An Airline Captain’s Secrets to Transformative Travel

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“We’re all travelers; I have yet to meet a permanent resident here.”

Please Don’t Leave Me! I hope you’re not like me! But if you are, dare to read on. My abandonment issues come up big time when I leave the relative comfort and security of the cockpit of a jetliner, where I have spent the better part of twenty thousand hours and forty years of my adult life.

More often than I care to admit, when I choose to travel for pleasure, I turn from Dr. Jekyl – a nice, smiling, calm, rational middle-aged man, into Mr. Hyde – a crazed, ruthless, cunning, selfish, calculating, fear driven demon who will stop at nothing to secure my seat on the next flight. I will run over little old ladies. I will lie, cheat and steal not to be left behind. I’m ashamed to admit I have done all these things! When I’m not fully aware of what is governing me, fear or love, then I will most certainly function out of fear when things get tight, the standby list is being called or someone with a higher number boarding pass cuts in line in front of me. If I’m afraid – of being late, of being left behind, of not getting home, of running out of time, money, love, (fill in your own fear) then I have just defeated the purpose of travel – vacating, being free of the entrapments of the familiar, the comfortable, of home.

Life on the go works on a continuum between two extremes. On one extreme we leave all our worries behind, take some calculated risks, throw caution to the wind and feel the freedom of spontaneity and the release from the familiar. Or, we can merely endure our travels, continually comparing our new experiences to what we know to be true back home. Operating in this extreme will guarantee we miss out on many new experiences, making new friends and finding new ways of learning and appreciating differences that enrich life.

I usually go through a transition period that lasts from a few days to a week or so where I miss the comforts of home and its predictability. I expect this transition period so I know it will end after the first three or four days away from home. During this transition time I think about how much work I should be doing at home, how much I’m missing, where I’m going to sleep tonight, how I’ll find the “right” food, how I’ll get my exercise in, what the weather will be like, (especially if I’m on my motorcycle) all the reasons I should be writing more, why I’m not doing something more meaningful with my life, etc. ad nauseam. Beyond the transition, I begin to fully enjoy my time on the road. I move from one side of the continuum to the more fulfilling, adventurous side.

This is a short list of some of the challenges of travel. If we learn to conquer these and use our fears as indicators of where we need to let go, then travel can indeed broaden our horizons. We then bring the resulting joy home with us to make our previously perceived mundane existence much more global and exciting.

If these thoughts have provoked some of your own, I invite you to email me with your comments or questions. I will be happy to offer you the benefit of my forty years of travel from “the best seat in the house” – the left seat in the cockpit of a jetliner. ACN

SOURCEAero Crew News, April 2018
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Bert Botta
Bert is an 18,000 hour ATP and CFII. After retiring from TWA as a FAA line check airman, he returned to fly for NetJets as a captain on Citations and Gulfstreams. He was the Professional Standards (Pro Stan) Committee chairman for TWA/ALPA. He also started the first Pro Stan committee at NetJets. Bert is a personal coach and consultant in the aviation field. He continues to teach instruments, new-hire airline pilots and conduct remedial training in Advanced Aviation Training Device simulators in Sonoma County, Calif. Bert’s mission is to bring his experience and love of aviation to the next generation of airline pilots by writing, speaking, and mentoring pilots so that they can deal successfully with personal and professional challenges. His book, Fast Lane to Faith: A Jet Jockey’s Search for Significance is his own story of facing and overcoming the challenges that life and aviation threw at him.

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