Like many people my age, travel wasn’t a big part of my experience growing up. Our family vacations consisted of road trips and camping. The one epic journey of my childhood was when I was twelve, and all seven of us spent five weeks in a van, driving through “thirty-two states two foreign countries* and the District of Columbia” ~ a phrase we parroted to all who would listen (*Canada and Mexico).
Let it be stated that most of these places were mere “cross the border so we can say we were there” destinations. Although after driving over the boarder into Mexico, my dad saw that gas was slightly cheaper than in the US, so he decided to fill up the tank before returning to the states. He didn’t realize til after he’d pumped it that the price was per liter, not gallon. Oops!
So we gerrymandered our way all across America, camping at night unless we were crashing at the home of some acquaintance or distant relative. We bought groceries and prepared meals and snacks enroute. We never ate at restaurants, but during a large gathering of extended family on the east coast, a great uncle went to McDonalds to pick up some burgers for dinner. “I’d like fifty hamburgers and fifty cheeseburgers” he informed the employee. She looked at him standing there all alone and asked “will that be to go?” “No ma’am, I’m going to eat them all right here”. We thought that was a hilarious story.
I’m not quite sure where my wanderlust came from, but somewhere along the line I fell in love with travel. When I found out that Travel and Tourism was a major at BYU, I was exceedingly astonished. “You can DO that?!” I asked my guidance counsellor. I mean, it seemed too fun, like majoring in Chocolate or something. Wasn’t school supposed to be onerous?
I never aspired to become a flight attendant. In fact, during college I boldly stated “I’d never become a flight attendant; they’re just glorified waitresses trapped in a metal tube and they don’t even get tips.” I obviously had no idea what being a flight attendant entailed. I also thought the directive to secure your own mask first before assisting others was super selfish, “I’ll just hold my breath while I help others”. You could rightly say I was clueless.
I’d worked at a hotel before my marriage, but the first time I ever stayed in one was my wedding night. I’d worked in several nice restaurants, too, but growing up we just really didn’t eat out except for the annual “birthday breakfast with dad to IHOP or Denny’s” excursion. That meant Dad got to go out five times a year…which thing I was slightly jealous of.
So it’s safe to say I wasn’t really exposed to much in terms of Other Ways To Live. But one of the things I love most about my job as a flight attendant is that it has given me a few opportunities to go places and experience some of the different ways we humans have of living, worshiping, eating, being, relating. I really wish I’d had these kinds of experiences at a much younger age, because it’s so easy to operate with the assumption that your way of living is the “right” way, simply because it’s what you know.
Traveling to other lands and seeing other “right” ways of living has helped me to have a healthier perspective, become less-judgmental, and gain an appreciation for the variety of cultures, and a deeper sense of gratitude for the things I that I enjoy. I’ve seen some of the poorest homes filled with genuinely happy people. Generous beyond belief, they are an example to me in many ways.
I recently returned from a visit to my sister’s inlaw’s home. I didn’t speak any of the languages they spoke so there was much smiling, nodding and pantomiming when my sister weasn’t around to translate. But the love and welcome I felt from them was incredible. Things that we think of as imperative aspects of life (e.g. sanitation, screens and doors to keep out the bugs and animals, soap and water or at the very least, hand sanitizer on a regular basis) are non-existent in their lives, and there are a lot of things that I know I would find annoying initially if I lived there (e.g.: I could happily live without roosters and stray dogs everywhere), but I found my perspective shifting as I spent time among the people.
I still love eating out, and staying in hotels, and that’s okay. But the chance to experience life with the locals was a priceless gift that I wouldn’t trade. It’s made me more grateful and thoughtful about my own choices and life.
How has visiting other places broadened your life? Have you been anywhere that you think should be on everyone’s “Must See” list? Any advice or tips for others you’d like to share?