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No Fly Year!

Now that every single one of my airline trips have been canceled this year, I came to the sad realization that this will be a No Fly Year for me in 2020—certainly the first time in at least 25 years and maybe even the first time in my adult life.

After 22 separate trips in 2019, I was eager to once again hit the road early in 2020.  However, as I wrote earlier this year, many of the trips I had scheduled got canceled due to the pandemic (Travel Bust).  Since then all of the rest of my trips have been canceled as well, with the most recent being my scheduled September trip to San Francisco to teach my Method Validation course.

Not flying this year brought two significant flying years to mind for me.

How many of you remember the first time you ever flew on an airplane?  Since I am a lover of all forms of transportation, in particular cars, I certainly remember.  It was a business trip for me in my first job in 1981.

It is hard to imagine that some other occasion prior to that didn’t require me, a 20-something adult, to fly but all my previous trips had been by car or bus.

The occasion for my first airline trip was to attend a training course in Boston, MA on a new piece of lab equipment.  I have always loved the feel of the thrust pressing you back into your seat on take-off ever since that first flight.  I am sure it was obvious to my fellow passengers that this was an inaugural flight for me.  I had a window seat and I even took photos with an old-fashioned camera to capture the view from so high up.  This was long before we all had cell phones with built-in digital cameras.

I traveled alone on this trip and so didn’t have an experienced traveler to “show me the ropes”.  I had to figure it out all on my own.  My photo album contains photos of the little sightseeing I got to do in the evening after the course ended.  One is of the USS Constitution, otherwise known as “Old Ironsides”, the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat.

That night, I ventured into Faneuil Hall for dinner and afterwards was entertained watching the street acrobats showing off their talents.

It was a short trip, no more than two and a half days but it was my first taste of air travel.  Many years later, I returned to Boston for only the second time and I know I had this first ever airline trip on my mind.  Secretly I toasted that first trip with my business travel companion when the two of us ate at the Cheers bar.

The other significant flying year for me was in 1998, the first full year of me teaching my Method Validation course.

That year, I traveled to Europe five times and with my other trips included, was achieving the next level of frequent flyer status even before the credentials for my prior status arrived in the mail.  That was the one and only year I flew over 75,000 miles.  It was exciting but hectic!

My travel started out with a trip in January to Amsterdam.  For three of these five European trips that year, I was fortunate that my wife was able to accompany me.

Together, we ventured outside Amsterdam for the first time and visited a site that I would return to multiple times, Madurodam (Holland in miniature).

In April, we travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark where we found it was a bit more difficult to use mass transit.  I remember seeing signage in the train station in two different languages, neither of which was in English.  In spite of the challenges, we had two memorable experiences, visiting the Louisiana museum overlooking Sweden and Tivoli Gardens in the center of Copenhagen.

In May, I was in Turku, Finland.  Since it was such a long trip and time was limited, my wife did not accompany me, as there was only one day for sightseeing.  But on that one day, I had my first experience touring a castle that was over 700 years old.  I remember thinking it was more than three times as old as the United States, a milestone I considered significant when the US turned 200 years old in 1976.

In June, my wife and youngest son accompanied me to Lugano, Switzerland, which is close to the Italian border.  It was absolutely beautiful!  On this trip, we did have some extra time for sightseeing and took a train through the Swiss Alps to Lucerne, a city over 1200 years old.  We also got to tour a chocolate factory that we literally found by following our noses from the train station.

For my fifth trip to Europe that year, I returned to Holland, but this time went to Rotterdam.  The highlight of this visit was finding a museum that had a special exhibit celebrating the 100th birthday of M.C. Escher, the most famous graphic artist known for his impossible drawings.

So even though this is a No Fly Year for me this year, I still have some very fond memories of air travel to reflect on until that day that I can once again take to the air.  Given the current crisis, I know it will definitely not be a trip to Europe but hopefully it will at least be a trip to visit our west coast grandchildren who we have not seen in person in almost a year.

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