I saunter up to the host at one of the restaurants at this beachside, all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. My bright green teal skirt is offset by the dark leather purse hanging loosely over both shoulders. A canvas satchel—that holds my ‘never-go-anywhere without’ laptop— weights down my right side, while my hands find entertainment in a bag of kettle corn popcorn that I sourced from the Thursday night market at the Marina. At the moment that the host looks in my direction to inquire the number in my party, the precariously held popcorn kernels slip past my fingertips and scatter absentmindedly across the restaurant’s entryway. Meeting the host’s gaze, I smirk and giggle and begin to swipe the crunchy spill away from the other dining patrons with my foot. He grabs for my bag of kettle corn, and like a disobedient child, I sheepishly hand over the remnants of my snack before realizing he is only teasing. We both laugh for a minute. Without missing another beat; “Room number?” he asks with a grin.
This is five-day layover and I have the client’s private chef flying with us on the trip. That means that I literally have nothing to prep and all the time to play. Spoiled much is an understatement. I notice the restaurant hosts chestnut eyes and how his bright railroad straight teeth sparkle in the Mexican sunshine. “3806,” I respond with surety to his room number question— which is somewhat of an accomplishment as I often struggle to remember these types of details. I once told the hotel front desk staff on a layover that I was staying in “8178.” The gentleman at reception looked at me inquisitively. “Are you sure?” “Yes. I’m pretty sure,” I say. “Well, our hotel only has four floors. Maybe your room number could be something else?” His politeness had me laughing. Before you judge me, I know I’m not the only flight attendant or pilot who consistently can’t remember hotel room numbers or the cities where they wake up. Eventually, I found my way home. You eventually always do find your way home.
The sparkly smile and follow up question snaps me back to the present moment. “Lunch for how many?” “Just one,” I say unbothered. The host pauses and with a tone of confused surprise and attempts to clarify my answer. “Lunch for one?” At this point, my smirk returns, as I know what’s going on. Why would some young blonde girl be staying at an all-inclusive resort…ALONE? “Yes. Lunch for one.” “So, lunch for one,” he reiterates as a look of curiosity dances in his deep eyes and splashes across his dark skin. I say nothing, but find myself considerably amused by the dynamic of how these crew layovers land me in some of the most romantic destinations in the world— always in threes or very much solo. Usually, it’s two old pilots + one me. Two old pilots plus one young flight attendant. Once you know what to look for, flight crews are easy to spot. It’s always the same, really. Threes or solo; because sometimes, you would rather be solo than forced to hang out with your pilots.
On this particular trip, I happen to be paired with a good friend of mine who is young, attractive, and kind. This adds another layer of confusion as we don’t look like co-workers, or that technically, he is my “boss.” We look like we could be a couple, but then there is this other guy following along. Added to the mystery is that the three of us got upgraded to a three-room villa, with a pool on the outdoor deck. I also carry a massive inflatable Unicorn pool float with me EVERYWHERE. Corporate flight attendant life is so amusing sometimes.
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But then, there are many more days when living on the road, out of a suitcase, with people you would rather not be flying or working with is NOT fun or funny.
There are many more days when flying solo is so lonely. My job was going perfectly, my marketing clients were loving me, I was flying to places like Galapagos, Rome, and Bora Bora, but I would fall to sleep with an ache so deep that I couldn’t explain it. I was lonely and it felt like an impossible feat to find someone who could fit into my schedule or that I would actually fall in love with. Dating was disappointing and all the advice that I received surrounding relationships made me feel worse rather than better. “Stop looking so hard and you’ll find it,” they said. “You’re not ready, anyway,” they would tell me. I would internally fume that, “How the fuck do they know whether I’m ready or not?!?!” And, “I am bouncing around the whole fucking world, living my life the way that I want to, doing my thing. I don’t know how much more NOT looking I can do!!!” Then, I would get another trip and go to another place, and for a moment, be distracted by what felt so empty. Be distracted from always feeling so alone.
Flight crew are seen as being so independent and adventurous— full of life and free, but there is an ache that exists by bouncing across the world in such quick succession that we can’t even remember where we just landed and where we go next. It’s sad really, how people know us and yet they don’t. They know us for our smiles. They know us for the way we can perfectly pack and offer the best destination advice. They know us for everything that they wish that their own life was, but what they don’t know is that loneliness is a universal epidemic. Or maybe they do know loneliness. We all want to have a place we belong to.
There were recent months that I quietly went through, experiencing a deep season of this intense loneliness. This was during a time I was praying and meditating and spending time in faith, but the loneliness remained. I wanted to boyfriend, ‘a someone’— or so I thought I did. I think it’s ok to admit the places in our lives where we happen to be wrong. I’ve since realized, I was wrong on what I thought I wanted and learned that, no matter how much I tried to trick myself into NOT looking for someone or believing that I was ok single, I had to go through the journey to fully understand the lesson. I couldn’t change my heart’s desire until I understood more of who I was.
I won’t go into details over how I have finally stepped into a place where my soul is truly happy living single in my fly life. The essential takeaway is simply this— if someone is telling you, “to stop looking,” “something better is on its way,” “just be happy,” or “you aren’t ready”— shake it off. They actually don’t know what’s up and are just trying to help. Be PATIENT with yourself. If you can’t stop looking, like I couldn’t, so what? I believe life will bring the lessons that you need to completely change your paradigm and perspective. What all the advice-givers failed to tell me about ‘flying solo’ was that trying to change my sense of loneliness or pretend that I didn’t want someone in my life was an uphill fight that I would not win.
Just stop pretending!
If you like him, you like him. If you want that job, you want it. If you hate traveling so much, you hate it! Own your feelings, mistakes, and successes. Once there, you will be able to move onto more and see how much possibility is before you.
It wasn’t words, advice, or determination that changed my heart or made the loneliness disappear. It was an experience that opened my eyes, as well as the belief in a God who loves me that has offered so much perspective into what I really want for my future. I don’t know if I ever, EVER, in the ten years I have been flying been ok being single— flying solo. I’ve always hoped, looked, searched, wanted guy’s numbers, waited for text messages, worried about if “he’s out there somewhere.” For the first time ever, I’m living with the refreshing surety that ‘my person’ exists. How beautiful it is that I get to become a more actualized and complete individual solo before sharing my heart and life with someone else? I am finally so grateful for this time I have now.
I have time to explore every dream and goal that I have and invest in that first. In the past, I thought I was ok solo and made it look like I was ok. I’m good at being independent and alone, but truthfully, I always felt like I was ‘missing.’ That I was incomplete. “That life would be better once…” “That I would feel better when…” Life is not that way, though. You never arrive at happiness or fulfillment but must choose to live vibrantly every single day. It’s in the process where the reward actually is found. What if right now was really ok? What if you are actually in the best place you could be, in this moment, and it’s only that you just can’t see it yet? I hope you find some comfort in that.
Whatever season you are in, whether loving single or hating it; being married or hoping to get married; having a kid or having your kids leave the nest— embrace your place. Acknowledge it for all that you love about it and all that you hate. Thank the Universe for it.
I’m not telling you to forget every desire or wish you have for your heart, career, or future. I’m not telling you that the secret is to ‘just stop looking.’ I believe the secret that everyone fails to tell you is, ‘Just keep living.’
Live the tears.
Live the loneliness.
Live the lesson.
And the one piece of advice that I will give you about flying solo or however you are flying currently…Ask the Universe for peace. Peace is power.