights in the first week of April 2020 was around 60% less than the same week in 2019, and the resulting effect on the industry is undeniably devastating. Despite it all, I can’t help but feel some comfort in the silver lining that the environment is getting finally getting a well-deserved break.
As much as we probably don’t like to admit it, frequent flying is really not good for the waistline — especially if you’re partial to a pre-flight tipple and indulge in all three courses of your inflight meal. Roughly speaking, the high levels of sugar, salt and alcohol consumed during the flights on a return trip to New York is likely to scupper any groundwork put in no matter how many times you go to the gym or how much chicken, rice and broccoli you can eat.
Now that I’m not flying at all and only travelling as far as my local park or supermarket, I’ve definitely found myself with more time to dedicate to planning what I’m eating. For the first time in my life, I’m actually taking pride in the food that I’m making. Gone are the days of just rustling up something easy after a busy day at work followed by a quick pint (or two) in the pub and then getting home starving at 9 p.m. having narrowly avoided McDonald’s. (I also really miss McDonald’s, is that wrong?)
The extra time and — dare I say — enjoyment I’ve found in cooking has led me to tweak my cottage pie and bolognese recipes to the extent that I’m even confident enough to consider hosting a dinner party when this is all over. I realise the horror I may have just caused by using the word “cottage pie” and “dinner party” in the same sentence, but I’m a northerner and I’ve got to start somewhere.
Time to disconnect, switch off and relax
Thanks to my globetrotting lifestyle of 2019, I found that the only time I actually really disconnected was when I had no internet. In other words, I rarely disconnected. I made the most of time on the tube and on planes with no Wi-Fi to really disconnect. When things started to get real in London in mid-March, I initially felt too connected to everything, as there was no escaping coronavirus-related news.
Suddenly, our phones and laptops became the only way to have any kind of social life. But that also meant opening yourself up to a constant stream of fear-mongering shared on WhatsApp, the bombardment of negative headlines from news apps and perhaps worst of all, the confusion and panic from almost everyone on social media platforms.
I needed to disconnect — badly. And I did. I didn’t use social media for two weeks, and it helped a lot. I’m now reconnected with the world and constantly learning new ways to adjust to this temporary, ever-evolving way of life. I’m making a conscious effort to dedicate some of the extra time I’ve gained from not flying to disconnecting as much as possible. I’ve been spending more time reading, teaching myself Russian and even taking up capoeira, which I highly recommend.
A slight downside of spending more time disconnected is that I’ll probably take longer to reply to your WhatsApp now — sorry.
Time to take stock and be grateful
I think I’ve saved the best until last. We live in a society that’s obsessed with having more and being better. You could read that and think well yes, that’s great — if people want more money, they’ll be more ambitious and work harder to get pay raises and promotions. If people want to have a better gym body, they’ll train harder and focus on achieving their fitness goals.
While that’s true to an extent, it also leads to a sense of dissatisfaction because too much time is spent focussing on what you could have, or how you could be, rather than appreciating and being grateful for the present moment.
This is something I’m guilty of myself when it comes to flying. On trips I took last year, no sooner had I landed back in London when I was already counting down the days to my next flight. It resulted in 2019 flying by so fast that it’s almost a blur. I find myself looking back through my photos from last year almost in disbelief at the incredible things I was fortunate enough to be able to experience. Having spent the majority of 2020 so far on the ground, it’s helped me to gain a deeper appreciation of flying. Though I still really miss it, the gratitude I have for my job and of the world of aviation in its entirety has offset the intense feeling of mourning the lifestyle that was taken from me seemingly overnight.
If you’d have told me this time last year that I’d be writing an article about the things I’m enjoying about not flying, I’d have laughed in your face. Don’t be fooled, however, my AvGeek blood still runs thick and I am so excited for my first flight when this is all over.
Featured image by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images.
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