“Flying sucks,” says collective social media. Only 80% of flights are on time. The peanut bags are offensively small. And there’s no USB port to recharge my Internet funbox.
At only 500 miles per hour, planes take forever to woosh us around the globe. They’re basically real-life loading bars, even though they put us within walking distance to anywhere—a day trip at most—and are safer than cars. Gross!
For real, complaining about air travel is the ultimate first-world problem. National Geographic deftly proved that point earlier this year with the limited release of the film Living in The Age of Airplanes, an hour-long movie that will renew your appreciation of the first World Wide Web, the one airplanes made possible.
Let us count the ways.
For a movie about airplanes, Living in the Age of Airplanes shows very little footage of actual planes. Instead, its giant lens mostly focuses on the planet’s greatest hits. Iguazu Falls. The plains of Africa. The Grand Canyon. The South Pole. And many other unfamiliar sights in 18 countries and all seven continents. It’s beautiful, moving and effectively wills you to add things to your bucket list.
The brown-paper packages that Amazon sends to your doorstep in two freakin’ days wouldn’t be possible without air travel. Neither would the roses on your table.
Before planes, goods were shipped all over the world by boat. But in the last few decades, planes have brought an increasing number the world’s best offerings right to your home. Products that undoubtedly influence your daily life as much as your trips and vacations.
This big round ball we live on is big. Before airplanes, it took months to get to visit only a tiny portion of it. Now it takes less than a day to circle it—hours for everywhere else. That’s important. So the next time you’re waiting in line with a bunch of sheep traveling to St. Somewhere, remember how good you have it. Or don’t and be miserable. Your choice.
The Internet is awesome. We went over this already. But airplanes are equally as awesome. And since they carry us to authentic, in-person experiences (instead of simulated and virtual ones), they may be an even more extraordinary and awe-inspiring invention. Yes, planes are slower and less on-demand-y than the Internet. But they take us to the places we love, enable us to prove our mettle in person, and they even take us home.
If it sounds like Living in the Age of Airplanes is a glowing endorsement of airlines, consumerism and tourism, it’s because it is. And that’s not a bad thing, even if you’re a minimalist hermit who never travels.
The point is: Commercial airplanes have enhanced human life, especially our adventurous spirit. This isn’t to say airlines and airports deserve a free pass. But they do deserve our perspective. And however slightly flawed they are, they still merit our gratitude.
Photos: Courtesy of National Geographic’s Living in the Age of Airplanes
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Visit his website or follow @blakesnow.