People crave control.  Control over their surroundings, control of how people think about them, and control over their physical and emotional safety.  It’s just part of the human condition.  We usually fear the unknown, i.e. what we can’t control.  That’s why some people are afraid of flying.  They bring up a certain point that is 100% true: when you step on an airplane, you’re giving up much of your autonomy and entrusting your safety (and that of your family) to 2-3 people flying the plane and 3-10 crew taking care of the passengers.

As a fairly frequent flyer, I’ll admit that I’m a very nervous flyer.  I don’t like turbulence.  What I have to continually remind myself is turbulence means there is air around the wing, which is actually great news, because that’s what generates the lift necessary to keep the plane airborne!

Yesterday, a Malaysia Airlines 777 was shot down near the (now “disputed”) border of Russia and Ukraine.  It appears to be a random act of violence directed at what the perpetrators thought could’ve been a military aircraft.

All of this leads to a really important question:

What do we do now?

Should we be more scared of flying?  No.  Should commercial airliners no longer be allowed to fly over conflict zones?  Honestly, no (planes have flown over conflict zones hundreds of times daily for years without incident).  Should we avoid Malaysia Airlines after their two incidents this year?  Not necessarily (there were Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways jets within 25km of the MH jet, it was terrible luck that the MH jet was hit).

So what can we do?  We can honor the lives lost yesterday by making the most of our time here.  Here are my thoughts, and few of them have anything to do with flying.

  • Share your itinerary with loved ones and keep them updated.  Some people use a service like TripIt (I don’t have any business relationship with them, but I do use them myself) to share itineraries with family and friends.  If something were to happen to a flight I was on, I would want those close to me to know immediately, instead of having to worry and then wait and hear it from some government/airline official.
  • Enjoy life today.  We simply do not know how long we have left.  I cannot write “I will arrive safely at home this afternoon” with 100% certainty, I just don’t know when my time will come.  Don’t let stress, guilt, shame, regret, or pride rule your life.
  • Make amends.  If there are rifts in your life as a result of wrongs you’ve committed, own it, confess it, and make amends for it.
  • Find meaning in life.  Everyone needs something to live for.  I have my faith, my family, and my friends.  Travel is great, but it’s a supplement to everything else, not a replacement.  Whether it’s faith, service, or a certain cause (hopefully a mix of all three), find what speaks to your heart and fulfills your calling, then go do it.
  • Get rid of stress.  We live in a world that induces stress.  Even reading this blog is stressful for some (I’ve heard “I wish I could fly like you” too many times).  Control what you can control.
  • Have fun.  Be sure to laugh hard often.  Life is meant to be savored and enjoyed.  If something prevents you from that, get rid of it.
  • Love those you love, and tell them so.  I hope everyone hugged their spouse and children a little harder last night.  Grab hold of every opportunity to tell those you love that you love them and are thankful for them.  When my time comes, I want everyone to know that I love them dearly.

There’s a certain morbidity to this post, which is unavoidable with a topic like this.  But I hope you see the point I’m getting at.  Air travel remains the safest means of transportation the world has ever known.  But the scale of tragedy is enormous when it happens, and it must give us pause and we must reflect when tragedy strikes.  Regardless of what happened yesterday (history will eventually settle on the facts of it), the above are things we can all do today, whether we’re airborne or not.

We’ll get back to fun and trip reports next week, I just felt like the enormity of what happened yesterday deserved a departure from the normal tone and topics I usually write about.

In keeping with my list, I’m very thankful for all of you who stop by my little part of the internet and hope I could at least give you a little perspective today.



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