fly me to the moon / 2

I have tracked every flight I have ever taken. I know the date, airlines, airports, names of travel companions, flight distance, cost of tickets, and who paid for every flight that I’ve been on in my life. It’s an odd thing to admit, but I suppose it isn’t any stranger than some of the other obsessions that people have online. The data are mildly interesting individually, but there’s one number that I care about more than any other - total miles traveled. 

I still remember my first flight. I was 17 years old and the flight was from Dallas’ Love Field airport to Houston’s Hobby airport. I was so uncertain about how air travel worked at the time. On the way to the airport I actually called the airline to see what gate my flight would be leaving from because I was worried I’d miss the flight - even though I was arriving at the airport two hours before boarding was supposed to start. Thankfully the woman from Southwest was nice enough to indulge my fears and she gave me great directions to the gate. 

Between the end of high school and the start of college I had the chance to fly a few more times as part of scholarship program events, college recruiting trips, and a free standby flight to LA with a friend. (Oddly enough, three of my first six flights were to LA of all places. I haven’t been back since 2007 though.) For a kid who grew up within a small radius of his house these trips were pretty amazing. I felt like a new world was opening up to me for the first time. I didn’t want to forget anywhere I had traveled, so I started an excel spreadsheet that I’ve kept up to date since 2006. 

In 2009 my lifetime flight total reached a new level when I spent the summer in China. The flight to and from china was longer than all of the other flights I had taken combined. 14 hours in the air is a long time. When I finally returned home I had added almost 30,000 miles to my total. After I finally totaled everything up for the year I couldn’t help but wonder if that would be the high water mark for travel in one year for me. 

Things more or less quieted down in 2010, but I’ve flown steadily more and more each year. 2014 has been an especially busy year for air travel. I’ve been back and forth to the east and west coasts from Illinois numerous times. The quantifying nerd in me is excited to see that I might just break my personal record for total miles in a year, 29,940, before the end of December. Unfortunately I spread those miles out across a few carriers so I won’t be eligible for any upgraded status next year, but that’s a story for another time. 

My lifetime total milage is closing in on 130k. That’s just about half of the distance from the earth to the moon. At an average speed of around 500 miles per hour I’ve been in the air for just under 260 hours over the past decade of flying. Wolfram alpha tells me that 260 hours is approximately 1/88th the half life of sodium-22, so I have that going for me. 

I know that my numbers don’t even hold a candle to some travelers. Top tier status on most airlines requires north of 100,000 miles. I have consultant friends who reach that level constantly. I’m sure they would laugh at my yearly totals. 

But in the end, I don’t really care about comparing my stats to anyone else. It’s not really a competition with anyone other than myself. Every trip is a new chance to grow, meet new people, and add another mile to my total. Why would I ever want to worry about anyone other than myself if I'm playing that game?