The sound of the airplane wheels taxiing on the runway fills my ears as the continuous increase of high speed can be felt in my stomach. My body sinks into the seat as the plane lifts from the ground. Civilization disappears from sight as the plane soars above the clouds near dawn. The sunrise touches the edges of the clouds with orange and yellow lighting up the sky.
Being 30,000 feet up in the air in a long tube with wings and wheels makes communities appear as tiny specs of colors as one looks down below and brings me a boost of serotonin.
What is it about being 30,000 feet up in the air that makes me look at all of life in a different way. Is it the view from the sky? The adventures that await me below? Or all of the above?
The 1903 Wright Flyer was the first airplane to be invented in the United States. The Wright brothers, who invented the first airplane, had a curiosity about animals and objects that could fly, such as birds and kites. Their passion for flying led to the invention that allowed humans to experience in some sense what birds do, but also led to a new development in transportation.
This new way of transportation made traveling to other countries overseas easier and to loved ones quicker. Instead of a 24-hour car ride, it’s a 4-hour plane ride that I know I’m lucky to be on. Before the Wright brothers, people could only imagine and dream of what it would be like to be up in the air so high.
Even nowadays, there are a good number of individuals who are unable to achieve such dreams due to economic and physical inequality. Being able to see Earth from such heights is a privilege.
As much as some individuals may dislike the parts of flying like the possibility of crying babies on board or sitting with strangers, those are just tiny details that are a part of being in an airplane that shouldn’t take away one’s experience and should be embraced.
Strangers become acquaintances for that 6-hour plane ride and you can find out about their purpose of being on that flight and share a new experience with someone. And if you’re lucky enough they could become a new friend or someone special in your life. Or as a flight attendant once said on a recent flight of mine, a divorce attorney.
Those on an airplane, especially sitting at a window seat, can experience what it looks like to be above the clouds we look up at on the ground. The airplane window fills with the color of the blue ocean as it flies over it. The trees that make us seem tiny are now tiny specs of green filling the sight below us. The upwind and downwind sides of mountains and the cracks and crevices of desert land can be seen and what we hike and climb on can be appreciated from a new perspective.
All this is shared with others on the plane. You’re able to appreciate Earth from a different perspective, which can help one appreciate life better, as it does for me, and possibly make the crying children on board less annoying.
As the airplane descends, the life you’ve seen 30,000 feet in the air becomes closer and back to your normal line of sight. As communities become back to the size you see them while on the ground, I wonder how someone may be looking up into the sky and seeing the plane that I’m on. Like how when you were little and would make your mom or dad look up into the sky with you, mesmerized by the plane flying by.
Excitement or melancholy or both may kick in as the plane lands. New adventures may be awaiting you, like the celebration of love, or exploring new cities. Or having to enter a new chapter in your life and adjust to change. It’s weird how being on an airplane can make long distances seem so close.
Wilbur Wright said, “The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who ... looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space ... on the infinite highway of the air.” With airplanes, I don’t have to envy the birds anymore — I can enjoy the view from the sky like they do.
Natalie Fitzgibbons (she/her) is a junior standing studying journalism with a minor in American Studies.