A few weeks ago, I went camping at Sam Houston State Park - it was a really great experience. I didn't bring any sure fire (something that pretty much guarantees you'll get fire), or sure flame (something that can produce a flame without fail...like a lighter), but I still found a way to survive (I made sparks, and started a fire that way...it took me a while...but I did it). That was such a great reward - it made me feel like Paul freaking Bunyan - and the bench I built with a knife, some wood, and some rope made me feel like Davy Crockett.
The point I'm trying to make is that I jumped into the wilderness with a few supplies, and discovered that I could survive (and by the end of the trip...I learned I could thrive, even). Fast forward to today. I'm taking off on a trip - I am writing this as I sit outside of the United Club at Houston International Airport (IAH), leaching their free internet. I am going on a trip, but I bet it's unlike any trip you've ever taken. My destination is Houston - and I'll connect here at my home airport during the way. That's right - I'll leave houston, return, leave again, and finally return for a second time. In between, I'll fly over 10,000 miles, sit in first class for at least 6 out of 8 flights (and likely all 8!), and will have two nights spent on a plane.
This is called a Mileage Run, and there is a small, dedicated group of travelers who love these things. We are the few who thrive in the air - the ones who feel more at home in a hotel room than at home. We do our best work on planes, we can sleep on planes (I feel so sorry for anyone who can't!) and we will actually fly for fun. We choose to do mileage runs to basically get cheap miles. I paid $300 for 10,000 miles of flights which will earn me 20,000 miles (worth up to $600), and it helps me earn status.
For most of the population, flying is something to be tolerated on the way to a destination - but what if the flight was your destination? How would you feel if you spent the next 45 hours in airports, and on airplanes? How would you feel sleeping over night why hurtling through the sky at 500 miles per hour? Could you handle it? I bet you could - because we are all remarkably resilient. Once you become content with flying, you start to get comfortable flying. You start to crave it.
I'll lay out why I love flying so much. Because to most people, I appear totally crazy.
I flew nearly every single week last year, covering around 100,000 miles. When you fly that much, you can't help but get comfortable flying. Another great thing happens when you fly that much, though - the airlines notice. You earn status - I'm a Platinum Medallion on Delta. What does that get me? Some nice perks like free checked bags (no frequent flier really ever uses that perk, though), bonus miles when I fly, free sky club (lounge) passes, and, most importantly, unlimited free upgrades on every domestic flight.
You see, flying becomes worlds easier when you fly in first class. Unless there is a Diamond Medallion (to get there, you must fly more than 125,000 miles), I am pretty much first in line for any first class seats which don't get purchased outright. I fly in first class on most of my flights. That's what makes this worth it for me - I am mentally and emotionally comfortable flying - First Class makes me physically comfortable as well.
But beyond that, I do my absolute best thinking in two places - in the air, and in the car. If I have a particularly difficult problem I'm trying to work through, I will go for a leisurely drive (unfortunately there are precious few leisurely drives in Houston), and my brain goes to work. The same thing happens when I fly - the key is that there are zero distractions. I can get true work done, because I don't have a kitchen, or fridge, or TV, or video game system, or stack of books, or cleaning or anything else you may use to distract your self, there to pull me away from real work. A co-worker of mine recently told me that in the two years since his daughter was born, the only time he has been able to watch a movie all the way through was when he was flying. If you've ever seen Up In the Air, you know what I'm talking about (so going to watch that during these flights)
So what in the hell does this have to do with camping? That's the title of the post, after all, isn't it? The comparison comes from the lack of distractions - when you camp (or at least when I camp) - I set myself up to have zero distractions. I can focus completely, and entirely on what I am doing. And you know what happens? The days last FOREVER. In one full day of camping, I felt I had completed about 5 days worth of work - it's an incredible phenomenon. Flying is the same thing - sure, you get some creature comforts - Wi-Fi, Power Plugs, In flight entertainment systems, freshly prepared meals, but you still stay away from distractions.
I completed a video log when I was wilderness camping - I plan on doing the same thing now that I'm modern camping. I guess I'll go into the bathrooms to film it - everyone is pretty much going to believe I have diahrhea or something. One of the revelations I had while camping, though, was this lack of distractions leading to time distortion - I actually got more real time than you did, because I removed distractions from the equations. (by the way, I get the same effect, but to a lesser extent, in hotel rooms). I will post a better write-up of how this translates into the real world later (this is an all text post because I'm writing it on my tablet), but let's take three quick takeaways.
1. Removing distractions is paramount to acquiring more time for your real work - these are both physical and mental distractions
2. Take 3 minutes and pretend you have to pack a backpack, and leave home forever - what would you bring with you?
3. Consider how comfortable you are at home. Now how about away from home? - not physically (being physically comfortable is easy), but mentally and emotionally comfortable - until you can bring this comfort with you anywhere you go, you cannot be truly free.
fyi, here's my schedule for the next 2 days
1. Friday Afternoon: Houston (IAH) to Minneapolis (MSP)
2. Friday Evening: Minneapolis to San Jose (SJC)
3. Overnight: San Jose to Atlanta (ATL)
4. Saturday Morning: ATL to IAH
5. Saturday Afternoon: IAH to MSP
6. Saturday Evening: MSP to SJC
7. Overnight: SJC to ATL
8. Sunday Morning: ATL to IAH
I will be flying (and in Airports) for longer than I was camping two weeks ago. I'll post more details on Mileage Runs for anyone who wants to try one themselves!