Recently I was fortunate to visit Cape Town, South Africa for a family vacation. Traveling to Cape Town from the Midwestern US is not a minor commitment. With layovers and time zone changes, it took the better part of two days to get to our final destination. Our time in Cape Town was nothing short of spectacular. Its scenic setting along the South African coast, sitting in the shadow of Table Mountain, creates Instagram-worthy photos in every direction. There is much to explore in its rich culture, and the people of South Africa were welcoming and genuinely kind. Our trip included many noteworthy moments and side trips including touring wineries, a visit to Robben Island, and an African safari. But what has been interesting, as I have digested the entire experience, is that one of the most memorable experiences of the trip for me was the actual travel getting to and from South Africa itself.
In the past, I have had some fairly significant experiences of anxiety related to travel. Not only has it sometimes been hard for this Type A to remove myself from my office for any significant period of time, but I have previously been especially uncomfortable on planes. So preparing for a trip with this kind of extended air time took some preparation. I worked with my various coaches and teachers on relaxation techniques and meditations to prepare me, but also had calming teas, mints and essential oils at the ready! I felt that keeping my mind busy would also be key, so I came with books, magazines, and an iPod full of podcasts to help pass the time. I was as ready as I could be to board that first flight!
What was a great surprise to me, once I was settled in my seat, was that I quickly realized what an absolute gift this time was for me. There were movies to watch, music to listen to, yummy meals being served to me, and the calming white noise of the big jet taking us gracefully through the night sky. When I surrendered into the slower pace of the long flight, I found true peace in the sky. Over the course of my flights to and from South Africa, I watched 7 movies. I have to confess that I am not sure that I watched 7 movies in the entire prior year! Because of the necessity for this long period of being seated, I allowed myself to take the time and just relax and enjoy like I would not have done if I was sitting at home.
On the final leg of our 14+ hour flight home to Chicago, seated two seats away was a woman who before takeoff was taking the flight attendant to task for the lack of WIFI on the plane. “How am I supposed to get any work done on this long flight”, she complained, “This is a work day and I have work to do”. The flight attendant calmly apologized and explained that this flight did not have WIFI, but that in the future they were working on having access on all their flights. It was at that moment that I realized I really had embraced this “Namaste moment”. If there had been a WIFI password, I did not want to know it! I had movies left to watch and podcasts still to listen to, and the WIFI-free flight was my last opportunity for awhile to remain unconnected, relaxed and indulge in movies, music and magazines until we landed, if I chose to.
Amidst all the amazing things about our trip, I consider the time on the flights some of my favorite. They certainly provided the biggest surprise to me: the surprise of how much I enjoyed the peaceful quiet in the air. And as I looked over at the woman two seats away and saw her sleeping and later enjoying a movie during the flight, I thought “Fantastic! She finally surrendered to the WIFI-free peace in the sky.”