I had a few days vacation, and I made a trip to the Rhön mountain range, and especially to the “Wasserkuppe” (water peak). This 950 meter mountain is especially well known since it is widely considered to be the birthplace of gliding and sailplanes. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the airfield was buzzing with life – a constant takeoff and landing of sailplanes and motor planes. All of a sudden, I got a rather melancholic feeling and I started to walk down memory lane…
Many years ago, when I was about 15, I wanted to learn to fly a sailplane. Legal age for flying these planes in a solo flight was 16, so it was the right time to start the training at that age. My parents weren’t thrilled, but they didn’t outright object eager. They demanded that I made a plan how I could finance it, and – more important – how I would manage the transportation to the airfield. This was actually the main obstacle: the airfield was some 30km away, AND learning to fly a sailplane meant a huge investment in time: being present at the airfield during spare time was not a written rule but expected nevertheless – maintaining the planes and keeping the airfield running needed many helping hands. For me, it turned out, it was impossible to do from a sheer logistical point of view, and that did not even yet touch the financial issues… So, under tears, I buried the dream of flying a sailplane. Instead I turned to computers. So in a lame attempt at being poetic, I traded the sky for the universe.

During that sunny day on the Wasserkuppe, it suddenly hit me with the full impact of a brick wall across the highway: my life would have been completely different if I would have learned to fly back then!

Let’s jump into that parallel universe and see what would have happened. Somehow, I would have managed to get the money for the training, and somehow I would have managed to get the driving from and to the airfield arranged. This would have had two major consequences:

  1. I would have spent every spare minute at the airfield
  2. I would have spent every spare money into my flying education

These consequences would have triggered other events. I would have met other friends, who would have influenced me in other ways. I would have never met Bern – the single most influential friend in my youth whom I met at a critical point in time – with the result that I never would have started to work with computer science. Most likely, being a sailplane pilot would have influenced my decision to pick my discipline at university. Probably I would have chosen mechanical engineering or aerodynamics, with a career path as mechanical engineer.
I’m not sure about writing. In “my” universe I worked as a freelance journalist and bookwriter and still writing is an important part of my current job. I tend to think that in the “sailplane parallel universe” I would have started to write too – maybe for aeronautical magazines instead of computer magazines.
Most likely, I would not have moved to another city for university. Sailplane society life is very demanding, and working ones way up the social ladder in a flight club is a time consuming process which I would have probably not endangered by moving to another city. The influences on my personal life – which I want to keep out of this blog for now – can be easily imagined. This blog – it would not exist either. Probably not a loss though…

When I recovered from the impact of that parallel universe I got some funny looks. I was in a strange mood for the rest of the day. The realization how simple decisions influence your whole life have never occurred to me so drastic and dramatic ever before.

Welcome to my universe!

P.S. Bear with my grammar – this was a very tough blog entry for me. Mind that I’m not an English native speaker.


  1. I’m in my 40’s and wonder if I can NOW get to the dream of soaring. Right now I settle for R/C sailplanes – bery fun and not as hard on the wallet. Not cheap either.

    In the states they offer “introductory’ flights for $40. I may take one but it may lead me to another universe…

    Let’s hope!

  2. Hi Perry,

    well, R/C sounds like fun, but I guess it’s nothing compared to “the real thing”. Invest the $40 – it sounds like a good deal (it’s way more expensive in Germany).

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