Since my current job keeps me pretty rooted in one place, I recently interviewed a series of professionals in diverse careers whose jobs let them earn a living and see the world at the same time — the goal is to provide some information and inspiration to all the cubicle dwellers out there who are feeling restless.
Oregon native Erika has one of the most fascinating jobs in travel. As a flight attendant, she gets to fly internationally once every few months while on-call and then pick up as many additional international trips as she likes during her off days. She inspires others to volunteer, work and travel around the globe on her blog, Erika’s Travels.
Name: Erika Bisbocci
Job: Flight Attendant for a major U.S. airline
What motivated you to pursue this career? How did you find the job you’re in now?
Becoming a flight attendant was never a goal of mine. I always thought I’d pursue a career in international development or non-profit work.
Yet, after I spent a year living in Namibia and fell in love with the unpredictability of life abroad, I realized that a 9-5 lifestyle is not for me. I needed a job that would allow me the time off to see the world, for I realized that no job would make me truly happy unless it afforded me the time, flexibility and opportunity to travel. Unfortunately, in the United States, very few employment opportunities provide one, let alone all three of these things.
So, with the encouragement of my aunt, who is a flight attendant herself, I applied for the airlines on a whim and have never looked back!
What are the perks of this career?
For those who love traveling, the perks of flight attendant life are unbeatable. I know many people would love to get paid to travel full time and becoming a crew member — though sometimes physically exhausting — is about as close as one can get without being a digital nomad.
While I’m always going from place to place for work, I have the option to spend my off days on the road too. As a flight attendant, I have nearly unlimited, free access to the world, as long as I fly standby. Domestically, I am able to travel without paying a dime, while internationally, I am required to pay taxes and fees that usually range between $40 and $90 roundtrip.
“When I was based in New York, I often flew routes to Italy as an Italian speaker. I would go to Rome, Venice, Milan, and Pisa often throughout the summer.”
Flight attendants have incredibly flexible schedules. We can swap, drop and pick up trips—working extra hours if we need to pay bills and dropping hours if we would like time off.
In addition, the fact that we usually have about half the month off allows us plenty of time to pursue other interests and perhaps even have secondary jobs on the side.
What are some of the challenges?
Though the positives of being a flight attendant certainly outweigh the negatives, there are many challenges that come with the job.
Since everything is based on seniority in the airline industry, junior people like me are often relegated to flying the trips with the earliest sign-ins and least desirable layovers. Being away from home for half the month, working holidays, early wake-up calls and being on reserve can all be challenging.
Do you have any advice for others considering this career?
It is easy to get caught up in the idea of visiting exotic places but, for most junior people, the glamorous aspects of flight attendant life really only become apparent after time.
It isn’t likely that you’ll be flying to Paris, Tokyo and Rome consistently, unless you are qualified as a language speaker. Due to the fact that they are often desirable, some international layovers require over 20 years seniority to hold. If you are considering to pursue a career of life in the skies, understand that the beginning will be challenging and that you will likely become more acquainted with cities like Detroit and Tallahassee, than to places like Barcelona and London.
In addition, the training process to become a flight attendant is grueling and strenuous. It will probably make you want to drop out. But stick through the two months of classes and compliance checks and take training seriously.
It gets a lot better when you actually start flying.
“Being on-call is not always bad. While on reserve, I was called to work a flight to Tel Aviv and met my friend who was living there. I spent my layover walking along the beach and exploring the historic port of Jaffa.”
What’s one lesson that you’ve learned in all of your work-related travels?
Patience. It is probably the biggest lesson I learned while living and teaching in Africa, and the biggest lesson that I am continuing to learn throughout my travels with the airlines. Delays happen. Reroutes happen. Oversold flights happen (much to the chagrin of standby passengers).
Whether flying for work or for pleasure, the unpredictability of travel has tested my patience and flexibility and has always kept me ready for a plan B.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
If you are looking for a job that allows you to live a somewhat nomadic lifestyle while still earning a paycheck, I encourage you to apply!
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