Vulnerability and the lived experience

Vulnerability and the lived experience

I focus on the lived experience because I don’t think people, things, and places become relatable until you genuinely experience them in real-time.  We currently live in a very picturesque world, and I see so many people trying to get the perfect picture to prove to the world that they have experienced something.  However, nothing trumps the experience, and it often cannot be relayed in the ideal image.  In the lived experience, you must be vulnerable, and a perfect picture does not show that experience.

Being a flight attendant exposed me to so many different people and experiences.  I remember people questioning my choice to be a flight attendant.  How could I spend four years in college to earn a bachelor’s degree and become a “waitress in the sky?”  The 23 years I spent traveling the world gave me more experiences than college ever could in hindsight.

I grew up in an immigrant family, and many of my early experiences came from being an immigrant.  As a child immigrant to the US, I remember not wanting to be different and accepting the vulnerability of being different.  As a young adult, I knew that my experiences were viewed differently and were unlike those of my peers, and it took me several years to learn to lean into my uniqueness.

When I first became a flight attendant, it was a time of genuine customer service and being “something special in the air.”  Flight service included champagne and caviar service, and it would take almost two hours to complete a dinner service with cooked-toorder onboard chateaubriand.

Vulnerability is admitting that the first time I had chateaubriand was on an airplane.  It was also the first time I had caviar, and I had been serving caviar for almost two years before I had the nerve to try it myself.  My regret is not having tried it on day one! However, I did not want to be vulnerable and try it in front of my coworkers.

But that was my vulnerability, and I learned through my lived experience that holding on to the vulnerability of not admitting my naivety was only to my detriment.  As airline services reduced year by year, I longed for the days of caviar and champagne service.  It’s an experience few will ever get to experience, and I had the opportunity to experience it daily and didn’t for many years.

What are you giving up by holding on to your vulnerability?  I promise you that the lived experience is much better than the picture opportunity.  Live and be proud of your firsts, because they will not be your lasts.  Have you been in vulnerable situations and learned from them? I’d like to know.

Five tips to become a first-rate traveler.

Five tips to become a first-rate traveler.

With my years of experience in professional and personal travel, many people have asked me to give travel stories about my experiences.  This interest makes for great conversation pieces and ways to find commonality with people I meet. Here are my five tips to become an excellent traveler and share great travel stories with people you meet.

  1. Be kind.
  2. Be kinder.
  3. Be the kindest.
  4. Be one of a kind.
  5. Don’t be that kind.

It’s incredible how kindness changes not only your experience but the experience of others.  We are all a part of the world, and being kind is simply the least expensive and most significant way to show love to others.  What tips would you give? I’d like to know.

5 Flight attendant annoyances

5 Flight attendant annoyances

There are many things that flight attendants find annoying. Some are more annoying than others, and some may not be an annoyance based on the individual flight attendant. The following are some that I still remember as being annoying to me. For disclosure, these are from my lived experience as a flight attendant.

1.Coffee: Having been raised and based in New York as a flight attendant, if a passenger said, “regular coffee,” I understood it to mean coffee with milk and sugar. If they said, “light and sweet,” I like most flight attendants had no idea how light to make the coffee or how many sugar packets the passenger needed. Some passengers meant just a drop of milk, and others wanted half milk, half coffee. Deciding how many packs of sugar meant sweet to a person you’d never met was a pointless guess at best. Like passengers, flight attendants are people from all over the country and the world; knowing each passenger’s specific coffee requirements was most times an exercise in futility.

2.Aisle Passengers. Most passengers prefer aisle seats because of the ability to have a little extra room. This preference was often a perception that overlooked the fact that the aisle they assumed to be extra space was the flight attendant’s working space. Airline service carts could be a hundred pounds or more and somewhat challenging to maneuver. Weighted down with beverages or food to serve the number of people on board, often proved a challenge for a flight attendant to operate. Aisle passengers often extended their body parts into the aisle, and it was not uncommon for the cart to inadvertently hit a passenger. In many cases, the passenger got angry at the flight attendant without considering that the service cart was at least 3 feet long and even higher. Hence, the flight attendant seeing over the cart, and the extended body part was unreasonable at best.

3.Touching. Passengers often think it is ok to touch or poke a flight attendant to get their attention, which is often very annoying to flight attendants. A flight attendant call light is within every passenger’s reaching distance, and using this is much preferable than to be poked. Moreover, a hand wave or similar gesture is universal regardless of language. Having your body nudged several times a flight could be rather annoying.

4.Lavatory doors. They are not automatic, and standing in front of them will not make them open. Often passengers would stand in the lavatory area waiting for flight attendant instructions on how to open the door or be told whether it was vacant or not. Bathroom doors, like every other bathroom door elsewhere, has a lock. Unlike most bathrooms, airplane bathrooms have instructions, and most often, if not in the native language, there is visual signage. Along with signage, airline lavatories also have an occupied/unoccupied sign, which in most cases are red and green and are universally understood to mean the same everywhere. To be seen as a bathroom attendant is very frustrating to flight attendants.

5.Asking “where are we?” Flight attendants walk up and down the aisle, usually positioned several feet above the window level. Furthermore, like most passengers, they cannot pinpoint locations 30,000 feet above the ground. Yes, several landmarks are apparent to some, but flight attendants do not have the luxury of sitting and looking out the window on flights, nor do they have an inner GPS. Your guess is as good as theirs.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes. These are perceptions of my lived and actual experience as a flight attendant. I hope they’ve been eye-opening and will make for more happy travels.

5 Covid friendly hotel stay tips.

5 Covid friendly hotel stay tips.

Having flown as a career for over 20 years I have stayed in many hotel rooms and so the experience has taught me a lot about what to look out for in terms of cleanliness.

1. Check the hotel sheets. No one wants to sleep on possible dirty covid sheets. I can’t tell you how many different times I have gone into a hotel room just dying to shower and get into bed and found that the sheets have not been changed. If you do this when you first get into the hotel room, there is plenty of opportunity for the hotel to fix the issue before you are ready to go to bed.

2. Make sure the sheets are visibly dirty before you check out of the hotel and prevent any possible Covid spread. I think it’s just a matter of kindness to the next guest and just plain hygienic. Don’t feel bad as the hotel should automatically be doing this anyhow. I always wiped the bottom of my shoe across the sheets before I checked out.

3.Place a face towel or hand towel on the bathroom counter to place all your items on. Especially in this time of covid you do not want to transfer any germs to your face or hands. It’s also a visual reminder of anything placed on the counter and it helps in not forgetting items like jewelry in the bathroom.

4. Take an extra washcloth and wipe the toilet seats down. I think we all assume that the hotel room has been cleaned thoroughly but my experience has shown that the toilet seat is often overlooked.

5. Treat hotel room floors like airplane bathrooms and never assume it’s just water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed through hotel corridors and seen the remains of a hotel room party gone wild. Let’s face it, the hotel does not have the manpower or capability to thoroughly clean hotel room floors, nor do they often have time between checkouts. Covid can be easily spread through bodily fluids.

I hope my tips have been helpful, check back in for more of my lived travel experience.

Travel envy.

Travel envy.

Having traveled both professionally and personally, I can certainly attest to the travel envy often directed to me even though unheard and unseen but very present.

As an international flight attendant, my job took me all over the world. It was not uncommon for me to fly to unique destinations such as Paris, London, Buenos Aires, Bermuda, or Madrid within the same month. At the same time, I was still a mother and a wife and had to contend with all that those roles entailed. I quickly learned when trying to establish a relationship in the community, to gloss over my job. Mentioning destinations seem to bring on the envy of travel and I would quickly say “I’m a flight attendant” and change the subject as many seemed to hear my destinations as a brag. I would get responses along the direction of “oh how nice” or “that’s wonderful.”

It was not unheard of to get responses like “what about your kids?” or “how does that work with your husband and kids?” With my explanation that it was just a job like any other, I would inevitably get the response “it must be nice!” To me, that was the code for travel envy. I quickly learned in conversations to say that I was “going to work” or “going on a work trip.” Always conscious to never say a destination.

As an ex-pat in Europe and Asia, there were plenty of opportunities to travel in those areas. Thankfully I had learned from my professional travel experience to not discuss my travel plans in depth when having conversations with family and friends. Here too, the refrain “it must be nice” was also heard.

It was an honor and privilege to be a flight attendant for over twenty years and to fly to so many unique destinations. However, it was also a job and many times after long haul flights, the only part of the city seen was the hotel room. My personal travel was quite different as destinations such as Bali or Bangkok were planned with itineraries and time to complete them all.

I can certainly empathize with the travel envy now that Covid has canceled so many travel plans for me. But I know as long as I travel, there are many others whose dream of travel is unmet. So, I am very careful in discussing my travel plans and limiting or tailoring those discussions to the audience.

Have you ever experienced travel envy? How do you handle it? Does my story strike a chord? I’d love to hear your take.

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