Zen & the Art of Bush Travel

Zen  \ ˈzen \ adj – having or showing qualities such as meditative calmness and an attitude of acceptance 


Traveling to and from remote Alaskan communities helped foster peace in my life. Here’s how.

When a small aircraft is your only means of crossing some of Earth’s most inhospitable climate and terrain, you learn to let go. By understanding the basic facts of bush travel, zen tends to come easier.

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Life gets backwards sometimes

Traversing Alaska has led to some cool realizations:

  • Delays happen. Be they by the weather, mechanical snafus, or plain home-grown human error, delays happen. When they do, take a moment, breathe, and smile. There’s nothing you can do except accept. Oh, and stay positive, you’re on your way. It’s just a delay.
  • Baggage goes missing. And it can be the best thing in the world. Cause then you get to practice detaching from material possessions. If you’re lucky, you might just find that there was some physical thing in that baggage that you can now live without. Congratulations.
  • Your information is imperfect. You will never know everything. In fact, some people never know anything. But it’s important to remember that the things you know can be flawed. That plane might not be coming. Your contact could have missed that message. Occasionally, no one knows anything at all and it’s terribly awkward. But being outside that comfort bubble inspires growth and awareness of yourself. So soak it in, you’re building calm.
  • Crashes happen. This is morbid, but you can’t help but consider death on these sojourns. You might go down. Your best friend, sibling, parent, or colleague could go missing miles and miles from help. What’s worse, in small planes, you feel every bump and jolt. So not only are you aware of Alaska’s abysmally high crash rate, you get to really experience the ride. But such experiences are invaluable. For in these moments, you might get to feel a deep gratitude for this life. Crash or no, that appreciation and acceptance of the situation is all that matters. Thus it is with every one of the universe’s seemingly-endless challenges.
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Next stop, nirvana

In yet another comparison to life-at-large, flying around Alaska’s villages (and keeping one’s calm) seems to go better with some fundamental tools: hydration, an open mind, and the willingness to confront one’s fears. They’re secret weapons actually; with these three things, any voyage or travail is surmountable.

So breathe a little deeper, grab that water bottle, and let go so you can enjoy the ride. It’ll be a lot less stressful, I promise.

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