jason oke

If you’re not in awe, you’re not paying attention.

The golden age of travel


I’m traveling all next week, meeting new clients and getting into my new responsibilities. So I’ve been thinking about air travel the past few days. The news is full of stories and opinion pieces about the horrible state of air travel. We’ve all read about it, talked about it, and probably complained about it. It’s as if you can’t mention air travel without including the phase “little indignities” in the same sentence. So unless you’re a masochist, no one really looks forward to business travel, and even pleasure travel seems to be getting less and less exciting.

Now I have a dirty little secret: I actually enjoy flying. I really love it. (That’s putting aside the CO2 emissions issues: the picture above is enough to give me serious doubts about the sustainability of flying. I’ve recently started to carbon offset my flights – not sure if that’s enough, but it’s something and I’m trying it out. Interested in hearing other opinions on it…)

I love the sense of possibility and momentum in airports, the fact that thousands of people are beginning and ending adventures. I love the people watching and speculating as to where various oddly attired people might be going. I love watching the crowd dynamics in large groups of strangers. I look forward to the actual flying for the quality time with a book or a magazine or an iPod with no chance of being interrupted by phone calls and emails, and no parental obligations to weigh on me.

And while I’ve certainly had the occasional bad experience with delays, cancellations, and questionable airplane sanitary conditions, in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t seem all that bad. And the more stressed and angry people around me get, the calmer I get. It’s like some osmosis permeable membrane thing happens with stress – they pull all the stress out of me. It’s very zen. (And selfishly, I find when you’re the unstressed person who smiles and shows a little consideration to airline staff, they’re much more likely treat you like gold because they’re so used to being abused these days.)

I’ve felt very alone in my love of flying given the prevailing conventional wisdom. So I was glad to see that the excellent travel essayist Pico Ayer has a wonderfully contrarian piece in the NY Times blogs challenging that conventional wisdom.

It’s very plannerly – he argues that flying hasn’t actually changed much at all, and where it has it’s changed for the better: “[a]ir travel is in fact as comfortable and reasonable today as it’s ever been.” Instead, it’s our expectations of control and choice and speed of access to everything that have changed. And flying, with its various hiccups and uncertainties, seems jarring and anachronistic in comparison.

“I wonder if that is what makes us so fussy and impatient when it comes to the rare occasion — such as getting on a plane — when we have to leave the controls to someone else and are at the mercy of forces (other humans) who haven’t been bookmarked in advance.”

He also has some insightful observations about the fact that outside of North America and Western Europe – i.e. in most of the world – no one expects most things to go smoothly or quickly, and they remain much more patient. We could probably all learn something from that. It tends to leave you open to the little wonders of life. Or at least to some quality people watching.

By the way, my travels take me to San Francisco and Denver/Boulder next week, so if anyone fancies meeting up for a coffee or a beer let me know.

Filed under: good reading, green, life

Planning For Good update

pfglogo125x125.jpgLots of PFG news.  

1) We have an official blog/website.  Check it out at www.planningforgood.org

2) Membership is now up over 1,150 people around the world. Amazing. 

3) A huge thanks to everyone who helped out with the UNICEF brief. Gareth and Ed presented to UNICEF last week and got a really positive response. The presentation will be posted publicly soon.

4) There’s a new brief up for Live Earth. Read about it here or here. Last year’s global series of Live Earth concerts raised awareness around the world for climate change. But as most people know, awareness and change is lagging most in the US. So in 2008 Live Earth wants to reach out to US college students. They want to ultimately reach half of the US undergrad population next year. They’ve asked PFG how to do that. Submissions are due December 17th – local groups are meeting this week and next, check out the blog for details in your city. For those of you in Toronto, we’ll be meeting on Friday Dec 7th for breakfast.

5) Our first PFG event is happening! If you’re in NYC next Monday come on out. I’ll quote Ed here: Next Monday (7-9pm) December 10th, Good Magazine will be hosting an evening for Planning for Good at its pop-up store in Nolita. There will be music by James Friedman, short bursts of inspirational speaking from Graham Hill of Treehugger, Matisse Bustos Hawkes of Witness, Alisa Aydin of UNICEF, Andrew Friedman of Make the Road by Walking and Gareth Kay/Ed Cotton from Planning for Good. There will also be drinking and socializing.”  Space is limited, and priority will go to PFG members – all the more reason to sign up and participate (not that you needed a reason, of course). Sadly, I can’t attend – have a drink for me.

Filed under: planning for good

Day 1


It still has that new office smell.

And they’ve given me an unconscionably large pile of binders to read through. It feels sort of like being hazed in frosh week.

Filed under: solipsism

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These are my views. Do I even need to explain that? They're not those of anyone generous enough to pay me money. They're just mine. Unless maybe they're yours too. That would be nice.