I received a very interesting email today.
THE ART OF NON-CONFORMITY
by Chris Guillebeau
January 13, 2014
Luck Appears When You Do: Notes from UA 250
Reentering the world of long-distance travel after a month’s
absence, there’s a moment when I realize what it’s all about.
It’s hard to predict the precise arrival of the moment, but when it
hits I’m back in my element. This is my zone.
Sometimes the moment arrives in the taxi ride to the airport, but
that’s usually too early. There’s still some uncertainty at this
point. The baggage in my mind takes up more weight than the bag in
the back of the taxi.
Did I forget something? Do I have enough money, the right passport,
the MacBook charger I keep leaving behind?
I have to know that all is well before the moment can arrive, and
you can never be sure all is well until you’re at your gate and see
the ground personnel preparing to begin boarding.
Sometimes the moment arrives in the terminal of my hometown
airport, as I settle in at the Starbucks across from C9 and deal
with as many urgent emails as I can before giving up and enjoying
Often it’s a day or two into a trip, once I’ve left America and
passed through one of the many hub cities I visit several times a
year: Hong Kong or Singapore, perhaps, or Abu Dhabi if I’m headed
When the moment arrives I can feel the tension in my shoulders
relax. I carry this tension everywhere: there’s so much to worry
about! I hope I never stop worrying. Better to worry and build than
relax and let things go. There’s not enough time to let things go.
But once the moment arrives, there’s no worrying for a while.
There’s only the road ahead, and I don’t even have to take my shoes
off in the security line anymore.
Once we’re airborne on United 250, I review the itinerary for the
current excursion. I’m not going all the way around the world this
time, but it’s a respectable group of segments for a thirteen-day
The trip is fairly normal, at least as much as mine tend to be. But
I know the life I lead is abnormal, and I try to remain in grateful
awareness of this fact as much as possible.
I’d never believe I built this life all by myself. I’ve had
advantages and privilege and plenty of second chances.
But I also know that there were plenty of forks in the road where I
made the right choice. I took a risk, chose the numbers, and my
numbers came up.
You know how people wish you good luck? Next time they do, tell
them that luck favors the prepared. Luck appears when you do.
If you played the lottery over and over for an infinite number of
times, sooner or later you’d win big. The problem with winning the
lottery is the uncertain investment: odds are, you’d have to buy a
lot of tickets to hit the jackpot. It’s a poor strategy for
But in the lives we lead, we can keep taking chances. We can try
over and over. You can raise your hand at any time and say, “Pick
me. I’m ready.” Even better, you can step forward and say, “Hey,
everyone. I’m doing this thing one way or another. Look out!”
There’s a cost to every choice, of course: the road not taken, the
path not pursued. But the far greater risk is to remain paralyzed
Better to keep buying tickets in the lottery of life. Better to
keep moving, selecting a new direction when one choice doesn’t work
out as you’d hoped.
I’m east coast bound today, flying to Washington, D.C. on a Star
Alliance award ticket booked through United. This ticket connects
to a South African Airways flight tomorrow, where I’ll then begin a
Round-the-World ticket the next day.
A flight attendant walks the aisle for drink orders, and the guy
next to me asks for “a delicious cup of coffee.” Say what? I
thought the coffee options were limited to milk and sugar. Maybe
it’s a United thing.
I’m sleepy from the early morning departure and an extra glass of
champagne at last night’s house party. I work on my inbox for a
while and doze off while watching a TV show.
Four-and-a-half hours after takeoff, the plane descends to Dulles
as I reflect on the choices I’ve made and the luck I’ve stumbled
upon. I think about my next flight, fourteen hours to Johannesburg
with a refueling stop in Dakar.
Changing hemispheres is always fun. On the way back to the airport
tomorrow afternoon I’ll brace for the cold air in Washington,
stepping off the train at West Falls Church metro station and
eventually into Dulles. Then, without much effort on my part, my
next outside step will be directly into the South African summer.
This is life, friends. Travel ties it together for some of us, but
if you’re not on the road I hope you can feel it too. See you next
from the outside world.
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“It’s a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation.” -Roberto Benigni
The Art of Nonconformity by Chris Guillebeau