They say that love will make you do crazy things…
This past Saturday, I took a 45-minute train ride for love. I walked five miles for love. I stood on the side of the road for eight hours while I picked up one heck of a sunburn despite having slathered on a whole lot of SPF 30—all this… for love.
The love I’m talking about is different from the love I feel for my husband, different from the love I feel for my parents and different from the love I feel for my friends, my pets or any living thing.
I can’t control it and I can’t hide it. Heck… I don’t want to control it OR hide it. I love airplanes.
There, I said it…
I. Love. Airplanes.
I love the smell of jet fuel.
I love the hum of whirring engines and the warmth of the window as sunlight beams through the layers of plexiglass.
I love cruising through smooth air at 35,000 feet and I love hearing the two-tone ding that precedes the captain announcing he’s turning on the seatbelt sign due to anticipated rough air.
I love being pushed back into my seat when we take off and I love the butterflies I get as we near the ground on approach.
I love being in the air most. But when I can’t fly, I do the next best thing… I stand with my eyes to the sky, staring agape at the metal birds that weave through the clouds above.
I am not quite sure what it is that tugs at my heartstrings… the sheer beauty in how these beasts are engineered, the magic of seeing something so gigantic defy gravity as though it’s no big deal, or the way in which a big metal tube can bring people like you and me to places we’ve never been, thousands of miles from where we began.
Airplanes are remarkable.
Flight is magical.
Nothing is impossible.
These are the feelings felt and ideas held by people like the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earheart, William Boeing and more. Think about it… we as “AV geeks” have been roaming this planet for more than a century!
A lot about our world has changed since the airplane and the sky first met… but I truly think that despite our world feeling a lot smaller these days, our hearts can grow a lot bigger if we keep the magic of flight alive.
This year, for the most part, I’ve lived alone. And to take my mind off of that alone-ness, I decided to travel. I decide to travel as cheaply as I could.
My obsession with solo day-tripping began in March. I was perusing Google Flights (great hobby, I should add) and I saw that on Saturday, March 3, I could fly to and from Atlanta, all in one day, for $87 on an American Airlines Basic Economy fare.
First of all, I am actually from Atlanta. I mean, we moved to Minnesota when I was a baby, but I still consider Atlanta a hometown of sorts. And I was born in 1987, so naturally I saw that fare as a sign. I booked it.
I flew from O’Hare to Hartsfield-Jackson early Saturday morning with nothing but my purse (on Basic Economy I was limited to one personal item, but when you’re not staying a night, it doesn’t matter).
Saturday, March 3, 2018 was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I got to fly (twice!), hang out inside two airports, plane spot at a NEW airport AND explore Atlanta… from the Delta Flight Museum to the Georgia Tech campus and everywhere in between.
It was an enjoyable day AND it took my mind off of being lonely. I was hooked.
I kept my eyes peeled for similar cheap, same-day fares and by mid-May, I hadn’t just visited the “Peach State” … I had been to Atlanta, Tampa, Boston and Denver. Two cities I’d never been to, one I’d never explored and one I hadn’t been to in 12 years—each roundtrip roughly $100, give or take $20.
The key to making each of these trips fun and manageable was a lot of planning.
In Atlanta, I took two Lyfts (one from the airport to the Delta museum and one from the museum to the Georgia Tech campus) and then I took Marta (public transit) back to ATL.
In Tampa, I took Lyfts from the airport into downtown and back to the airport.
In Boston, I took public transit from the airport to downtown—free into town and only a couple dollars back to the airport.
In Denver, I took a free bus from the airport to downtown and a Lyft back to DEN.
In all four of these cities I had preplanned where I wanted to go for pastries, coffee, beer, dinner… you name it. I also walked a lot, and spent time taking photos at the airports when I could. It was awesome.
I knew the perfect birthday gift my husband Scott could give to me this year was to go on one of my famous day trips with me. Daytripping had become my favorite activity, and to think of doing it with my other half was so exciting.
I found cheap tickets on Spirit to New Orleans, and knowing I had never been there and that Scott hadn’t been there since he was a kid, it seemed perfectly fitting.
I waited… and waited… and waited.. and the day finally came! Yesterday, Scott and I hopped on the CTA blue line at 6 a.m. before boarding a plane to the Big Easy a couple hours later.
Upon arriving at Louis Armstrong International Airport, we caught a Lyft to Cafe Du Monde in the historical French Quarter for their world-class beignets. For $20 we got two orders of three of the French deep-fried pastries (one for each of us), a bottle of water and two iced coffees.
We then meandered down Bourbon Street to an awesome brewery, Brieux Carre, which had a great shaded patio where we could evade the 90-degree heat and enjoy craft beer.
After that, we walked along the Mississippi River nearly two miles to the Sneaky Pickle, a restaurant nestled in a tiny house that was said to have New Orleans’ best vegetarian food. We started with the pickle plate and two double IPAs, then we each got the tempeh reuben and split a side of fries. When we ordered, the cashier told us we ordered “the perfect meal” … and it was just that!
We left the restaurant full and happy, caught a Lyft back to the airport to explore MSY and take some photos of planes, and then caught our own flight back to Chicago (landing around 8 p.m.).
I can honestly say, I had a PERFECT 31st birthday. I did everything I wanted to do… fly, eat good food, explore and fly again, all with my favorite person.
If you want to see and explore a new city on the cheap, I HIGHLY recommend a day trip. I am more than happy to answer any questions you have or help you plan your day (within reason).
Typically, if you have access to decent public transportation in your city and/or your destination city, you can get by with spending $150 a person including flight, ground transport, drinks and food). It is a great way to explore a new place without spending a lot of money and without taking away much time from your everyday life.
It sure has been a whirlwind of a year, living in Chicago by myself, hours away from my family and friends… but daytripping every so often has made it a LOT of fun. And having my husband down here with me this summer has made it the best it could ever be. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.
Man, I can’t believe I only have five hours left of being a 30-year-old. It’s kind of depressing, kind of exciting and all-around unbelievable to me, since most of the time I act like a five-year-old and I often get mistaken for an 18-year-old.
I think in a lot of ways my first full year in my thirties was a “coming of age” experience for me. I’ll keep this short and sweet, but I wanted to share a few things I learned over the last 365 days.
1. Finding your passion and following your dreams are two very real things that can happen to real people, like you and me.
I found a way to incorporate my passion for aviation with my education and knack for writing (of course with lots of help and support from family, friends, colleagues and mentors).
Find your passion, start reaching out to people who can help you and ask for advice… ask for LOTS of advice.
2. Immersing yourself in another culture will change your life, for the better.
Completely on a whim, I was offered a trip to Istanbul to cover an aviation event last September. Many friends later and with no appendix, I can say it was the single best experience of my life. Spending time in a new place, though sometimes intimidating, can be humbling and such a great experience.
Just do it. Make it happen!
3. The phrase, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” is true.
I got offered my dream job at Boeing in Chicago and just like that said, “See ya,” to my husband, my family and my friends in Minnesota. It felt wrong and right at the same time, and while I love my job, my apartment and the city I’m in… it really is hard to not only live alone, but to be so far from everyone you care about.
With all of that, I’m thankful for my life, my experiences and the chance to live another year on this planet. Life is good.
The Big Apple.
The city that never sleeps.
New York City is something else—and if you never go, you’ll never know. Alicia Keys and Jay Z have it down pat… it’s inspiring, loud and “there ain’t never a curfew.” And for those reasons (and many more) it’s one of my favorite places on this planet.
Lucky for me, I got to spend a lot of time out there as a teenager visiting my dad who had a contract job at JFK Airport. With each trip, I got to know the city better… I could navigate the trains, the subways and the streets all by myself. By the time I graduated high school, I’d spent time there during all four seasons, and I loved them all the same.
My husband just so happens to have a soft spot (a pretty big one, I might add) for New York too, and we’ve been fortunate to make three trips out there together: the first was our honeymoon in September 2014, the second was to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2016 and we spent this past Memorial Day weekend out there.
Our recent trip was—as expected—relaxing and exhausting all at once. We walked miles and miles, long blocks and short blocks; we took the subway to Queens, Brooklyn, Downtown and everywhere in between; we basked in the sun, we got a little damp in the rain, we sweated and we shivered. In between all the getting to and from places, we sipped good coffee, indulged in tasty donuts, drank good beer and had excellent dinners (and desserts).
But—and I know this might shock some of you—the highlight for me came Monday afternoon when we got to photograph planes out at JFK DESPITE having flown into and out of LaGuardia (thank you Scott!). While my new hometown airport (O’Hare) is incredibly diverse in airlines and aircraft, and it’s technically a larger airport than Kennedy, I was completely taken aback by all the things I saw at JFK that I had never seen before.
While I’m obviously partial to Boeing planes, out at JFK I saw THREE Airbus A380s depart: Korean Air, Asiana and Etihad (my first time seeing the Abu Dhabi-based carrier). If you love aviation and flying, don’t even try to tell me that you’re not in some way, shape or form impressed by this whale-of-a-plane. How the serious heck does it fly!? It’s simply remarkable. I even saw another two of the double-decker supers come in: Air France and a second Etihad plane (this one in the special “Year of Zayed” livery—how cool!).
I saw Boeing planes too (of course). I caught a lot of 777s, all departing: Aeroflot to Moscow, Air India to New Delhi and Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong. Just before leaving the airport, I caught an ANA 777 floating in too.
And I can’t leave out the sleek, curvy, sexy, flexy Dreamliner: I caught Xiamen Air headed to Fuzhou and Aeromexico headed to Mexico City. Boy, I’d give anything to fly on that plane.
And, while it’s not Boeing, I did catch one aircraft departing that holds a particularly special place in my heart and an even more special place in my mom’s heart: the Air Serbia A330 heading to Belgrade. I snapped several photos to send to her, in honor of her heritage.
That afternoon, I also had the pleasure of meeting several plane spotters with whom I’ve connected on Instagram… some JFK-based, others from out of town like me. And even though, on average, I’m twice the age of them, it’s really special to meet up with others who share that passion. We’re one big family.
It certainly was a treat to spend a few days out east, and I’m already looking forward to the next time we’re able to make it out to that concrete jungle. But for now, I’m focused on the near future… see ya soon, New Orleans.