Guest Writer: Chantele Killey
I haven’t flown for 15 years.
I love to travel. And I’ve chosen not to fly. And I’ve made peace with both those truths. This year many people have had travel plans cancelled due to the pandemic. You may be dealing with the disappointment of having a dream vacation cancelled, or the restlessness of knowing you can’t plan one for a while. Maybe you were already wrestling with your own decision to fly prior to this, but just haven’t been able to picture a happy life without flying.
My decision not to fly hit me part way through a flight home from Ecuador, in 2005. I had had an intellectual objection to flying for a while based on what I knew about carbon emissions. I deeply value the natural world, and I also believe my actions in life have an effect on others. I had honed many of my daily habits in an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint, and to minimize environmental harm. Despite these reservations, once in a while I would put aside my own environmental ethics in favour of other values, and I would get on a plane for a big adventure.
On that flight home though the scales tipped. I realized flying was no longer worth it to me based on my own values. No one was telling me I shouldn’t fly. I didn’t want to anymore.
But oh boy, did I still want to travel! Travel was my favourite teacher. Travel felt good! So how could I possibly reconcile this paradox?
My inspiration came from relationship advice someone had once given me. The advice was that if I could identify the things I loved and missed about an ex-partner, I could be guided to look for those things elsewhere, or even to carry them within me. The idea was that my ex-partner did not hold the monopoly on the things I valued and enjoyed. With the same logic, maybe my breakup with flying did not have to mean a breakup with all the things I loved about travel. Maybe I could find ways to access those things from the ground. I made a list of the reasons I loved travelling: trying new foods I never knew existed, learning to follow my intuition, seeing natural wonders, changing my routine, and sharing in a different culture.
My next challenge was to think of ways I could access those same experiences from land. For those grounded against their will, this technique has the power to reinstate personal freedom from the confines of our homes and local communities. Flying has been temporarily suspended, but you are still free to access the things you love most about travel, if you can allow them in through another door.
So what does this technique look like in practice? Well I have joined a foreign language club. I seek out foods from other cultures. I talk to strangers in my own city. I visit provincial parks and new hiking trails. I’ve practiced more subtle things as well, including being present in the moment, honing my intuition, and feeling fully alive. Recently I wanted a real adventure- something that was outside of my comfort zone. So I planned a trip to Lake Superior and splurged on a guided sea kayak trip. Although travel can be one of the best educators, a day trip can offer these teachings as well. With practice, stepping into our fullest selves is possible any day from anywhere.
I may fly again or I may not. Ironically, I had decided (after MUCH deliberation) to break my fast with a flight to Cuba in celebration of my fortieth birthday next year. With the pandemic upon us, I am now unsure if I will go. Although I’m disappointed, I know that flying is a privilege and not a need. There are other ways to travel of course- I could sail to Cuba, or bike to Mexico. There are also treasures to be discovered in travels close to home. Some are hidden under rocks in northern Ontario, others are in the giant Middle Eastern grocery store in Toronto, and some I carry with me when I roll out of bed and jump into the adventure of each new day.