Varanasi to Bangalore | Airbus A-320 | Indigo Airlines | August 2016

The Joy of Flying [A Photo Journal] – Part 1

Two of the commonest reactions I get about flying internationally are: How glamorous! You’re so lucky! and Wow! It must be exhausting. And my response is: Yes! and Yes! But with a caveat. It’s not nearly as glamorous as it seems but yes, I’m extremely lucky. The exhaustion is real and it takes mindfulness and stamina to take care of the body and mind before, during, and after international travel.

Luckily for me, I love flying and my romance with airplanes began at a very, young age. As a kid, my dad would take us to the now old, HAL airport in Bangalore, India to watch planes take off and land. If I had to do that 24/7, I would. Because it’s mesmerizing.

Today, international travel is routine and you probably deal with more than your share of fatigue and jet lag. This post isn’t about how you combat that. Instead, it’s an opportunity for you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the photos!

The Glorious Dunes of the Desert

What do you do when you frequently fly the San Francisco to Dubai route on 14 to 15-hour flights? Sleep, watch movies, work, blog etc. all seem like great options. In Emirates Business Class, you have fully-reclinable, flat beds that let you sleep like a baby. Add a touch of class and you have your own mini-bar, delicious gourmet food, fine silver, and an unforgettable flying experience. In First Class, you have showers and all the middle-eastern luxury and hospitality you can expect from this amazing airline.

But there are some things money can’t buy. Like the views outside your window. So, if you follow the flight-map and track your flight on apps like FlightAware, you’ll have a sense of 1) location and 2) what to expect. Both, in terms of light and landscape. Because I travel this route so often, I was able to catch this magical view of the Middle East. Seeing the blue skies, the sand dunes, and the wings of this beautiful plane align so perfectly together made me realize: What a magnificent world we live in. We are duty-bound to love, protect and safeguard our ecosystem, ourselves, and other beings. Truly. Nothing else matters.

Mysteries of the Milky Way 

Two of the most photographed sights in the universe are those of the rising and setting Sun. From professional photographers to amateurs to hobbyists, and non-photographers, we’re drawn to it like moths to a flame. And who can blame us? Some of the most spectacular paintings I have seen are on the canvas of incomprehensibly, beautiful skies.

On this particular flight, I was tired after a long business trip. It was one of those flights where my fatigue had crossed a certain threshold that made resting or waking states, impossible. From the flight map, I could see that we were entering European airspace. My body clock said it’s 12.30 a.m. and I really must sleep. But curiosity got the better of me. In restless anxiety, I carefully peeled the blinds to see if there was anything unfolding in the skies. What greeted me was this breathtaking view of sunrise, somewhere over Copenhagen. Like broad brush strokes painted by a Master Painter, the sky was bathed in waves of bright crimson from left to right.

Billowy Clouds over Denver, Colorado 

As a little girl, I often wondered what it would feel like to fly through billowy clouds. Now, after many years of flying, the sight is just as magical for me, as it was when I was little. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to fly through Denver, Colorado. This was exciting because I had never flown there before! I was curious about the sights and landscape that would greet us. I had always imagined Denver to be mountainous. But there’s more to Denver than mountains. The climate in Denver is best described as “unpredictable”. And that is probably because of the mountains, high plains, and desert lands that affect the climate of Colorado.

After being re-routed to avoid a thunderstorm, we approached Denver and here was the perfect sight of soft, wisps of pristine, white clouds. There’s something utterly magical about blue skies, white clouds, looking down on flat, brown terrain. Add the wings of an airplane to that and it somehow makes the picture even more beautiful!

Sunset, Ice, and Rolls-Royce Engines

I believe Emirates Airlines frequently flies what is known as the Polar Route and this is certainly true in the Dubai-San Francisco route. The window blinds are usually down during this part of the travel because it’s blindingly bright outside due to the combination of white ice and clouds. And of course, people are trying to sleep. So no matter how curious I was, I had to wait it out. Soon, the approach of dusk would cause many celestial spectacles play out in the skies. So, after what seemed like an agonizing wait. the light finally began to soften.

We were flying somewhere over Edmonton, Canada near the North Pole. As dusk approached and the sun began to set, the skies turned a delightful pink. I was crestfallen when I realized that I was on the wrong side of it all! The sun was setting to my left and there’s no way I could catch a glimpse of that. Oh what I would do to find a seat on the left column of the aircraft! But even amidst the disappointment, I discovered something that was unfolding right before my eyes.

The setting sun on the left began to shine its luminous brilliance on the engines on the right! I don’t know if the pilot was steering the plane to the right then but it’s a possible explanation. The gorgeous pink in the skies were accentuated by the golden shimmer on the rim of the Rolls Royce engines! The endless, icy landscape below provided the perfect backdrop for this beautiful painting, 38,000 feet above. Of all the photos I have seen and taken, I cherish this one the most.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

I have learned so much from flying. I met incredible leaders, colleagues, and made life-long friends. And I love planes more than ever and still get excited and literally run when it’s time to board. The long hours, the cramped seats, the jet-lag, and fatigue are all inconsequential in the larger scheme of things. They are merely inconveniences. In the Maha Upanishads, there’s a teaching that translates to: “The World is One Family”.

One of the greatest reminders from flying is that we really are one family. Beyond religion, race, nationality, and a hundred other things that seemingly divide, here’s one thing that unites: We live on the same planet. We share the same resources. We are blessed to witness the wonders of such beautiful terrain below and the gorgeous colors above. We’re the minuscule but magnificent creatures of the Milky Way.  We must live, love, lead, and learn in ways that enhance that magnificence.

Anitha Aswath is an HR Consultant and Strengths Coach of Leader Success in the Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area at Cisco. She has the unique privilege of meeting Cisco clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of their teams.


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