Before running off to graduate school/seminary, my job involved a ridiculous amount of traveling. For much of the year, I hopped from airport to airport to airport around North America and often to Israel and Europe. I learned the code-words for countless airports. My body was tormented with the frequent time-zone changes. For a few months each summer, I spent more nights sleeping in summer camp beds, less than stellar hotel rooms, and pull-out couches than I did in my own bed in New York. I loved it. I even helped create a travel hashtag on Twitter.
I have found that while catapulting through the air at 37,000 feet, I was often at my most productive – ploughing through a few dozen emails, writing blog posts, designing advertising materials, and catching up on some good reading. I often wondered why… with limited access to reliable internet, terrible coffee, and the peeping eyes of my seat-neighbor, how could it be that I was getting so much done? And why did I feel great about doing all this work? You know that physical feeling of satisfaction you get inside when you’re being über productive? That’s the one.
Turns out there may be some good reasons behind this phenomenon. Check out this quote from an article at Fast Company on the benefits of early rising:
And when I asked our Philosophy PhD-turned-VC why I felt most productive on a plane, he opened his Moleskine to the opening cover where he had this quote from Pascal pasted: “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.” In other words, not being able to go anywhere cuts away the need to think about new stimuli–and finally allows us to focus.
Makes sense! Earlier in the article, the author learns about Flow Theory – something I actually spent much of this past year learning about in my studies on Experiential Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults. Check this out:
When I asked him about what makes him happy now, he cited a book called Flow: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to the “optimal experience” and what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of skill-expanding consciousness appropriately enough called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.
Some people view airplanes as cold, sterile, claustrophobic disasters. Not me. I’ve got something of a retro-romanticism when it comes to air-travel. Maybe it’s because I see flying as an opportunity for deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.
Got shit that needs doing? Hop on a plane, lock yourself in, and get going!
Bonus points: the airport codes listed in the title of this post are from a three-day hopscotch across North America I took to visit my family before heading to Israel for the year. It also includes a detour through Houston so I could get a chance to fly on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.