Moving through the landscapes of understanding people use cars, boats, balloons, bikes or other things

Text and drawings by Frits Ahlefeldt

When constructing reality in metaphorical ways people often use vehicles to describe both their movement, their speed and any challenge they might meet on their way. Going down with your ship or a plane is not the same as when a project run of the tracks, get stuck in the mud or meet a full stop sign.  Descriptions often used when explaining how things are doing. Here is a collection of different means of transportation and drawings to show the reality they create


Cars are one of the most used metaphors today, people talk about running out of fuel, or replacing a part that is defunct. Also meanings like “to stay on the road” , “seeing things in the rear view mirror” or being a “back seat driver” takes their logic from driving cars.

Illustration of a car with eyes.

Many of us see reality through the eyes of our cars, spending more time in them than we do in nature, each day

Ships and boats

The ways we move on water creates a different reality where other things get into focus. Sail ships are often seen as the foundation of the long lasting images of how we can see reality as from the deck of a ship… if it is not like we missed it, and was left back on the pier… or waiting for our ship to enter safe harbor. You can be a captain in your own life or in a family or a company. Facing rough sea or being lost at sea, struggling to keep your head above water. Still no matter what happens wind in the sails promises good progress, even if at the same time people are fired and have to leave the ship to an uncertain future and sharks:

Drawing of a ship with people walking the plank

One of the used ship images is when people are sacked and has to start walking the plank



Trains again describe a different way to see reality. Being locked to follow the tracks, putting up steam and keeping the time-table. images related to trains are often used to describe project management or economy. There is a locomotive of the western world and if people are unlucky it can be because the train didn’t stop at their station, or they where on the wrong platform.

Train running on music, not coal, drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt

Trains are often used to describe things going according to plan, like a well-played music track

Air Balloons

These legendary flying baskets, drifting with the winds are also used a lot to describe reality. Warm air is what keep some people up, drifting with the wind and out of reach.

Drawing of two people in an air balloon, flying high on feelings

Air-balloons like love, can get things off the ground

Planes and pilots

Coming in to land is returning home, like a Boeing 747, and from up there you can use your helicopter perspective to explain what reality is all about. Turbulence or losing an engine is also a way to describe rough times. And when things go down they could turn into the famous “spiral of death” that any company fear.  All images taken from the world of aviation

Drawing of a plane, covered in plants, loosing bolts,

Loosing biodiversity is like a plane loosing bolts is one of the ways I’ve heard the plane image used

There are many other metaphorical descriptions related to machines we use to move around. Buses you can’t get off, submarines that keep out of sight and rockets that sends one into orbit… to name a few.

Collection of drawings showing vehicle based understandings of reality: