My trip home from Brazil took far longer than expected.
I had been booked for roughly 31 hours of travel from Fortaleza to home, including a stop in Rio de Janiero and a 10-hour layover in Dallas. It was a long schedule to be sure, but I was up for the journey, planned to work during most of my layover, and even had plans with friends scheduled during my stop in Texas.
My real trip took over 48 hours and included an emergency overnight stop in Costa Rica.
Why the delay?
The plane was only about half full, so most of us had our own rows to lounge in during the overnight trip. The sparse seating led to a lot of moving around, so I had the opportunity to meet most of my travel companions as we spread out on the aircraft. This included the woman across the aisle from me.
She seemed a bit tired - understandable as we were all boarding a 9pm red-eye flight - and a bit worn out as she and her husband worked to make their 6-month-old daughter comfortable. We said hi, and went about readying our respective seats for the long flight.
A few hours later, she seemed to fall ill. The flight attendants called on the PA for any medical personnel on board to volunteer to help. They brought her something to drink, and she said she felt better and wanted to try to sleep it off.
Later still, and her condition escalated. The flight crew (and medical personnel) did everything they could to help. The pilot turned the plane and we rapidly descended to Costa Rica for medical help. Unfortunately, her condition worsened to full cardiac arrest before we landed and, by the time we were on the ground, there was nothing more anyone else could do.
Witnessing tragedy makes you think ...
As much as I enjoy traveling, I really don't like to be away from home and family. There's a knot in my stomach whenever I board a plane as I think about what could possibly happen while I'm away. It's numbed somewhat by the trill of adventure, but never really goes away.
Seeing the loss on that airplane brought everything to the forefront, though.
This entire week I've been taking stock of things around me. Passions, hobbies, everything I do that takes up the limited time I'll have in this world. I've been meditating on the value of each and what I might be giving up in exchange.
All-night hackathons to build throwaway applications don't seem nearly as exciting now as they did a week ago. Endless brainstorming of "perfect" software solutions feels like a void endeavor. I'm taking a little time now to prioritize the things that really matter so I can better invest my time in those things later.
Life is as precious as it is fragile. Our time here should be spent in worthy pursuits.