17 Million Miles: One Flight Attendant’s Journey

After 38 years as a flight attendant, I've formed meaningful connections and made lifelong memories.

There is an intriguing lifestyle that has taken me over 17 million miles around the world. Through my travels as a flight attendant, I have met people from every walk of life and experienced places and events that can only be expressed through a journey called, “Walk 17 million miles in my shoes!” Like everything, there are drawbacks but only a few, like irregular sleeping patterns and living out of a suitcase; however, the perks far outweigh the drawbacks. One such advantage of the flight attendant’s lifestyle is flexibility; one could say this career centers on flexibility. The flight attendant’s journey has so many memories that need to be shared; let’s begin with my story. 

When flight attendants start a trip, they often work with fellow crew members they have never met, bringing them together in a unique way that resembles a family bond. There are family members we like and those we don’t. We have a job to do, and a part of us needs to be expressed, the part of who we are. This simple step leads flight attendants to get to know people quickly. Even though some of the people we meet are publicly known, like celebrities, every person has a story of a unique life. This is how I met my husband, who is also a flight attendant. We have explored many amazing destinations and magnificent experiences together.

For a moment, let’s talk about sleep. Do flight attendants ever get acclimated to irregular sleep? No! We use tools like every trade. One tool is to avoid adjusting our home time to a local time zone: for example, flights to Europe. After landing in Europe, our body clock wants to sleep; after all, we have been awake most of the night, our time. Our European layover time is an average of twenty-four hours, and if we sleep all day, European time, we can’t sleep that night when we return home. The best tool is to sleep only four hours, then, make yourself get up and enjoy the destination and have a nice dinner. The experience of local cuisine is unmatched, even by the best imagination. 

Like the unconventional sleep patterns, eating is not the traditional experience. Whether it be local wine with Paella in Spain or the anticipated Lebanese cuisine in London, dining together around the world is a bond that flight attendants share. Along with our personal dining experience is the desire to share with family and friends at home. Olive oil from Spain and digestive biscuits from England are favorites of mine. When the door to the world is opened, there are unlimited possibilities to imagine and experience. 

Living out of a suitcase is not the same for everyone. We all need our creative comforts. Some bring their towels, and others bring their pillows from home. One nice item to pack is a reusable shopping bag, and always remember to pack a portable umbrella. Know what you need and don’t overpack. A good practice is to pack the night before your trip and leave room to bring treasures home. Flight attendants tend to be world shoppers, and you never know what is hiding in that rolling suitcase. 

Unlike so many professions, flight attendants do not have set schedules. Every month we request the schedule we desire, and it is awarded based on seniority. Some want to be home every night, while others choose to be away from home for a few days. We can also live anywhere in the world, and commuting is a common way of life for many. Every flight attendant has a city where they are based; this base is where flight attendants start and end their trips. Another great benefit is the flexibility to work as much or as little as desired. The expression of flexibility describes a flight attendant so well. 

The lifelong story of every flight attendant starts with a simple beginning. Seniority and flexibility are the golden keys to our lives. We start out working the least desirable trips and dream of the day we can experience exotic destinations. There are so many amazing destinations to capture both here in the United States and around the world. Like every profession, we would like to start at the top, but seniority is held very sacred by flight attendants. Most crewmembers work over thirty years to achieve the golden key, not realizing the experiences are the lifestyle we have created. Many brilliant destinations, fabulous people, exotic cultures, and memories will never be forgotten. This has been a magic carpet ride I call 17 million miles. 

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