We’ve all heard it’s the journey and not the destination that is most important in life. But whether flying or driving, we’re too often so intent on getting to our next destination that we miss the joy of the trip. Then it’s a whirlwind of activity until we get back in the plane or car and race on to the next destination. We’re so busy rushing toward tomorrow that we aren’t living today. Life becomes an ever faster rush of blurry scenery speeding past our window.

One warm, sunny summer day I played “hooky” with a good friend. I appreciate many things about Carl Hiebert. The day we spent together was fun and relaxing. But most of all it was inspiring and energizing. I wrote about Carl in my book, Growing the Distance, in the chapter on Responsibility for Choices.

On that beautiful summer morning in July, we flew in Carl’s new ultralight aircraft. It is an open-cockpit, fair weather flying machine, made up of welded metal tubs wrapped in a fiberglass skin. Two seats are squeezed together so tightly that I had to put both legs around Carl’s front seat and keep my left leg away from rubbing on the throttle cable that ran through the open cockpit back to the small gasoline powered engine that pushed us along from behind. I had no desire to mess with that cable nor have it rub the skin off my bare legs (I was wearing shorts). No locked doors between passenger and pilot on this flight!

I arrived just after he and an engineer friend had removed the large glass bubble windshield and replaced it with a much smaller one so Carl could get better aerial photos. Carl has produced and sold a number of gorgeous coffee table books based on the tens of thousands of shots he’s taken from the seats of the many ultra light planes he’s flown (all the way across Canada on two occasions). As we took off from my uncle’s farm near Elmira, Ontario where Carl stores his plane, we flew over the very familiar and beautiful rolling rural farmland of Waterloo County. I spent many years of my childhood in this area and have flown over this territory hundreds of times in commercial jets taking off from Toronto’s international airport, 90 miles away. But that was flying at hundreds of miles per hour thousands of feet in the air tightly encased in an aluminum tube while I busily prepared for my next destination. The countryside below was an interesting and distant miniature world way down below us.

As the ground mist cleared on this morning, we flew up to a few hundred feet, 50 miles per hour, with the wind billowing through our hair (OK. It billowed through Carl’s hair. It just rippled the skin of my ever expanding forehead). We “caught big air” as we circled ever higher in thermals (rising air currents) with majestic hawks playing in these same “magic staircases to heaven.” More than once I spread my arms, felt the wind beneath my “wings” and soared with the birds as I yelled out a “yeehaw” or two.

We flew lower and waved to farm boys taking a break fishing in the Conestoga River. We waved to farmers cultivating their fields. We smelled the freshly mowed hay – and the freshly spread manure. As we flew, Carl’s keen photographer’s eye was constantly noticing colors, patterns in the fields, textures, and lighting. He would circle back around to click a few shots with his camera – showing me how to look at the scene with new eyes; how to appreciate what nature or a farmer had painted on the canvass laid out below us.

At a few hundred feet, we had a bigger perspective on the world. But we were in the picture, not just looking at it. We were flying strictly for the joy of soaring in the air and seeing the world from a new perspective. We had no destination. To some we were wasting time because we weren’t getting anywhere. To others we were wandering aimlessly. To me we were living in the moment.

That afternoon, we cruised the same countryside in my new convertible car. We had the top down and the wind in our face. We turned up the music and yelled ourselves hoarse in conversation over the noise. We explored roads we’d never been on before. Roads that we may have noticed from the air, but now we had no idea where they went. So we found out. We discovered beautiful country homes on hilltops or nestled in the woods. We discovered new vistas. We stopped, backed up, and Carl framed and photographed the perfect country scene that I would have just sped by. We visited a few friends for a chat. We bought ice cream. We had no particular place to go. We had no agenda. We had a great time.