Long Flights

 One of many long flights, this one across Australia in August of 2009.

One of many long flights, this one across Australia in August of 2009.

I’m one of those strange people who enjoys long flights.

For many years, flights to Europe or Asia were my only chance to sit in one place for an extended period. They became - in a strange way - grounding. 

Long flights give you an opportunity to really settle in, read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, or - if you’re like me - catch up on some thoughts. It’s the only place in the world where you are truly off the grid. No one can reach you while you’re flying over international waters.

There was a period from 2008 until about 2014 that I was traveling so much and so quickly that I couldn’t keep up. I would be in Miami one day for a portrait, then Australia for a month, then Nebraska for another shoot, Berlin for another, Singapore for another. It was an incredible time, but one that - for me - I only remember through flights. 

It was on those long flights I could catch up with my life. I could think about where I was and what I was doing, and write it down. 

On my way to the Beijing Olympics, a little over a year after meeting Bill Frakes in the Atlanta airport, I wrote:

My life today doesn’t even resemble my life one year ago. I think that’s a good thing. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, so I guess that’s a good sign. We’re flying south over Russia right now. That’s so insane. I wonder where I’ll be this time next year.
— Journal entry from August 2008

One year later I was in Australia on another plane. We were flying over the red center - from Alice Springs to Sydney - when Bill took this picture of me and when I wrote these words:

I’ve always been a firm believer that place shapes a person; where you’re from shapes you. So what about where you’ve been? How does that change you? Does it force you to lose touch with your roots? Or does it reinforce them? Does it give you better understanding? Or does it leave you disconnected and lost? I guess I’ll find out.
— Journal entry from August 2009

There were times when I was traveling so much that I would start to lose sight of how singular my experiences were. Long flights would give me the time to remember my bliss.

The more I see the less I know and I want to keep it that way. I don’t ever want to stop seeing, learning and growing.
— Journal from 2010, flight from Brussels

Over the years and the places, I (slowly) grew up. My perspective began to change and with it my thought process. 

What is it about travel that evokes soul searching. Why does it take a trip to a foreign land to discover things about yourself that are as much a part of you in your own backyard as anywhere else?
— Journal from 2012, flight to Amsterdam

To answer those questions I traveled the world several times over. In each city, country and continent I have felt a part of the place; like I could drop everything and become a foreigner in a foreign land.

There are peices of myself scattered across the places I have visited. Each place has, in return, left a peice of itself embedded in me. 

Through it all I have somehow maintained a balance, and I’ve always ended up back where I started - Jacksonville, FL.

I’m off again, and this time I’m going home. It’s is just another dot on a map; another destination to get to…Home is where the truest version of myself exists; the closest I get to authenticity. It’s where the people I love most in the world live. It’s where my history was written.
— Journal from 2015, flight home from Beirut

I’ve always needed quiet time to be alone with my thoughts. For many years, long flights were that time for me. 

I don’t travel as fast and furiously as I used to and that’s by design. The trips now are longer and spread further apart. Still, I long for the long flights to take me to my various stopping points.

With that said, I need to plan a trip somewhere far away soon.