The Wonder of Flight

Imagine a scenario where you were able to transport yourself back in time to the 1950s. You would be coming from the modern era and a time now where you can travel to your heart’s content if you have the means to do so. The 1950s, in contrast, was a decade before the age of commercial aviation had really blossomed and taken off, and where the average person could not board a flight to go halfway around the world, round-trip, for a couple hundred dollars. People of that era would think you’re crazy and out of your mind for suggestion that commercial aviation would either be that accessible or affordable.

However, that is where we are today in our modern society. We often take the chance to fly around our country or internationally for granted nowadays but for most of human history, there was absolutely no chance to fly to the next town let alone to Japan or Australia. Modern aviation can be considered one of mankind’s greatest successes and that is due partly to the Wright Brothers and the countless others who are skilled engineers and builders. The advances in flying will continue to make travel more efficient, faster, and more affordable.

While there is a growing disparity on numerous airlines in terms of how much you pay equaling the quality of services that you will receive as a result, it is good for us as travelers to keep it in perspective of how lucky we are to be in an age where at least the possibility of flight exists and how wondrous it is for the world to be connected so easily. You no longer have to board a ship for months on end to cross the dangerous Atlantic Ocean nor do you have board an extremely long train ride where the accommodations won’t be much better.

For example, you can travel across the continental United States in less than six hours thanks to modern aviation technology. Compare this to driving a car or bus across the country which would take a few weeks or your average Amtrak train which could take about a week or so and not be that much cheaper. The fact that we can be reunited with our loved ones or our friends within a day if they live across the country from us or around the world is a truly monumentous achievement in human history.

In addition to the simple fact that you’re now able to travel through the sky in relative comfort at over five hundred miles per hour, it’s easier now than ever to entertain yourself with books, movies, and music. On certain airlines, you can even connect to the internet if you need to get some work done. While they may not feed you a lot or feed you food that’s good or tasty, you have the option of snacking or eating a meal and you will definitely be hydrated with the help of flight attendants.

There has been a lot of bad press lately about certain airlines in the United States and the condition of airports here, and these criticisms are definitely warranted. However, instead of trying to tear down this form of transportation, I would hope that this industry continues to improve in terms of services offered, having affordable prices, and providing a comfortable experience by having airports that are both modern and efficient. It’s clear to me that not every airline or airport experience is going to be great but I consider myself lucky that I was born in an era and also have had the means to travel both domestically and internationally.

To me, the experience of going to an airport to go to a far-off destination that’s new to me is really exhilarating and fills me with a deep sense of adventure. While the airport security workers may be too overzealous, the check-in counter machine may not work, and we could be delayed due to unforeseen mechanical issues, the destination is worth the price involved with traveling anywhere new. Not everybody has had the chance to fly anywhere or to fly to multiple places so I actually look forward to arriving at the airport, checking in to my flight, and boarding the plane. Sometimes, you have to hope for the best and to expect the worst when it comes to flying.

While airports aren’t perfect, I love what they symbolize and what they stand for. The free movement of peoples from different parts of the world, converging in one central location, to then be whisked off to another far away destination is pretty cool. The airport is a place where people of all backgrounds, faiths, and creeds can come together for a shared purpose: the desire to travel.

In my opinion, the more airports a nation has, the more that nation signals to others that they are open to the world and are not afraid of it. Airports are the beginning point in the global exchange of ideas, beliefs, and economic opportunities, and it’s important to make sure that they accommodate both travelers and the workers themselves to make these impressive places run so smoothly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Airports are like a living, breathing global city which represents an important piece of the economy, of society, and of human nature. You can see the good, the bad, and the ugly represented in any airport.

Once I have made it through security, through check-in, and have made it through the gate, a great sense of excitement washes over me. It is the truth that any trip that I have taken or will take in the future give me a strong desire to experience the unknown. I watch the plane take its place at our gate of departure and I observe the children, teenagers, businessmen, and elderly seniors board my flight. We, as passengers, may not have much in common at all besides the shared belief in the wonder of flight and how it can bring different breadths of humanity together under the same banner of discovering parts unknown.

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San Gil

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Camera: Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

Location: San Gil, Santander, Colombia

The Thrill of Skydiving

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“When the parachute opens up, you have to remember to hang on tight but also to enjoy the    great view.”

 The airplane starts to whirl its engines and ascend slowly up into the atmosphere. I’m as calm as a Hindu cow trying to remain unaware of what I’m about to do. My instructor who is tied at the hip straps me in as tight as possible as a necessary safety precaution. I am still in denial about what is about to happen to me but it’s too late now. There is simply no way to turn back now.

It was my 22nd birthday and I wanted to do something special for it. I told my parents, my friends, and others what I wanted to do to celebrate the occasion. They all thought I was crazy but it was the daredevil in me that wanted to make this become a reality. The head pilot of the small Cessna plane indicates that they’ve reached a cruising altitude of 13,000 Feet (4,000 Meters) and it’s time for us to jump out.                                                                            

One of the instructors opens the plane door and gives the go-ahead to his colleagues who are doing practice jumps like it was the most natural task in the world. You have to be somewhat crazy to be a skydiving instructor and do this day-in and day-out but 15 minutes later; I will completely sympathize with why they do what they do for a living. My instructor taps me on the shoulder and says that, “it’s go time!” We both stand up and move intermittently to the door opening.

I’m in the front with him secured to my back. I can’t help but peer out into the abyss below and realize what I’m about to do. The only actual moment of sheer terror I had was when we were about to jump out of the plane. My mere mortality is on the line and the cold air and wind of the Atlantic Ocean hits me like a brick. My instructor and I push ourselves out into the deep blue sky at a top speed. The feeling was similar to what’s been said before in movies about how in the deep reach of space, “No one can hear you scream.”                                                          

That is also true at the altitude of 13,000 feet (4000 meters). Shock and bewilderment leads to joy and exhilaration within seconds as I cascade down towards the vast and beautiful scenery below me. The vast Atlantic Ocean is to my left, Long Island with its’ sandy beaches and green parks right below, and the outline of New York City’s skyline is in the far distance to my right. It’s an absolutely picaresque view and is amazingly beautiful to behold. I have never felt more alive in my life and the rush of adrenaline pulses throughout my body. Nothing has come close to this moment before now and nothing has replicated it since then. I’ve never felt so free as you scream, yelp into the air the sounds and vibrations that no one will ever hear. Those two or three minutes of descent before the parachute is deployed last for what seemed like an eternity as I take in the view and remain at peace among the loud blowing of the wind, and the clear blue sky.

After the parachute successfully opens up, I hang on tight as I come down smoothly with my instructor from the highs of launching myself out of a moving plane, and come to the realization of how the sea, the land, and the greenery really is. It’s the closest I’ll get to playing the role of an astronaut and that’s fine with me. What I have done is mundane compared to the years of training, and expertise, which they must achieve before being able to fly into space.

The instructor asks me about how I’m doing during the descent back to the landing zone and I simply reply, “Amazing. Absolutely amazing.” To see from the air where I grew up and spent my formative years from so high up is a great perk added on to this wild and unique experience. Descending to the ground was probably the trickiest part but it was incredible to be able to parachute down to our landing spot in only seven minutes time. My father meets me down near the landing zone where we took off only twenty minutes ago and asks me, “Well…How was it?” I tell him that it was, “The rush of a lifetime.”

It has been over two years ago now when I first decided to try my hand at skydiving. I don’t regret it and I look back on the experience very fondly. It is inherently risky and I do not recommend it to everyone. If you are not a thrill-seeker or a risk-taker, then it may not be for you to begin with. However, if you want to feel the most alive you’ve ever been, conquer a fear of heights, experience a breath-taking view or to really try something new, I cannot recommend skydiving enough. I’ll always remember the exhilaration and jubilation that I felt when I landed from being thousands of feet in the air mere minutes ago.

I’ve been lucky enough to ride in a hot air balloon while watching the sunrise, or parasail close to a group of islands, and drive a jetski at 60 MPH (100 km/h) but none of these experiences still compare to the thrill of skydiving. It’s one of the greatest thrills that you can ever have and I highly recommend this activity to my readers. Just remember to be safe, choose a reputable company, take deep breaths, and make sure you know what you’re getting into. I promise you that you won’t regret the experience or forget the memories that you made from going through with it. If the elderly folk in their 60’s and 70’s who were in my group on that sunny day in October two years ago can skydive at their advanced age, then so can you!