Maybe The People Who ‘Rawdog’ Flights Are On To Something

There’s an episode of “Seinfeld” where Elaine Benes, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, takes a 22-hour flight with her on-again-off-again boyfriend, David Puddy (Patrick Warburton). She pulls out a book, starts to read, then notices that Puddy has no book. In fact, he has no form of entertainment whatsoever.

She quizzes him ― will he read a book? No. Does he plan to nap? No.

“You’re just going to sit there, staring at the back of the seat?” she asks, perplexed.

“Yeah,” he replies.

It turns out that this behavior (over which Elaine eventually and inevitably detonates the relationship again) isn’t just a gag on 1990s Must See TV. It’s happening on actual planes ― and, of course, on TikTok.

“Rawdogging travel,” as it’s unfortunately being called, is the act of boarding a flight ― long-haul or otherwise ― with no headphones, no book, no form of entertainment or diversion other than the ever-present digital flight map.

Of course, we live in an increasingly stimulating age, where not even a flight can stop you from connecting to Wi-Fi, getting work done or engaging in the same kind of endless scrolling we do on the ground. For some people, a flight is the only time to really disconnect. In that way, it could be considered a meditative experience.

But for other people, hours of sitting alone with your own thoughts sounds like torture ― especially if you have flight anxiety. Distractions may be the difference between having a somewhat pleasant experience (or at least a tolerable one) and full-blown panic.

Josh Firestine, a Washington-based comedian, recently tried the approach while en route from Dallas to Chicago for a performance.

“I saw this trend online and I thought it was really funny ― totally a bro thing to do, just challenge yourself for no reason,” he told HuffPost.

He said he’d never done such a thing before, or even thought to do it, but his less-than-ideal seating situation inspired him to try it out.

“I’m a bigger guy, I got to my seat and the man in the middle was twice my size,” he said. “I know the middle seat is the worst, you’ve got no comfort, so I just gave him the armrest and sort of sat there with my arms folded into myself trying not to get hit by the cart. I’m kind of miserable, and I go, ‘You know what, at this point, I’m just going to commit and raw dog it. No headphones, no sleeping.’”

Firestine, who went so far as to decline any refreshments from the flight attendants (“I don’t recommend the no water thing, especially on longer flights,” he said), did not leave the experience feeling like a new traveler.

“I would like to say I came out of this with some kind of lesson, some kind of epiphany or emotional growth,” he said. “I got nothing. Nothing out of this at all. The two-and-a-half-hour flight felt like a four-hour flight.”

He did, however, (half) joke that sitting in utter silence serves as a sort of atonement that any traveler could stand to partake in.

How does he feel about the name of the trend? “I think it’s hilarious,” he said.

That’s the sentiment going around social media, where people hopped on both the concept itself and the discourse concerning it.

One person suggested that this might be a guy thing in particular: “I could be wrong on this, but I believe the University of Pennsylvania did a study on this that found that men’s brains more frequently enter a ‘rest state’ than women’s do, basically confirming that men can in fact think about nothing for prolonged periods of time.” (The author of the study this person was apparently referring to denied that this was actually the finding of their research.)

Others pointed out how useful time spent sitting in silence can be for the mind, and argued that there’s not really anything that weird about it.

They are on to something: Research shows that “turning off” your mind and giving your brain a short break ― especially from screens ― can help you learn new skills, improve your sleep and be more creative. Switching off your focus can also help you feel more connected to yourself.

Moreover, psychologists and memory experts believe that our attention spans have decreased over time, likely because of technology. “Logging off” is getting harder and harder to do.

So perhaps the perks of rawdogging are indeed worth the sacrifice. If you want to give it a try, it might benefit you, too. (Personally, like Elaine, I’ll probably find some other way to pass the time. But it sounds great in theory.)

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