About two years ago I got on my first flight to the US. I'd never been on a long haul like that ever. The West Coast is far. How does a plane stay up in the sky for that long?
Then this London-San Francisco-London route started to become a bit of a habit because of my work. After a while of doing this, I found it a bit odd that the journey didn't get more social. But then again, the user experience of planes is really designed for quiet time.
But isn't that bizarre? I was in a flying metal box between the earth and the universe with people sitting shoulder to shoulder for 11 hours, and we weren't expected to say a word to each other, because MOVIES. It's ridiculous. So many potential friends and lovers missed.
Here's the thing. At every given moment, there's 5000 planes in the sky. That's 5000 time capsules containing stories of people going from A to B for a reason.
Whatever the reason was, I felt like this particular long haul flight was a perfect reflection of the present. I wanted to get to the stories of that now.
So I walked on board of the plane with an empty notebook and a pen attached to it. I called it Plane Tales and this is what I wrote in the book.
And on the next page, this.
I spend a lot of time on planes. Lately I've been spending a lot of time on this London-San Francisco route. 10 hours is a long time to spend with my head sandwiched between headphones.
Look to your left. Now to your right. Yep, we're all sat quite close together, yet there's little opportunity to share thoughts.
I'd love to see what this plane actually thinks. So I've decided to start a little project.
This is 'Plane Tales' and it's up to us to fill it with stories.
This flight's theme ladies and gets: "On making things better."
Instructions are on the next page. Please return to me before landing.
1. Read the last story in this book.
2. Write a response to the question.
3. Ask a new question or use the same question again.
4. Pass the book to the person next to you.
5. If you don't want to write, please pass it on.
6. Return to Eva in seat 42E when done.
Sign with your seat number.
Leave your email.
We are 32,062 feet above the ground. We took off an hour later because the captain was supposedly stuck in traffic. Wrong vehicle, I thought. There's about 300 of us here. With a labrador. Somewhere. He was announced too. Or maybe it was 'lavatory'. Anyway. Here's a challenge. Look towards the window if you can. Click your fingers. Imagine that in that moment you've got the power to make something better in an instant. With another click, you can get everyone onboard to join you in this. What is it and why?
And then I walked to the lady in the front economy seat.
"Hi... May I give you this book? I'd like you to write something in it."
"Me?" She said in disbelief and with a mild sense of 'do I really have to do this'.
"Yeah. I'd like to know what this plane thinks and I thought it would be nice to capture some stories in this book. There's a question you can answer in here. There's instructions on what to do next too."
"Ok... Sure." Still not convinced. But too English to refuse.
She took the book. I sat down and waited. I leaned over and saw her write a response.
And then this happened.
Myself and my husband are on our way to the USA for our honeymoon after getting married last year. We're very excited and are looking forward to a nice break away.
I'm lucky to have a husband that I consider to be respectful and am reminded that not all women have this. Many round the world are beaten and/ or abused and if I could make something better in an instant that would be it - to eradicate violence towards women.
What would you make better in an instant and why?
As a non-frequent flyer, I am not a huge fan of long haul, however in most cases it is worth the journey.
But to keep this short and sweet, if I could make something better it would be the speed of air travel. I would improve this by bringing back the mighty CONCORDE!!
In a side note, I would also like to see people showing a little more respect for one another in life - 'THE HONEYMOON COUPLE, 40B/C'!!
Our question - if you could bring something back from the past, what would it be?
41 A/B Elvis
By the time this book has reached you we have travelled 4 hours. What have you done so far...?
Confused as to what question to answer here as there are two back to back. But to answer the latter, I haven't done much. Been sitting on my behind mostly watching people sleep - especially my little angel in front of me hanging from the bassinet on the wall... My 1 month old daughter.
Day dreaming about what she might be dreaming of in her sleep, wondering if her diaper is wet, who she will become (hopefully someone who will make this world a bit happier one smile at a time, better, one good, kind deed at a time). What else did I do...?
Well, I reminisced the good times we had on our trip visiting family in France, friends in London, balanced items from the food tray on my sleeping husband hoping when he woke it would startle him, then make him laugh... but he never noticed them. They just fell on the ground and I had to clean up.
I've been people watching too... Checking out people's shoes - trying to see if I can find inspiration for my next pair. Also went to the bathroom a few times. Removed lots of items for the baby from the overhead compartment - wondering if I may be annoying those around me. Looked at a few magazines in the wall pocket. Wrote a 'to do list' for when I get home.
And many more other random thoughts ran through my mind while sitting here, but mostly, I just sat here and adored my little sleeping beauty...
Question: What you bring back from the past & why?
I would bring back National Service to bring back some normality and discipline - our youngsters are losing their way! But if I knew I could I would bring my dad back and he is and always will be my favourite person - I am in row 41D. I am flying to CA to see my friend who has lived in USA for the past 25 years - and San Francisco is my favourite city in the world.
My question is if you could have a super power what would it be?
If I could have any super power, it would be to liberate people's consciousness by simply looking at them. And one by one, soul to soul, through gazing into the eyes... humanity would awaken from the deep slumber of samsara. The best part of this power, in that it would be transferred upon awakening! So everyone who was awake, could also cause others to wake up through eye contact.
My question is: What are you most grateful for within yourself?
The ability to learn and change - what makes our world a wonderful place is that we can change and learn from others. We live in a time when more and more knowledge is available and that must make us all better people. The more we know of others and understand, the less we can possibly hate.
My question is: What would do you want for your children?
Growing up in Ireland, I saw many instances of social division, prejudice and intolerance. I would want my kids to live in a world free from such things - I have seen such change in my homeland in the last 20 years where these old barriers are finally being eroded. It gives me hope that such a world could exist, someday.
My question is: If you had only 1 day to spend in San Francisco before flying on, how would you spend it?
I'm on my way to San Francisco with my brother for a wedding. As I have never been to SF before I'd have to say if I was to only pend one day there, I would have to cram in all the tourist hotspots ASAP! Alcatraz is top of my list.
I am grateful to return home to San Jose after a wonderful journey through the countryside of England and Wales with my daughter. I have traveled through many countries and I am always impressed with the kindness, love of family and friends observed in villages and cities.
On my way to attend the necrogaming conference and expo in SF. I'm thinking about how to create better brain training services to help people develop their mental skills in the areas of attention, memory, creativity, motivation, etc. That's how I'm trying to make the world a little better.
What about you?
I'm just returning to SF from a conference of people who are all community organisations in their own cities and countries around the world. The idea is to have something that takes the best bits of church like community building and service and singing but without any of the religion. The motto is live better, help often and wonder more.
I like to think that by getting this started my neck of the woods, I am helping people find community and that will make the work a little better. I have been so touched and inspired the last few days, so I'd like to ask. What inspires you?
First time to San Francisco & first long flight for us both, we were married on Sat 3/5/14 and it was the best day of our lives. What inspires me is when I see people with little or nothing and yet willing to give everything they have which could simply be a smile, never judge someone until step into their shoes.
My question to you - what small thing/ gesture have you done to change/ help someone's life?
Honeymoon couple in 49A & B
Back to Mountain View, CA after 2 week vacation. Nice idea to understand what people are around you. Glad to be part of this.
Last question's answer (give and take): Which is the next destination?
Off to San Fran with my wife. We travel a lot however not long haul, from San Fran to LA, and then onto Vegas. Celebrating my 50th - 27 years married. And two great kids! Friends are meeting us in Vegas - life is to be lived and valued - what do you value most?
Back to SF after a week working out of my company's London office. Not a huge fan of long flights, but it sure beats getting from Portland, OR to Zanzibar, Tanzania. As great of a city SF is, it still isn't home as my parents live in Oregon. They and my sisters are what I value most.
My question to you is what is the best travel experience you have ever had?
Great question. I travel a lot in my work so have lots but I'm not working on this trip. It's me and my wife's silver wedding tomorrow and we are going back to where we went on honeymoon in 1989 (There, see, I remembered it!), Hawaii. It was a helluva holiday & it will be interesting to see how much of it has changed. It will also be the most amount of time my wife and I will have spent together since our honeymoon so the appointment with the divorce lawyer is arranged on our return!!
Back to the question - top three are probably:
1) Took a minibus to Donegal, Ireland with my Dad, sister in law, wife, nieces and nephews, son & daughter to do some genealogy (and think lots of Guinness). Fantastic.
2) Honeymoon to Hawaii (well, the wife is looking over my shoulder as I write this).
3) Monaco Grand Prix for my 40th with my best mate Garry and our other 'alves.
Whiling writing this, the thought occurred to me that my once neat & tidy writing skills have descended into a barely legible scrawl with lots of spelling mistakes as I don't have access to spell check and because of lack of practice. So, to my question:
Whilst PCs, I-Pads, I-Phones, BB, Androids, blah, blah, blah have given us new ways to communicate, what skills are they robbing of us?
59B (+ the wife is in 59C)
First off, huge congratulations to you both, hope you have an amazing time in Hawaii. I was 4 years old when you first went there. I'm flying out to see a woman who I hope to be taking on honeymoon in the not too distant future. Ring is packed and I just have to keep my fingers crossed she says yes! For us the technology has been a lifeline. She's a California girl and I'm a Londoner. That's 5,140 miles between us on your average day so the inventions like Skype, Whatsapp and the like have transformed our ability to keep in touch, find out what the other's had for lunch etc. That said, this book didn't come about through technology, just food old fashioned inquisitiveness and generosity of spirit. I'm glad to have learned about Mr & Mrs 59B & C but would never have found out what a special occasion this trip is for them otherwise.
My questions for you are a) is this a journey to somewhere you want to be? b) why?
A year and a half ago, the same question was asked to me. 2 days after getting married, I am sat on this plane for our honeymoon (a 3 week West Coast adventure!). To seat 59A, good luck with the proposal, I hope she says yes!
It's good to see what a book like this can do to a bunch of random people, how it brings people together to share stories and adventures.
My question for you is... If you could only teach a child one thing, what would it be and why?
60A & 60B (Husband)
Congrats all around - so many wonderful things happening in everyone's lives. I happen to be a California girl dating a Londoner as well - it is a long trip to do on a regular basis - but so worth it. Thank goodness for technology - a real lifesaver! We are all so lucky just to be able to travel.
On to the question - if I could teach a child one thing - it would be to EXPLORE! The world is growing smaller every day + holds endless opportunities - I would just encourage them to explore - everything and anything that interests them.
Here goes - what are you passionate about? (What drives you!)
On our way home to Auckland, NZ, via San Fran. After visiting family in UK for the first in 8.2 years. Strangely though my family are my passion, nephews and nieces are growing up and I worry for their future in a world where I thought no one cared about their neighbours anymore... This book has given me a glimmer of hope!
Question. On landing and carrying on your day/week/ life, what will you do to make a stranger smile?
The knights on their seats 60D-G
I am on my way home to San Jose, CA (born and raised there). I have flown from San Jose to Ft. Lauderdale, FL and got on a Princess Cruise for 15 days, transatlantic. Ports were the Agores, Cork, Dublin, Brussels and La Favrem France ending in Southampton. Then to London for 2 days.
I traveled with a man whom I met on a cruise 5 years ago. Went on two cruises in 2013 but with friends. This time we shared a cabin. He lives in Denver, Colorado, so... I am not sure if we have a future together. But we sure had a great time together!! We said goodbye at the airport and I already miss him.
To answer the last question: I make or try to make children smile every day. I work with special needs students.
Going to San Francisco for just two days of a workshop on expatriates using a high-power loser. Done this too many times, and am feeling I've wasted a work holiday in Britain, being on a plane instead.
Is everyone here happy to be on a plane for so long?
We're off to San Francisco to drive the Pacific Coast Highway - a celebration of our 25th Wedding Anniversary and our 50th birthdays - I know we don't think we look old enough either.
Hope you all have a wonderful trip for whatever reason you are travelling. :-)
Dave & Alison - Gloucestershire 61K & H
On my way to see a culmination of 4 years work come to fruition. More than just a task I've set for myself this will see people achieve incredible and amazing things as they row the Pacific from Monterey to Hawaii. The participants are normal people, men & women aged 23 to 65 with one difference. They aspire to achieve something incredible and amazing with their lives. By reaching higher and farther than others believe they set themselves apart from most who simply want to 'get by'.
I wish that everyone try and be more like these amazing people & reach for the stars. If you like you can follow the race which starts Jun 7th at greatpacificrace.com.
Chris Martin, Race Director, Great Pacific Race
I am traveling to San Francisco en route to New Zealand. The reason for my trip which I have now done twice in a month is because when I visited last time I fell in love. All very cheesy but I am now moving to the other side of the world to start my life with a very funny Kiwi.
I am crazy excited for the move and the adventures I will have.
If I could click my fingers I would hope that everyone finds that special person and has the guts and courage to drop everything to be happy.
Wish me luck.
Written by a slightly crazy, happy girl in 62G.
Flossie Williamson, chef + food blogger www.foodfromflossie.com
I am returning to my American husband + 2 children after spending time with my parents in the town where I grew up in England - York - a beautiful place - you should visit to walk on the Roman walls it's really a special place but more special to me are my elderly parents 84 + 89 years old. Saying goodbye was hard as my father has been sick, it could have been my last hug, squeeze of hand I do not know but an aeroplane will return me to England one day. I love your idea.
Please let it remind everyone to love your special ones be it parents, children, friends, family. Life is short as I am finding out quite quickly.
I am flying to SF for the first time. I am worried about my brother's upcoming wedding. Luckily, I met an American girl, Kate (42G), from SF. She has comforted me all 11 hours of the flight. My throat hurts from talking. Anyway, I am excited for my double double animal style.
Bottom line, I have learned Amy, my soon to be sister in law, makes Tom, my brother, a better person. I have written a wedding speech based on my conversation from this flight.
Adam Lockwood, 42F
PS This is Kate. I wrote this. Adam helped narrate.
It took hours until the book got to Kate who returned it back to me before landing.
The book was filled with these 30 stories from strangers. What you've just read is the transcript, unedited and as raw as it can be.
I noticed that where the book had been passed, the writer' started talking to each other, sipping on their drinks together. Rows of seats were turning into a pub! (I guess if you suddenly find out you're sat next to a Boat Race Director, that's a pretty good thing to learn about.)
I was very happy about this social experiment. The only shame was that the writers didn't get to read the full 30 stories upon landing. Very few people left their email in the book. I'm in touch with Flossie (the food blogger), but I'd love to find the rest of the people and show them this epic little story book that they co-wrote in the clouds without realising it.
Can you help me find them? How fun would it be?! Share this article, message it to friends who might be able to help, or shout it out in the streets of San Francisco and London. It's like a test of our collective social networks.
Here's info you need - the flight was a Virgin Atlantic plane V19 on Monday 5th May 2014 from London Heathrow (LHR) 13:00 to San Francisco (SFO) 16:00.
If you've got any news, please post it in the comments section here. I don't mind if it takes months, let's just try it.