Most forms of transport allow you to have a destination and then set off on a route that takes you there. You cannot do this in a hot air balloon. The speed and direction of a hot air balloon flight are dictated by the speed and direction of the wind.
This is one of the thrills of a hot air balloon flight, a magical mystery tour to an unknown destination.
A hot air balloon pilot does have the ability to choose the altitude of the balloon. Burning propane gas in the burner heats the hot air inside the balloon and this causes it to rise. Opening the balloon vent allows air to escape. This causes the air inside the balloon to lose temperature and the balloon starts to descend.
Seen from above, winds spiral clockwise in high pressure weather systems and anti-clockwise in low pressure systems. Nearer to the ground, the air tends to move in a straight line.
By altering the height of the balloon, the pilot has a limited ability to find winds to blow the balloon to the left or right, but there is no way that the pilot can use the variable winds to steer to an exact location.
A balloon rarely travels in a level direction. When is not being heated, the air is cooling off and the balloon loses height. If the pilot does not want to land, he or she operates the burner to heat the air so that the balloon rises. The pilot’s skill is to light the burners at the right interval so that the balloon more or less flies at a steady altitude.
Before the flight, the pilot will check the detailed weather forecasts and conditions for the local area. By knowing the expected wind speed and direction, the pilot can predict roughly where the balloon will go, but not the exact location.
The passengers may want to know about where the flight will probably go or may prefer that the destination and what they are likely to see on the flight remain a mystery. The fun of a hot air balloon flight is not knowing where you are going and what you will see. Much of life involves trying to control what happens, to set goals of what you want to achieve, to create order in the chaos that life often brings. A hot air balloon ride is an opportunity to let go of control, to take a journey into the unknown.
Before their first hot air balloon flight, people have expectations of what it will be like. The flight often exceeds expectations to become a peak experience that is never forgotten. Part of the thrill of the hot air balloon ride is not knowing where you are going or what will happen on the flight.
After your flight, raise a glass of champagne to toast your journey to no particular place.