Failing to Fly Around the World

This year I failed to fly around the world. You see, I’ve been tracking every flight, every flight mile, cost, and the C02 generated from my air travel. 2021 is the first year I didn’t fly enough miles to circle the globe in some time. Here’s the last few years breakdown:

  • 2019: 56,550 miles flown (around the world 2.27 times)
  • 2020: 42,472 miles flown (around the world 1.71 times)
  • 2021: 14,131 miles flown (around the world 0.57 times)

This would have likely happened in 2020 but I managed a lot of travel early in the year before the world shut down. I started tracking this stuff to get a better idea of just how much air travel I was doing. Much of my travel was between Norway and California, which isn’t exactly a short hop to make. Furthermore, it felt like I was constantly on a plane or at least jet-lagged from recent travel. And yes, while I’m not exactly a bastion of environmentalism, I did start to worry about my carbon footprint. So I applied a marketer’s approach to measure, set some goals, and track progress. I’m happy to say I hit the goal of reducing my air travel by 50%, although let’s be fair, I’m not sure I would have been as successful without, well, you know…

I’m guessing that many folks are missing travel these days. You might even miss all the bad things about it, like the delays and the crowds: the stale airport food and the even staler airplane cabin air. However, I can tell you much of the joy of travel is gone and perhaps not returning for some time. For example, I’ve taken covid tests at least a dozen times now, so I feel like I have some mild PTSD when around Qtips. In addition, my usual routes now take 2x longer travel time than before, and getting anywhere far on a direct flight is now almost impossible.

Worst of all, and after taking nine flights this year (compared to 26 in 2019), it seems that many fellow travelers have also lost their damn minds. Everyone is confused by the constantly-changing entry rules, the new paperwork, and vaccine requirements. As a result, I’ve seen more tantrums than a kindergarten teacher lately at the airport. I’m sure you have also seen the various videos or mid-air freakouts, especially over American skies. If you would like to test your patience and empathy, I might suggest a new career in the airline industry. Although I’m not sure there are many open positions at the moment. 

It’s tough to predict how travel will change in the future, but I recently learned of a new concept called “bleisure travel”. A funny name that combines both business and leisure travel. Thanks to many companies offering remote and more flexible work, this is now possible. You can head to wherever your favorite spot is and work for a few weeks, followed by a few weeks of rest in the same place. There are many good benefits here, and not just because it makes you feel silly to say the word bleisure out loud (go ahead try for yourself)! First and foremost, it’s essential to get out of the office, especially when that office is now often also your home. At the same time, by combining the two types of travel, you’re dramatically reducing the number of annual flights one might take. So there’s less environmental impact and, of course, less potential for the dreaded airport meltdowns. 

While it’s probably still too early to be encouraging the world to travel again, I’m looking forward to a bit more bleisure in my life. I think I’ll try to keep my flights per year down by simply making less overall trips, with each trip having a longer duration. I might only recommend to my future Airbnb hosts to please post your WiFi speed on your listing. My future video meetings thank you.

Shoutout to my former Whereby colleague Caleb who showed me his flight tracker setup. And another shoutout to Norwegian startup Travelin.ai, who is building the bleisure travel platform for companies. 

To my European readers flying around the globe is approximately 40,075 kilometers.

Sean Percival

Sean Percival is an American author, investor and entrepreneur.