I was lucky enough to be a flight attendant for close to 3 years. It was the biggest risk of my life - I moved to Dubai; a country I hadn’t been to, with people I didn’t know. It worked out wonderfully. I loved my job, and felt completed by it.
A typical week was… atypical. Monday could be croissants in Paris. Thursday could be finding the perfect tea in Sri Lanka. Saturday could be a long flight to New York, made perfect by Starbucks in a golden autumn Central Park. Life was charmed, and I didn’t feel like changing it. But it changed me.
Initially it felt strange to have so much time alone, and to always be somewhere new. I got used to it though, and eventually, loved it. It gave me the opportunity to start doing things I had never done before.
My bravery casually developed into a wild confidence – enough to venture out in new destinations alone, armed with a map, a desire to get lost, and some snacks from the breakfast buffet. My routine was to take a bus or train into a city centre, and then explore the city on foot because I could see more that way. Sometimes I only had layovers that lasted 24 hours, so time was precious to me. It became habit to squeeze as many experiences (not just sights) into that time, and it totally changed the way I travel today.
7 years ago today I moved to Dubai for the biggest adventure of my life. Just a little shout out to some of my favourite people who still stay in my best sandy city, and the airline that was so good to me ❤@Emirates @stephanieanthonio @caz_mendoza @nickyd804 @raasbek88 @melanie.sutcliffe love you all. Here's to some cool adventures in the future!
I started little routines in the different countries, even when I just needed some downtime. I had been to Manchester so many times that one of my favourite things to do there was cuddle up in the cosy home-like hotel room with a cup of tea and old reruns of Murder She Wrote on ITV. It became my ‘recovery’ destination, when I wasn’t drinking Caipirinhas on a beach in Rio, or dancing the night away in Madrid. I got used to living out of a suitcase, and I got restless if I had more than three days off in Dubai.
Something else that surprised me was my newfound palette for interesting food. I was never an adventurous eater, so you can imagine my mothers’ surprise when I cooked her Filipino chicken adobo on a visit home. My housemate taught me to make the tastiest recipes, and I cooked them at home with pride. I think my family was the most surprised at the change in me. From being a dependant stay-at-home daughter, I had transformed into a domesticated, independent young woman with mean cooking skills.
Leaving my job as a flight attendant was one of the saddest things I have ever had to do. I mourned my job, and my life, for a long time as I struggled to get used to life on the ground back in South Africa. I felt like Free Willy. Kind of happy in my tank, but with a burning desire to travel further.
To belong to the world again, and not just the relatively small circle I found myself in. Luckily my boyfriend was exceptionally supportive, and encouraged me to plan my next trip overseas. Through his beautiful patience and understanding, I started feeling a little more settled. I will always feel flighty and will always want to travel. And, when I get that chance, I will never take it for granted.
I will pretend that every day of my trip has a 24-hour limit, and I will squeeze the juice out of every single moment. Travel has always been more than ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ to me. Travel is to eat, pray, love, discover, connect, find friends, be fascinated, be overwhelmed, get lost, find your soul and experience the unexpected. Always. It may not fit onto the cover of a book, but it’s the title line stamped into my heart, and I will forever be grateful for the person it shaped me into today.
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