Last Thursday, I was in Dallas, Texas. After we arrived at the hotel, we had less than 24 hours before I would fly back to London. A short layover compared to some other destinations. Sometimes, we get two full days or even two nights.
After diner and drinks with the rest of the crew last night, I woke up at 6AM—wide awake. In London, it’s now 12PM, so my body is obviously ready to be awake. I’m not very happy about this time. I desperately give sleep another try. Close my eyes. I tell my body to go back sleep; the much desired and wanted hours of rest. No success.
I decide to go for a morning walk instead; on my own. I hate having breakfast in the hotel. It’s too much of the same for me. Unless it’s free. Even though I’ve been living in London for some time, I’m still Dutch, so I can’t say no to free stuff. As much as I love to be surrounded by people, I also love being alone. I tend to experience things differently on my own. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different. More in the moment. More aware of what is going on.
After walking a few blocks in an undefined direction, I stumble across a typical American breakfast joint. Scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes and maple syrup; you know the kind of place that I’m talking about. I’ve never been here before, but I love trying new things. I love exploring and wandering around. See what it brings me. See where it takes me. Often it’s good, since I have no expectations. And no expectations means (often) no disappointments. Or at least that’s what I tend to believe.
After ordering a black coffee, I have the chance to observe the place a little better. It’s an old place in the style of the 60’s and seems to have never been renovated since that era. I notice that the other customers entering the place, voice a loud, ‘Hey Y’all!’ and leave with a similar, ‘Thanks Y’all!” Typical to something of the South I find out later. There are a few business men who are wearing jackets that are way too big. I question if they have ever heard of ‘slim fit.’ This is definitely a different world than Europe or maybe they are just old fashioned here. I don’t know.
When you have no internet on your phone, you know it instantly becomes useless. This is often great. Being disconnected gives me freedom; an escape from the constant impulses we get of work, Facebook, emails, friends, snapchat stories I ‘need’ to watch (before they expire), and so on. Not having internet makes me live in the moment— here and now. I grab a newspaper from another table and start reading the ‘Dallas Morning News’ while I wait for my scrambled eggs and pancakes with maple syrup.
Around 9AM, I arrive back in my hotel room with a satisfied stomach and a peaceful mind. I still have plenty of time before I have to be ready for the flight back ‘home’. I ask myself: What is ‘home’? It’s a funny question if you think about it. Pico Iyer gives a great TED Talk about it, if you are interested. Maybe that is one of the downsides of traveling— you leave a little bit behind everywhere you go.
Anyway, back to Dallas. After catching up with some friends from ‘home,’ I find out that the place where President John F. Kennedy was shot is just 18 minutes away. Eighteen minutes away. That’s a major point in both American and world history. I always try to experience my trips like it will be my last trip there, so I quickly order an Uber. I have never been really into (American) history, but this is something big. Although that might still be an understatement, this moment changed America. It changed the world. I know I would regret it, if I did not go. I hate missing things. While the rest of the crew has legitimate excuses— tired, not even awake, not interested, “JFK? Who?” I end up going alone. Maybe it’s better this way.
On this incredible sunny Thursday, I suddenly walk near the place where President John F. Kennedy has been shot, roughly 50 years ago. I imagine what chaos it must have been. A dark day in history. There is only a cross on the road to mark the exact place of the fatal shot. Daily traffic is driving by—like every other day. I sit down on a bench. Completely present in the moment. Observing the people who are passing by. Despite the incredible weather there are very few tourists. This makes it seems like an ordinary place.
I visit the nearby museum and walk past the particular window on the sixth floor where the fatal shot was fired. I stand still for a good five minutes, imagining what did happen on that particular day in November. The complete silence within the museum is breathtaking.
Soon I realize that I have to make my way back to the hotel to start my ‘ritual’ which I do before every flight; Iron, pack my bag, and lay down for at least an hour before taking a shower and making myself presentable again. It takes me a good 30 minutes before I find a place with WiFi to order an Uber to take me back to the hotel. Hello #firstworldproblems.
When I started this job, I never thought I would walk here. I knew I would see ‘the world,’ but never thought of something specific. While driving back home, I realize why I have chosen to do this job again. This job—this flight attendant life. It makes me live in the moment. More than ever. In an odd way, it allows the time standstill for a minute.
It’s not necessarily this place in Dallas. It’s the fact that this job brings me to places I never thought I would ever be; to places I never knew they existed. Like standing on top of Devil’s Peak (Capetown), celebrating New Year’s in Singapore, walking through a food market in Ghana, or seeing the Toyko Tower.
This job gives me the opportunity to discover and appreciate the world where we live and appreciate (the big and little things in) life. Those days and the moments give me fulfillment for the life that I am living in the moment. I believe this is why I do what I do.