Take Your Next Flight to New Heights

In a few hours I will be on a flight to Barcelona. As lovely as the destination is (or as important the goal of the trip is), flights are rarely what you might tag as “time well-spent”. Let’s be honest, flights are often a waste of time, and that’s even before you take into account standing in line for check-in and collecting your baggage.

Sure, a book is a great option. I don’t leave home without my Kindle. And there’s always the on-board VOD. But if you want to make your next flight a bit different, you are in the right place. Here’s my personal to-do list for my upcoming flight. And it is all about turning this dead-time into a fun-creative time.

Are you on board?

1 Look Around You

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Mindful observation is a great exercise for the mind in general and an excellent #creativity booster in particular.” quote=”Mindful observation is a great exercise for the mind in general and an excellent creativity booster in particular.”]

So, you are literally trapped in a closed space a few miles above the ground (that came up a bit more frightening than I intended to). What is there to do? Well, no matter how often you are flying, you’d be amazed with how much there is to explore if you just look around you mindfully.

Mindful observation is a great exercise for the mind in general and an excellent creativity booster in particular. There is so much to discover — so much to be surprised by — even in a small space like an airplane.

First, there are the people who share this space with you. Without being too creepy, observing people you don’t know is an amazing experience. Every person is a universe, and if you just observe, without being judgmental, you will discover some amazing insights.

But it doesn’t end with people. There are so many strange, wonderful things in the cabin of an airplane. We might take some of them for granted, or just ignore most of them, but when you actively explore your surrounding, you will notice some surprising stuff.

What can you do with what you discover around you? Well, you can just take a mental note and move on to the next thing, or you can use this opportunity to start an Insight Journal if you don’t have one already. Reflecting on your Insights at some time in the future is an exploration journey by itself.

2 This is Your Life

After we’ve explored our surroundings, it’s time to take it up a notch. The next creative assignment in my flight checklist is imaging the story of one of the passengers.

This exercise is based on a mindful observation as the one we’ve just practiced. But now, we are adding our imagination into the picture. The point is not to get the story right. We are just using the subject we are observing as a trigger for imagining a story.

Try to imagine where your subject lives, their friends and family, their occupation, the goal of their trip and so on. Try writing a short story based on what you observe and imagine. Don’t worry about the quality of what you write — that’s not the point of this exercise. And most important — let your imagination go wild and have fun!

3 Ground Level

[click_to_tweet tweet=”We rarely take the time to consider the people we are unknowingly passing by on our way to our destination” quote=”We rarely take the time to consider the people we are unknowingly passing by on our way to our destination”]

As long as you are practicing active imagination, try also imagining the people you are flying over. Flying abroad is a great chance to get to know new cultures and experience how others are seeing the world. But we rarely take the time to consider the people we are unknowingly passing by on our way to our destination.

You know these maps showing the flight’s route? Use them as a guide and try to picture in your mind the people on the ground. What they might be doing right now? What do they see when they look out the window? What occupies their minds these days?

You can use do this exercise with nothing more than your imagination, or you can prepare and download in advance some material about the countries you will be crossing. This approach will turn this exercise into a mini-research project to take with you on board.

4 Eavesdropping

Next in my most-creative-flight-ever activity list is writing the lyrics of a song. But this task comes with a twist. This next top-of-the-chart hit should be combined entirely from random bits of conversation you hear around you.

Apart from mindfully listening to chats taking place around you (again, in a non-creepy kind of way), the real creative challenge is composing these fragments into a coherent song. It can be funny, strange, or cryptic, but it should be coherent enough so that people reading it won’t think of it as a random collection of sentences.

5 How-To Pamphlet

Last but not least, my personal favorite! You know these pamphlet explaining in short sentences or drawings how to get out of an emergency situation during the flight?

Well, you next challenge is to write or draw a whole new how-to pamphlet for a strange or bizarre problem. Extra-points are given for a flight-related problem, such as: how to eat your lunch during turbulence or how to get up if you are sitting in a window seat and the two people between you and the isle are sleeping.

If you are stuck without an idea, try a random Seed and come up with a strange problem to solve inspired associatively by the Seed.


With the busy lifestyle many of us are leading, it is easy to forget how much spare time we actually have. Your next flight is a great example of how some dead-time can be easily turned into priceless time — a time to practice your observation, imagination and creativity, and to reconnect to things we usually tend to ignore.

Have a safe flight 🙂

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