When I was a kid, I had flannel blankets. Blue and green, if my memory's accurate. My bedroom had big french doors to the outside that made my room cold when it was winter. Even before computers, I was a night owl. My parents would make me go to bed at ten, I'd crawl into my flannel sheets, I'd swish around to get them warm, and then I'd stare at the ceiling and think.
That was some of my favorite time. I loved going to bed and thinking until my thoughts became nonsensical and I fell asleep.
I liked to come up with ideas. That's where I had the idea to build a toaster onto the back of my bike. It's where I had the idea to make a mini-carnival in my neighborhood. It's where I had all sorts of other ideas that didn't happen. I loved coming up with ideas because anything was possible in my cozy bed, and some of those things were even possible the next day when I woke up.
Then the computer came, and I stopped thinking at night. I was still a night owl, but then I had games to play. And I was on AOL, so I had information coming in, other people's thoughts.
The map shows that I'm somewhere over the North Pacific right now. Closer to Juneau than Vancouver, but only barely. It's about four different times right now, the time it was when I left Japan, the time it will be when I get to Chicago, the time it is in the empty time zone below, and the time my body thinks it is. There's only one reading light on in the plane, and it's mine.
People ask me if I ever get sick of flying. I don't think I've been in the same place for more than two or three weeks in the past few years, and all of the places I like to go are far away. I'm leaving Japan, but I left some stuff at my friend's place because I'll be back in ten days. Another flight over the North Pacific.
I don't get sick of flying. I love it up here. It's hard to really gauge, but sometimes I'm more excited about the flight than where I'm actually going. It feels like I'm physically in that place I went in my mind as a kid.
Everyone else is asleep, but I'm thinking. I've gone through the couple shows I downloaded for the flight. I never pay for internet because it would ruin the flight for me. I love going back to that time before I had internet, when it was easier to just think.
A couple years ago I kissed a girl goodbye and flew over the Atlantic back home. I was glad that the flight was long, because I wanted that time to think about her. I thought about the moments we had together, the things she said, the things I said. I thought about what might be, and I didn't have to be cautious with my thoughts because I was suspended up in the ether, far away from reality. I never saw her again. I still think about our time together sometimes, but I think about that flight, too. It was almost as good.
I've worked through hard decisions up here. Tough conversations that I knew I'd need to have weren't so daunting by the time I landed. I'd had them in my mind a dozen times already. I've decided to change the course of my life in planes. Big life decisions are put into perspective when you look down at the tiny huge mountains below you.
And I think about ideas, too, like I used to. Maybe I'll move to Budapest. Maybe Tokyo. Maybe I'll stop traveling. Seriously, maybe I will. I thought about shutting down my blog today. I'm not going to do it, of course, but a twelve hour flight gives you time to get over the knee-jerk reaction and really think it through. Actually, thinking about that made me want to get a little more invested in the blog. That's the whole point of hours of thinking-- it's the sort of pondering where you really don't know what your final position will be.
I think back to twelve-year-old me, staring up at that ceiling from the comfort of soft flannel sheets. Later today or tomorrow, depending on the time zone you're using, I'll be flying roughly above my old house. Not exactly, probably, but I like to imagine it is. And I think about how I would have never guessed I'd some day be flying overhead to an island I share with my friends. That idea sure got churned over on a few plane rides.
It feels good to have time to think. I could do it off of a plane, too, but it's not so easy. Something about not knowing where or when you are makes it easy to focus on what's on your mind. Today it's mostly just gratitude for this great life I have, and for all of the people in it. Besides everything else, it's good to have some time to focus on that, too.
Photo is Rodin's Thinker in the Honolulu Museum of Art.
I'm at the island right now... tons of news from this trip to share soon. Probably next week's post. Check out this article that Yahoo Travel did about it.
As anyone who follows my tweets knows, I'm going to be doing the JetBlue All-You-Can-Jet promotion. Because I'm flexible, I saved $200 and bought the five day pass for $500, which means that I can't fly on Friday or Sunday. The pass entitles me to fly from September 7th until October 6th for free on all JetBlue flights. This includes all taxes in the US, but not outside the US. I've been thinking about the best way to use this pass, and I'm going to share my strategy with you, in case you bought one as well.
There aren't all that many places in the US I want to go. Within a month or two of the promotion I will have been to NY, Boston, Austin and LA, which covers most of my bases. So I'm mostly seeing this as a ticket to get HUGE discounts on international travel for a month.
Leaving places where everything is right "just because."
I just arrived in Beijing. The air is cold and crisp, the pace is fast, people are wearing suits and carrying briefcases and the general vibe here is I'm on a mission.
I hate cold weather except in small doses, and I haven't spent more than two weeks in a cold-weather place during a cold time of the year since... I don't know when, it's been a long time. A few years.
I forgot how the cold makes people move fast, crisp, not dally, not lounge about... it's refreshing. I feel like I'm in New York a little before Christmastime, which (shitty cold weather aside) is one of my favorite times in one of my favorite places in the world.
But let's about traveling (and life) mistakes. The biggest mistake I've made, by far, is leaving a place where I'm very happy or productive or I've got a good workflow. Occasionally, everything is just right somewhere... and when everything is just right, I'd recommend you milk it for all it's worth.