i travel frequently from my home in perth, western australia. that makes every flight a long flight and it gives me plenty of time to think -- and sometimes even about the flight itself (particularly those long evening journeys home that seem to take forever).

i've learned a few life lessons in all those flying hours:

1. you don't always get the best seat. it's amazing how you can come to expect a certain seat, or row, and get a little narky when it doesn't quite always work out.

lesson: sometimes life isn't fair. sometimes it's someone else's turn.

2. you don't own the seat next to you -- unless you bought it. i remember once on an 8 hour flight from perth to hong ... g that i thought had a spare seat next to me. at the very last minute, literally seconds before the main door was closed, a man boarded and suddenly my spare seat was gone. my spare seat? excuse me? i didn't buy it and yet felt more and more entitled to it the longer it remained free. at least an hour into the flight, probably longer, my attitude to this innocent stranger beside me softened. it wasn't his fault my expectation built the way it did. his only contribution to my false expectation was being last aboard.

lesson: know what is yours and what's not.

3. every trip is different. i take certain flights a lot. same time of day. same aircraft type, occasionally same pilot (i like to remember their names), same route, much the same duration. but here's the thing, while some things are the same, the most important part is actually different. there's a unique collection of individuals who will never, ever be together again in this combination. ever. and that means the dynamic is actually very different each time, even though we are conditioned to thinking it's the same.

lesson: even though life appears to be the same it's mostly not. people make the difference.

4. everyone else has needs. back to my seat allocations. i like to get my seat preference as do most people. and like i say i'm happier when i do. i don't want you to think i'm a saint but occasionally i've given up my extra legroom seat for a traveller with an obvious need greater than mine. i've seen others do it too. it feels good to do it and surprisingly the sacrifice made is barely noticed but the gesture is always appreciated.

lesson: be aware and respond to the needs of others.

5. we only remember the really good or really bad flights. whenever we talk about flying you'll notice only the extremes are discussed. that amazing upgrade to first cl ... , the 20 hour delay, the time you met a new friend, or quite unplanned got to sit with an old friend, or when you were projectile vomited on by a baby that screamed the whole flight (when it wasn't projectile vomiting). so when you're having a hellish time or living in the lap of luxury, remember your next dinner party story is writing itself!

lesson: a life worth sharing is usually a life lived in the extremes.