GET OUT: The Art of Flight

By on December 29, 2015

When it comes to attitude and preparation, air travel is a lot like mountain travel.

It is an interesting social experiment when humans come together to journey through the skies. (Photo: elizabeth koutrelakos)

It is an interesting social experiment when humans come together to journey through the skies. (Photo: elizabeth koutrelakos)

Jackson, WY – Considering its meager size, Jackson Hole Airport provides some surprising avenues of escape for residents with nonstop flights from Seattle to Atlanta. With the holiday season in full swing, I figured it might be good to touch on traveling in and out of the airport.

In 2014, this landing strip in Grand Teton National Park was named the busiest airport in Wyoming. That may not surprise the average resident, but the fact that Teton County is the ninth most populated county in Wyoming testifies to the true locational popularity of the airport.

Traveling outside of the Hole can be comparable to just about any mountain excursion you may embark on within it. The journeys of mountaineers are often subject to change with variations in weather, delays due to encounters with other parties, and myriad unforeseen circumstances that make things take longer than planned. Keeping this in mind, tips for the common traveler offer ease of mind and peaceful respite amidst the business of flying.

The only truth is that nothing is certain

Once travelers walk through the security gates, they are subject to a wide array of possibilities. From seamless passage to unintended flight delays, the airport lifestyle may morph into a journey in itself. Yes, the destination may be mapped and scheduled with the click of a mouse, but the chances of staying true to the itinerary are beyond one’s control. We are individuals traveling through a system of the masses.

Upon hearing those intercom folks dictating flight delays, I sometimes imagine what life would be like if I had to propel myself through this journey. If you lived in Jackson 100 years ago, the current airport wouldn’t even exist. I remember hearing the story of the Davis family who, in 1928 attempted a fishing vacation in Jackson Hole. They tipped their wagon in Granite Creek, losing their two-year-old child. I cannot imagine how many countless delays settlers experienced when attempting to vacation outside of the valley. Thus, our appreciation for the current ease of options is necessary for the adventure.

Embrace the journey

My mindset for air travel is similar to my mindset for non-rando-racing journeys in the mountains: I embrace the travel to enhance my wellbeing. Taking extra steps to make myself comfortable along the way helps with the experience. One simple move entails the layering of clothing. Oftentimes I find myself on either end of the temperature spectrum and go from extreme perspiration to frozen. Keeping a dry base layer on hand and a small bar of soap can enhance comfort and dispel the stench of unpleasant traveling odors.

Always, always, bring food and water

Dehydration really can ruin a vacation. It takes about 36 hours to recover from dehydration, and low-blood sugar can take a toll on mood, sleep and energy levels. When traveling, I pack food as though I’m going into the backcountry for the day. With short connections and ample opportunity for empty stomachs, refillable water bottles and good food should be a priority along with quick blood sugar fixes like Emergen-C powder and granola bars. This may seem insignificant, and almost excessive, but a satiated belly can be the key to happiness.

Not all humans are meant for air travel

The world of unpredictability can induce fear and anxiety for even the most seasoned mountain travelers. I know some fearless highland wanderers who are absolutely terrified of flying. This nervousness could come from the fact that one is less in control of airplanes or takeoffs and landings than they are when traveling in the high peaks. Statistically, this fear doesn’t hold up. The odds of dying while flying are about one in 11 million, while the odds of dying while walking in the mountains are about one in 16,000.

There’s a whole new world out there

The experience of landing outside of the Jackson Hole bubble can be rather enlightening. The news of the day no longer consists of stories of avalanches or parties of the night before. The front page in the real world often reads of things far more global. Sometimes a trip outside of the valley can serve as an eye opener to things normal people do that can be more dangerous than what a regular Jackson resident does on a daily basis.

On a recent trip, I noted the sketchiest activity to be people taking selfies. A gadget known as a selfie stick was being attached to iPhones so that people could take pictures of themselves in scenic places, such as the middle of roads in our nation’s capital. City humans often hold these things at a high angle while staring deep into its digital abyss in half-fledged attempts to gain flattering perspectives of their faces. This thing bewildered me, and after looking into it I found that more people have died taking selfies than from shark attacks this year.

In this day and age, we have ample opportunity to explore the world and everything in between. Flying out of Jackson can provide life lessons and a bit of perspective if one embraces the unpredictable journey. PJH

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