My first trip as a non-rev was a white-knuckle ride. I sat on the edge of my seat gripping the armrests like a vise. My back, ramrod straight, my overstuffed bag tweezed between my feet as my eyes stayed glued to the screen in front of me. I heard the voices of fellow passengers around me, but nothing could get me to unglue my hands from the armrests. Except one voice. “Moors, party of four, please approach the podium.” We were cleared three minutes before the boarding door shut.
My father, a Dutch ex-Marine, had just been hired as a Delta flight attendant for his language skills and, despite low seniority, we were bravely venturing into the world of standby for the first time, attempting to get to Las Vegas. While I’d flown before, it was only with the confidence of one assured of a seat. This was a whole new world for my type-A self. How could people travel without making plans or knowing if they’ll get where they’re going at all? How could I live with the HKs (“hope killers,” we jokingly came to call them) ahead of me on the list? My family, far more laid-back, gave me the familiar advice to, “lighten-up, you’ll get there eventually.” It wasn’t until later that I realized how prophetic this advice truly was.
Slowly, my knuckles grew pinker as I lessened my grip on the boarding area chairs over time. I went from Miami to Milan, Seattle to Shannon, L.A. to London and every year my love of travel grew while the size of my bag shrank. On a trip to Italy, I realized not getting on a flight wasn’t bad when I spent a couple extra glorious days exploring Lake Garda until we could get seats home. The weeks I spent stuffed into the back seat of a Fiat 500 with my brother exploring everywhere we landed reshaped my thinking about so many things (and probably my spine too!). My relationship with my family grew from our proximity and common love of exploration.
Years later, my mother commented that my shoulders hit the back of the boarding area chairs. I no longer stared incessantly at the standby list and my rolling suitcase evolved to a backpack a quarter the size. My view of what truly matters and why spontaneity was welcome had come full circle. I could now accept the idea that while I may have packed for Panama, I could end up in Paris and finally I was absolutely okay with that. More than okay, in fact. I just wanted to go. Anywhere. Always.
Today, my travels have led me not just to a better understanding of the world and my place in it, but a likely major in International Relations with a goal of helping solve Climate Change and the desire to pursue a private pilot’s license. The view from 2,000 ft, conveniently the cruising altitude of an average CESNA, where cars are just large enough that you can make out the sun glinting off their windshields, is pretty fantastic, after all. I plan to spend every summer I can working abroad and mastering German and Russian to meet these goals. I’ve fallen in love with change, and seeing the world from above often has made me realize any change is possible.
True immersion, and the personality quirk overhaul that began with my life as a non-rev in 2011, continues. Just like I shed the unnecessary things out of my bag and psyche, I’ve come to value all the simple things that are: change, spontaneity, and understanding. If it doesn’t fit under the seat in front of me, I don’t need it at all. My parents were right when they told me to “lighten up”; where I was going and when I got there was never as important as the experiences I had along the way.