The Economics of the Volcanic Ash Cloud

Ash, Our Intrepid Traveler(Today’s “Lonely Traveler of the Week” post comes from our own Ash Z., who is currently stuck in Berlin as he tries to successfully battle Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano and make his way back to the States before the month is through.)

I rarely post on this blog which I helped create. In fact, I find it far more satisfying to allow those more brilliant than myself to honor the pages of this simple blog with the wisdom of their words. (You forgot to mention “more handsome,” too. — Ed.) And it’s exactly this hands-offish philosophy that has made this one of the the best blogs on graduate school admissions available on the web. However, in a moment of inspiration (sheer boredom), I’ve decided to share some of my insights about this wonderful Ash Cloud that has grounded our 21st century sensibilities by making air travel in Northern Europe impossible.


You see, I’m just another statistic: one of the tens of thousands of travelers grounded by this natural disaster. And, as beautiful as Berlin is, limbo is hideous. For days I’ve had no idea when I would be getting back to my life, my work (Veritas Prep), my family, or my friends. After days of promises about “tomorrow” from various sources, I realized that tomorrow never comes; I would have to change my plans and realize my own tomorrow. But that’s not the only realization I was forced to have. I also realized something very interesting about this whole exercise: Ultimately, this entire experience has been a case study in the sunk cost dillema.

Every morning I rise to the lovely sounds of my wake up call, splash some water on my face, take in the sounds of the Berlin streets from my window, call the airlines, and make a very simple decision: Do I trust my sources when they say that the airports will open tomorrow, or do I take my destiny into my own hands and rearrange my schedule, at a huge financial loss, and create a new path back to the states? The problem is that it’s very simple for me to fall prey to my own instincts and start taking into account all of my sunk cost: the cost of the time I’ve already incurred and cannot be recovered. In fact, it seems to me that the majority of the people who have been stuck in this horrendous situation have also been stuck with the same dilemma.

Shall we stay at the airport one more day, or do we find another route home? I suppose it’s human to value the time you’ve spent waiting, even if it has no effect on future events. Me, I decided to make other plans. Now I can spend the next few days in transit, pondering the effects of a natural disaster on 21st century conditioning. Maybe my time isn’t as valuable as I thought. Maybe travel should not be so accessible. Maybe I need to get some sleep.

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