Sara is one of the most inspiring and strong women I know. I wouldn’t say that we instantly became friends, but I did feel an instant bond with as her story began to slowly unfold as I worked the ground and she would come into stock her plane and fly here and there. It’s people like her that kept me believing that it would all be worth it in the end. Hope you enjoy her story from her perspective. Thank you so much, Sara, for taking the time to share. —Kara
“Saying yes to opportunities has opened so many new vistas for me.” —Sara LL
By Sara LL
The fabric of my story is made by my family back in Montreal, my longstanding friendships, and the new and wonderful friends that I have in Los Angeles.
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It began in Montreal where I was raised by independent, intelligent and professionally successful parents that were always very passionate about their careers. Seeing all of the hard work and effort that they put in was very inspiring, but also troubling. As I got older, I realized that not everybody felt the same way about their jobs as my parents did. For many people, a job is a way to earn money and something one has to do to survive. Not having a conventional 9-5 job was not an option, and it seemed to me that the concept of choosing a career for passion, no matter the earnings, was not something society valued. The norm was— become a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant, etc. Looking back now, I realize I had already started my journey towards finding a job that I would enjoy.
I chose to study Marketing in University and assumed that I would find my path to land my dream job (which was, at the time, working for an advertising agency). The struggle began when I started interviewing for positions that I thought I wanted. With only two summer internships and a Bachelor’s degree, one doesn’t go far without connections in the advertising agency world.
Initially, I accepted a sales job in what appeared to be a fun company in the advertising world. I made some very valuable friendships while I worked there and enjoyed meeting new people every week. I nurtured business relationships and went to networking events. Work became easy. It was the 9-5 job that I mentioned earlier, with weekends, holidays and a standard repeatable routine.
I understood what I needed to do to grow within this company, and that became my focus for awhile. I had a steady job that paid well, a steady boyfriend, and enjoyed traveling during the 2-3 weeks I had off every year. Looking back, I know I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing. What kept me going then was planning and counting down the days to my next vacation.
Eventually, a position opened up in a new office in Los Angeles. I jumped at the opportunity when it was offered. It was a hard decision to make, as my then boyfriend and I were considering purchasing a house to officially settle down (or so it seemed). I had talked about wanting to take up a professional opportunity like this for awhile, so we agreed I should go out to LA and see if it was what I wanted.
My first few months in Los Angeles were not the easiest. I didn’t know anyone, apart from my colleague. There was definitely ‘culture shock,’ which probably seems surprising to most people. Simple things like colleagues or new friends saying ‘let’s grab a coffee tomorrow’ meant to me that we’re going to get a coffee together tomorrow… but more often than not, it never happened. Why? Because, I think they were being polite, and it was more a way of saying ‘let’s keep in touch.’ For me, if you say you will do something, you follow through. I dealt with a painful heartbreak and being away from home at this tough time was very hard. I focused on work, working out at the gym, and exploring LA. Lucky for me, a continuous stream of visitors came from Quebec the first year and that kept me busy!
I then got bored with the same LA fitness classes, so I signed up for CrossFit classes. Thus, started the second major chapter of my life in LA. I met men and women who had the same values and work/workout ethics as I. We had similar interests. I discovered how strong I was which felt empowering both physically and mentally. I always knew I was athletic, but I never knew I could lift that much weight or push myself so hard.
A few days before I celebrated my one-year anniversary in LA, the company I was working for laid me off without any warning. That was a painful experience. That Friday morning around 10:20 am when I walked to my car with my belongings and thought to myself, ‘What do people do when they don’t work on a Friday morning?’ is still imprinted on my brain. Looking back it was the best thing that ever happened to me…but didn’t feel like that at the time.
That was the trigger for a new Sara to evolve. I remember thinking, ‘Oh I’ll go to the 11am CrossFit class, because I’d never been able to attend it before.’ I cried in my car before the class, because I saw this moment (of being laid off) as a failure. I also remember doing a lot of burpees in the workout that day, and I kept a picture of myself on the floor while doing the burpees and I wrote on it ‘hitting rock bottom’. When I think about that time now, I realize that that was not rock bottom at all, that was me bouncing out of the Corporate America lifestyle to a new phase of my life.
I coached at the CrossFit box for a few months. The owners invited me to be part of their team. I was flattered. It was probably the most rewarding job I had had up to that time. Observing how you affect the lives of people through fitness, week after week, is a great feeling. My friendships became deeper and stronger (as did my muscle gain!).
One of the CrossFit members, who became a very close friend, started telling me about her private flight attendant life. I remember her talking about how she would fly to all these wonderful places and be paid for it and thinking, ‘That just seems like the perfect job!’ Alicia suggested that I send in my resumé to the company she worked for as they were recruiting people for their ground team*. She helped me brush up my resumé, and I landed an interview (to my great surprise as I had no prior experience in this industry). I walked in, taking a chance and following a path that was out of what I ‘should’ be doing. I told myself it was worth trying.
For the first few months, I continued coaching CrossFit and working for the private aviation company. I didn’t sleep much and was always tired, but I was learning! There was so much sweat put into this first step into the aviation world (in every sense)! I helped out in so many different areas of the company, from helping the flight attendants prepare the plane for long flights overseas, to plating and preparing food for the company’s special events, to auditing the stocks on aircrafts. I was very envious of the ladies (and gentleman) who were being whisked away to these cities in the USA or glamorous countries in Europe.
‘If you want something you never had, you have to do something you never did.’ – Napoleon Hill
Finally, my time came when I was given the chance to fly. I went to Flight Safety school as well as Culinary School in Long Beach and graduated. I had my practical exam, which is basically a simulation of your food service skills on an aircraft, got my uniform, and started being a full-time floater with the company. (Which basically means filling in for any pop-up charter trips or for flight attendants that were on vacation).
This is where I had to rewire my mindset. One thing I haven’t mentioned about myself yet is that I used to be an incredibly organized planner. All my evenings and weekends were booked up weeks in advance. With this new type of floating lifestyle, I could never plan anything except during my 6 hard days off per month (8 months out of the year, no weekends or national/state holidays). I was on call 24 days out of the month— 24h per day. I always had my suitcase packed and my phone was glued to me. I could get called in at any time, go anywhere, and with anyone! I missed birthday parties (including my own), holidays, baby showers, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. The hardest part was adjusting to this new way of life. This way of “living in the moment.” I had to learn to enjoy every minute I was at home, but also the cool places I was sent to. I was forced to change who I was, to the core; becoming a highly flexible and adaptable individual. I am so happy about that now!
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”-Fred DeVito
In the beginning, I flew to Japan, Finland, Hawaii and a lot of cities in the USA. It was all very exciting because I didn’t know the USA very well. I was sent to many places I would probably never have visited otherwise… Birmingham (MI), Asheville (NC), Tupelo (MS), Winston Salem (NC), Aspen (CO), Houston (TX), Pheonix (AZ), Hartford (CT), Philadephia (PA), Cincinnati (OH), Des Moines (IA), Columbia & Augusta (SC), etc. I decided to make the most of each trip and go out and explore. No matter where I ended up, I would go for a walk around the hotel, grab a coffee at the local spot, run along the bike path or discover the local food, so I could bring it back with me on the plane. I also started to use those local flavors/delicacies as part of my ‘welcome tables’ (small boarding snack for passengers). I wanted my guests to enjoy the local fare that they probably were missing out on because of busy schedules and meetings.
After floating for a year and getting a lot of experience on different aircrafts, and with different passenger profiles, I finally landed the job of my dreams. With a combination of timing, an active Instagram page (@citoyennedum0nde), and my diligent work ethic (I hope that was part of it), I started working solely for one aircraft. No more switching clients, planes, and crews all of the time. I could finally settle and enjoy a relative peace and quiet (or so I thought!). I never thought my love for travel could become a source of income, let alone my only source of income!
So started a new chapter in my life— a chapter that is still developing. I now work with the same crew, mostly the same passengers, and constantly on-the-go following someone else’s busy life schedule. The plane has become another home! It’s such a luxury to be able to leave my work shoes and jacket on the plane and also find the plane in the same clean state I left it in! With this new work schedule, we sometimes stay in cities for a longer period of time. I’ve spent two weeks in Barbados, twenty-one days in Rome, one week in Monterey, California, and a few days in London among other places.
Throughout these trips, I try to meet up with friends in New York, Boston, Scottsdale, Helsinki, Rome, and London! I have been fortunate to have the chance to drive up to Montreal on long layovers on the East Coast and spend time with my family. How cool is that? Life also made it so that I was able to attend my cousin’s wedding in Aberystwyth, Wales while we were on a long layover in London! All these special moments make the crazy schedules worth it.
This new schedule still challenges me because the trips constantly change. I keep reminding myself of how lucky I am to have this life and to savor every moment. One of my pilots said to me recently—
‘ Your life is a big adventure because you never know for sure what to expect. Enjoy the journey!’
I have to confess I do miss my family in Montreal and my friends in LA when I am on the road. I sometimes I miss my apartment, although I’ve noticed if I’m in a clean, quiet, somewhat cozy and thriving new place, I don’t really miss it that much. I get excited about making my own salads and cooking my own food when I’m home. I also have somewhat of a routine when I am on the road, which keeps me busy and tricks my brain into thinking it’s an actual routine amongst the chaos of the ever-changing schedules, cities, and hotel rooms. I make a point of trying to work out and stretch for at least 1 hour and a half to 2 hours a day. Most of the time I like to run. It offers me a quick overview of the city. I get to see more of the architecture, the aromas, the people, the local culture, and style. I usually explore the city for another few hours; stopping at places I’ve seen along my runs and bring my camera and computer along. I use Yelp a lot to check out the cool coffee shops/restaurants, and I’ll make a few stops to work on my blog and enjoy the pace of my surroundings.
This brings me to my personal life (which I will be brief about). It is not easy to cultivate relationships with this lifestyle. I’m now at peace with the fact that I will probably never have a conventional relationship (wake up next to my partner every morning, go to work and spend every evening together). I know what I like and don’t like and will not settle just for the sake of it! I remain an eternal romantic and still believe that I may meet the man of my dreams and spend the rest of my life with him. I can wait because I know he will worth it!
So here I am, almost 30, living (part-time) in Hollywood, dreaming of living by the beach with my partner one day, and hoping to have a family eventually. Looking back on these last few years and everything I’ve been through, I realize that I am stronger than I thought I was. I know from experience that I can adapt and handle anything that is thrown my way. I believe that I have changed, for the better. I am much more relaxed, living in the moment, with my feet on the ground, but my head in the clouds!