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One Final Note (I Promise) on Easter Island: Why We Collect Frequent Flyer Miles

My final thought on the whole Easter Island trip:  Polynesians arrived on the island more than a thousand years ago likely by paddling 2,000 miles on a double-hulled canoe.  Air service to the island did not begin until the late 1960s — yes, until 40 years ago the only way to get to this remote dot was via ship.

By opening a couple of credit cards I accumulated enough miles to get a free flight there.  Think about how insane that is:  For all of human history until just a few years ago, you couldn’t even get to the place without suffering unspeakable misery on a ship hoping you could navigate your way to a 100 square mile speck in the Pacific Ocean.  Now I literally did nothing and could get there in a few hours for free.

Outside of the invention of the aircraft itself, have frequent flyer miles done more than anything else to shrink the size of the world?  We take for granted nowadays that we can fill out a credit card application and get just about enough miles to fly to Hawaii for free.  Then people complain that all of the dates they want aren’t available.

Think about that:  you can fly just about anywhere in the world you want for free.  And yet we hear (and read) about people complaining about the middle seat.  Or that the food wasn’t great.  Or that the availability wasn’t quite what they wanted.  Are we all crazy?  This is a revolution.  Anyone with half a brain can gather enough frequent flyer miles (without actually even flying anywhere) in a couple of months (if that long) to get a free ticket anywhere in the world.  Stop for a second.  You can go anywhere.  In.  The.  World.  For.  Free.

We are the first generation to experience the world shrinking like that.  Everywhere was far away until the airline alliances kicked in over the past 20 years.  Now nowhere is far.  Everywhere is right out the back door, and nowhere costs anything.  And we’ve gotten so spoiled about it that so many of us, upon returning from a free trip to heaven knows where, will mention only that the seating was a bit cramped and the pre-flight drink not quite up to snuff.

All of us who spend time accumulating miles really need to take a step back once in a while and remember that we are the beneficiaries of a system that has made it possible to travel anywhere in the world we want without paying.  Does this give the airlines a free pass?  Of course not.  But the idea that the entire world is accessible to the average person outweighs any indignity suffered at the hands of an airline.  I, for one, know that I need to smack myself in the ass once in a while and remind myself that I have it pretty good.

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  1. Great post. It always helps to put it in perspective.

  2. I am sooo happy you posted this!! I feel the same way! I feel like it is an awesome miracle every time I fly… often for free, or for dirt cheap.

    Check out this Louis C.K. video at about the 2:38 minute mark.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

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