9 lessons you can learn just by flying

Lecciones vitales, aprendizaje viajar

There is a belief among frequent travelers that travling opens your mind. I don’t believe in that idea (I’ve met many brutes in my life, including some long-time travelers) but that traveling takes you through many different experiences and realities and that with all of that each of us creates a different view.

Having said this, all of us can learn a lot from the world surrounding and our own selves by traveling. Even if the only thing that you do is get on a plane and come back. Don’t you believe me? Keep reading…

These are 9 lessons you can learn by flying:

1.- The best choice is not (always) the most obvious choice

As in every thing in life, we make choices mixing things like location, taste, easiness, knowledge, experience… But when we choose flights we have reduced the choice to almost exclusively the price.

Of course, you can fly to Helsinki for about 4 euros (literally) but should you? When you choose the cheapest flight at 6AM you must add the transport to the airport at that time (sometimes public transport is non-existent), the lack of sleep, being seat far from your travel mates, having the most uncomfortable chairs, arriving to a city far far away from your real destination and more.

If you add all of that to the price of your flight, you will find that the other options equal or surpass the cheapest option. So it might be wiser to compare (unless you must choose by price).

2.- Middle points are not ok, you must make choices

I’m sure that you have been in a crossroad before and you chose the middle way. That middle way when you fly is the middle sit, and it’s awful.

When you choose window, you can enjoy the views, see the sun rise, sleep leaning on the side and avoid people waking you up to use the toilet. When you choose aisle, you can stand up when you want, have more room for your legs or go to the toilet without disturbing anyone.

If you don’t choose any of them, you will end up seating in the middle, being bothered by all, without space for your arms and sleeping over somebody else’s shoulder.

3.- It is good to trust people, but don’t expect them to fix your “issues”

Most people is good, but we also try to be too “smart” sometimes. That makes some funny things happen, like people arguing because their low cost airline sat them apart, when they could have paid 5€ to be able to choose a seat. Solution? All sorts of plots, petitions and prayers trying to get a different seat. And, frankly, it only works every once in a while.

Why? Because going back to the point above, nobody will be willing to change their window or aisle seat for a middle seat. And even if your were changing it to a window or aisle seat, not many will be willing to seat further to the back of the plane or away from their hand luggage, risking their connection to another flight or their transport options. Specially if they did pay to be able to choose the best seat of the plane.

Me, I will only be willing to change seats with a family (and their under 16 year-old kids) or an elder who hasn’t traveled lately. All other cases, it won’t hurt you to seat apart for two hours…

4.- Languages are door openers

I don’t know about your parents and teachers, but mine have been telling me for years that “languages are powerful” but I haven’t met so many people who could speak fluently many languages. Speaking languages such as English, French or Spanish can help you move around the airport, be understood in hotels and shop at local markets even when you don’t speak the local language, but it is also a great asset when you fly: it will make you suitable for the Emergency Door seat.

Most people think that the Emergency seat is the best seat of the plane and that you should take it whenever possible. But truth is that you can only seat there if you can follow instructions and answer them in English or the official language of the airline (Vueling, Iberia or Aeromexico have Spanish, for example).

Why? Because the air hostesses come from many places and backgrounds and travel all around the world, so they only have to speak English and the airlines’ language. They do make tremendous efforts to understand what we tell them, but they shouldn’t have to make those efforts during an emergency, so they will check and change you if you don’t. Also, kids are not allowed.

5.- You must read the small print (not everything golden is gold)

We accept all sort of “gifts” and advantages without reading the conditions and some people would kill for getting some such as seating at the emergency exit.

The theory: it is one of the best seats of the plane: less noise, more room for your legs… What they don’t tell you is that you can’t take your personal belongings with you (they have to go up to the overhead compartments), nor a jacket, a computer or a blanket during take off and landing. You can’t either have earplugs or earphones (they would stop you from hearing the emergency warnings) and you need to listen to the safety explanation, even if you think that you could give it yourself. Plus the point above, you must speak English or the language of the airline, are responsible of the evacuation of the rest of the plane…

So, if you are one of those strange humans that like to sleep/work during the flight, or if you ever carry a camera/computer/valuable or fragile thing with you, you might want to seat elsewhere.

6. Urban legends are just that, legends

I’m quite sure that you’ve read before that if you dress like a model and always smile to the check-in desk crew, they will upgrade you. Yeah…

It might happen. Why not? But it is way more probable to get upgraded because of a combination of overbooking, your fidelity card (those airline points cards) and the price you paid for the flight. So, you might re-think wearing high heels and a tight dress for a 10-hour flight.

And most airlines set up amazing offers for upgrades and even first-class tickets if you plan in advance.

7.- Planning is important, but it might not happen as planned

“Expect the best, prepare for the worst” sounds too trascendent, but when traveling it is quite useful.

You spend weeks planning every connection and choosing the right luggage, then the night before getting your bag to weight less than 10 kilograms and the liquids in that tiny little bag… to get to the boarding gate and get your luggage checked-in. Yes, it’s free but they just screwed your planning and might make you miss your next flight when you are flying with Ryanair.

Add storms, losing your passport, an issue with the crew… Most of it can happen and you can sort it, but better to take it into account so you can take it easier if it happens. And if you can’t fix it, issue a complain and remember to breathe…

8.- If you want to get something, you must be willing to “pay” something

Every few weeks I have someone ask me how to do this or that for free. But if you want better or faster results, you must be willing to invest your money or your time on it.

Think of that airline program, they might be offering you some points and extras, but is your personal data worth that? How many trips will you have to take with that airline to get something else in return? Will it pay off?

Luckily enough most traditional airlines give you some hidden goodies, such as getting your seat preference for free (not the number, but window or aisle), having a better luggage allowance or a priority to get on board. But most of those you can pay for.

9.- If you want to take care of somebody else, first start by taking care of yourself

Caretakers tend to dedicate their lives to helping others but never seem to have time enough to take care of themselves. After a while, they end up broken phisically and emotionally.

This is one of the first things you should be learning when traveling by plane: in case of cabin depressurization you should put on your breathing mask and then help others (kids included) to get theirs on. Why? Because you only have a few minutes to get oxygen before you pass out and if you put the kid’s first who’s going to help you get yours on?

So, have you learnt when traveling?

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