Last Thursday I was in Dallas, Texas. By the time we arrived at the hotel we had less than 24 hours before we would fly back to London. A short layover compared to some other destinations we fly to, sometimes we get two or three full days and nights.
After diner and drinks with the rest of the crew the previous night, I wake up at 6AM – wide awake. In London it’s now 12AM so my body is obviously on that time zone. Not very happy about waking up so early, I desperately give sleep another try. I close my eyes and tell my body to go back to the much desired sleep. Without success.
I decide to go for a morning walk, on my own. I hate having breakfast in the hotel, too much of the same and boring. Unless it’s free – I’m still Dutch so I can’t say no to free stuff. As much as I love to be surrounded by people, I sometimes 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 some blocks in an undefined direction, I stumble across a typical American breakfast place. Scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes and maple syrup, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve never been here before, but I love trying new things. I love exploring, wandering around. See what it brings me, see where it takes me. Often it’s good, since I have no expectations and no expectations often means no disappointments. At least that’s what I tend to believe.
After ordering a black coffee, I have the chance to observe the restaurant a little better. It’s an old place in the style of the 60’s, and seems to be not renovated since. I notice all the customers entering the place with a loud ‘Hey y’all’ and leaving with the same ‘Thanks y’all’. Typical something of the South I found out later. There are a few business men whose jackets are way too big. Not sure if they’ve ever heard of ‘slim fit’, like we have here in Europe; maybe they’re just old fashioned.
When you have no internet on your phone, it instantly becomes useless – which 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. It makes me live in the moment, in the 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 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; (https://www.ted.com/talks/pico_iyer_where_is_home). 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 has been shot is just 18 minutes away. Eighteen minutes away, from a major milestone in both American and world history. Since I always try to experience my trips like it’s my last, 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. It changed America. It changed the world. I knew, 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 this is better.
On this incredible sunny Thursday in March, I’m suddenly near the place where President John F. Kennedy has been shot, roughly 50 years ago. I imagine what a chaos it must have been. A black day in history. With only a cross on the road, which marks 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 of the incredible weather there are very few tourists. Which 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 happened that 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 took me a good 30 minutes before I found a place with WiFi to order an Uber to take me back to the hotel. #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, makes me live in the moment. More than ever. It let 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 though I would ever be. To places I never knew they existed. Like standing on top of Devil’s Peak (Capetown), celebrating New Year in Singapore, walking through a food market in Ghana or seeing the Tokyo Tower with my own eyes.
This job gives me the opportunity to discover and appreciate the world where we live in and appreciate (the big and little things in) life. Those days, those moments, give me fulfilment of the life I am living at the moment. I believe this is why I do, what I do. And at the same time it makes me wonder; why do you do, what you do?