I grew up flying standby.
It’s 1984…my father is a pilot for Delta Airlines (Captain Ron, FOR REAL), and my mother was a flight attendant for Delta who quit to raise our family.
It’s winter in Chicago, snowing, and we’re at the airport....probably O'Hare, I can't recall.
I’m sitting on the edge of my seat with my white pantyhose and Mary Janes…watching every move the gate agent makes.
Attempting to determine whether or not we would get on the flight.
I’m five years old.
My sister is three, and gets air-sick.
Minutes tick by as I watch passenger after passenger board the plane…hoping that 4 seats will be left for us to finally get home and into our own beds.
I can see the gate agent now huddled with another agent, looking at a long print-out of names…seeing which passenger hasn’t shown and what "non-rev" (an employee flying standby) is at the top of the list.
“Someone’s name other than my father’s is called.”
LONG LONG LONG PAUSE.
“Ronald Cop-----eeeeee----leeeeeee----aaaaaaaaaaa.” I have never heard it pronounced correctly, but have learned to answer to all variations of pronunciations by now.
I jump to my feet and start a happy dance that quickly gets shut down by my parents who are making sure I "behave" and maintain perfect obedience so as not to lose our seats on the plane with "bad behavior."
My poor sister wants to do dance with me, but knows she’ll be puking for the next 2 hours, so is properly green and sitting quietly instead.
We board the flight, the last one out that night…only to discover the seats aren’t together.
My parents stay with my sister in coach and give me the first class seat…as long as I give them the free wine. I don’t drink at this point, so that’s no problem.
I settle into my seat, and happily pull out my favorite toy…Lil' Me’s retail store. If you don’t know it, I’m very sorry. It was the best. You open it up like a briefcase and it becomes a store you get to decorate. You make the dolls wear different outfits so you can sell them to customers.
(My retail love started early.)
I am enthralled, and hardly notice my neighbor has joined me to the left.
I say, “Hello, my name is Anna. What’s yours?”
My neighbor politely answers, “John, nice to meet you.”
To which I reply, “Are you traveling for business or pleasure.”
And our conversation begins.
Please remember...I’m five.
The plane lands, we go home.
This is how I travel with my family until 2001 when I went on my first business trip with an actual purchased plane ticket.
I showed up in Delta dress code approved attire (at this point I’m allowed to wear slacks and not dresses with pantyhose…huge sigh of relief), and ask my boss how he thinks he’ll be able to get on the plane in jeans?
Here’s what I’ve learned traveling and what I love most:
1. My parents traveled with 2 kids for 21 years without EVER knowing whether or not we would get on a flight.
2. We never didn’t travel. My dad did a 10 month sailing trip from Lake Superior to Venezuela and back…we moved to St. Thomas so that we could be a part of his adventure. Having a family did not stop my parents from pursuing their dreams and passions.
3. My mother, who is not a natural-born free spirit or nomad, traveled anyway. She made sure my sister had McDonald’s to settle her stomach when she finally felt well enough to eat after the plane ride. She made sure my father could pursue his wanderlust. And she made damn sure that we had the manners to be in any and all social situations kindly, gracefully and generously.
4. We ALWAYS had to change our plans. There was a time when we got stuck in Paris, only to discover that we wouldn’t be able to get back to the states for 5 days. Sounds like no big deal, but we were in school at the time. My parents called the school, got our assignments, and asked us where we’d like to go? We were biking through tulip fields and accidentally taking a tour of the red light district in Amsterdam within 48 hours. A trip none of us will ever forget! LOL.
5. I learned math by traveling. My father always gave us “jobs” on the trip. Mine was to calculate the tip…and soon after I was doing our currency conversions. To this day, I still do all our calculations…and always in my head.
6. I can feel at home anywhere I am. My mother gave me that gift, and I apply it everywhere I go. Whenever we would check into a new accommodation…she would move around the furniture, get ice, put out the snacks and turn on the news. That’s what home felt like to her. I still find myself moving the furniture as soon as I check into a place, lighting a candle, turning on some music, getting snacks ready and pouring a glass of wine or sparkling water.
7. I love people. As you know, we did a trip around the world last year…and Derek would always ask me if I would want to do/see/hike XYZ. To which I would say, “I don’t really care. We can go if you want to.” Because all I really care about is meeting new people, learning about their culture and making new friends. The rest I’m pretty indifferent about…unless it’s food. That’s pretty important too!
8. I’m grateful. Every damn day. I’m not sure what your personal background is, but if you’re reading this on a laptop or smartphone….you’re lucky. Most people have more than they will ever actually need, and yet many aren’t satisfied/happy/grateful. Look around and count your blessings.
9. Share. The best thing you can do to help others is to travel…unless you are volunteering while you travel which is even better. Visit countries that don’t have as much and get your money flowing into their pockets. Especially if you’re American! We don’t travel nearly as much as other countries…and yet we have so much to give.
10. Chill out. Traveling is meant to be an adventure and teach you new things. If everything goes perfectly, where’s the fun in that?! I’ll never forget getting to the Bali airport late one night for a night flight to Australia only to learn that we needed visas…that we didn’t have. Poor us, we had to stay another day in Bali! Or that time we had our passports stolen in Santorini….or when we missed our train that was right in front of us because we were playing around on Instagram. Yep, none of it is actually a big deal. Rolling with it is what it’s all about.
11. One final thing to note, my parents traveled with us EVEN THOUGH my sister would vomit from the time the traveling began (planes, trains and cars) until the time we arrived. They didn't let that stop us, and neither did she. We all knew the pay-off was greater than the cost, at least I hope my sister agrees with that statement! They didn't let a little motion-sickness get in the way of a valuable experience to see a new place...meet new friends...try new foods...learn about a new culture. No way, never.
Moral of the story…get out there and travel.
Don’t use time, or money, or kids, or no-one-to-go-with as the reasons to stop you. Use them as the reason to make sure you go!
???Not enough money???
Start saving now and look for affordable options in your budget.
???Not enough time???
Plan a day in your own city where you plan it like a tourist. I recently did this in Houston, and had the best day ever!
TAKE THEM. Seriously, I beg you. They may cry, and you may be stressed and embarrassed….get over it. No one cares, and your kids will never forget the trips you take them on. My mom always says, "Who cares Anna, you're never going to see these people again?" I always remember that and it gives me so much freedom!
???Don’t have anyone to go with???
Come on! There are TONS of options for solo travel out there! Derek and I are even planning a trip you can go on, so that’s a sad excuse. Details will be posted, May 11th. We are taking 6 people to Oaxaca, Mexico for shopping, food and the famous Dia de los Muertos festival.
Okay, that's all for now. Thanks for reading, as always. And get ready for lots more blogs. We've been re-grouping after our trip around the world, and are ready get out there and play with you.
We'll be sharing lots of stories, travel tips, opportunities to work with us and special trips to travel to go on....to get YOU out in the world and PLAYING everywhere.
Anna & Derek & Duke & Barney (our TexMex dogs)