This week’s Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 contributor spends her days pushing 300-pound carts at 30,000 feet and then blogging all about it: Heather Poole. A flight attendant with 15 years of experience, she’ll be making her memoir debut next summer.
What is “home” for you? Is it a particular place or person or thing?
Home is where my fifteen-pound cat, Gatsby, lives. I’m a flight attendant. I spend part of each month living out of a suitcase. My husband, whom I met on a flight, travels over 100,000 miles a year for business, while my son, a three-and a half-year-old, has been on an airplane at least once a month since he was three months old. All roads lead back to the cat, the only family member with a permanent address.
When did you first hit the road? How did it go?
After I didn’t get a raise working a regular 9-to-5 job for a well-known watch company, I quit. Soon after, I ran across an ad in the newspaper for an airline looking to hire flight attendants. I had never wanted to be a flight attendant, but the pay wasn’t bad and there were lots of days off, so I figured I’d do it for a little while, and as I traveled the world, meeting all kinds of exciting new people, I’d apply to other jobs, ya know, the kind that pay well and people have respect for – something in marketing maybe. Fifteen years later I’m still flying. Life is good.
How did you break into the travel writing scene?
Blogging. I started out writing a book about, what else, a flight attendant! Think “Sex and the City” meets “Will and Grace.” After going through two agents and being seen by every publishing house – three times at least – I just could not rewrite the book again. I was done. After my son was born, I started blogging, just to get the creative juices flowing. Things really took off when the travel web site Gadling.com asked me to write a column, Galley Gossip. After a year of blogging, a publishing house came knocking on my door. Now I’m working on a book of essays about my life at 30,000 feet for Harper Collins, scheduled to be released the summer of 2011.
What travel story will you still be telling your pals in the nursing home?
A better question might be, which travel story won’t I be telling at the nursing home. Remember, flight attendants see it all, from passengers taking it all off after take-off to celebrity meltdowns.
Let’s say you could take a free trip with anyone of your choosing (a historical figure, an ancestor, a super hero, etc). Who would it be, where would you go, and why?
Angelina Jolie. Only because no one travels like that woman. Not only is she a pilot, an amazing feat in itself, she visits so many exotic places promoting goodwill. A few years ago I had her on a flight with Maddox. She was just so sweet, a hands-on mom (not usually the case for most celebs) and, if you can believe it, even more beautiful in real life.
Name one place that should top everyone’s travel dream list, be it a nation or a landmark or a village.
That’s easy. Italy. Because it’s beautiful and the food is delicious. Travel, for me, is all about food. What’s not to love about sitting outside at a candlelit table on the side of a mountain overlooking the ferries departing to Capri while enjoying a plate of crusty bread and cheese and wine in Positano? (Sigh.) I can’t wait to go back.
What specific travel resources (websites, guidebooks, blogs, etc) do you always consult when planning a journey?
Friends. I love talking to other flight attendants and passengers about their travels. Then, once I’ve figured out where I want to go, I’ll spend hours on tripadvisor.com researching hotels. My life is pretty hectic, so when I vacation, I want to relax, which pretty much equates to sitting on a balcony and letting the vacation come to me. When it comes to accommodations, I’m the queen of extreme. The last thing I want to do is feel like I’m at a “layover hotel.” This is why I tend to lean towards renting apartments or homes or staying in a simple, yet charming, bed and breakfast. Hotel Villa Rosa in Positano is the perfect example of this.
Which travel writers or books have been especially inspirational to you?
The Old Patagonian Express, by Paul Theroux. I can totally relate to his style of writing, since I’m a travel writer who does very little traveling. Besides a few weekend getaways and one big trip a year, I pretty much spend my time at airports, on airplanes, and at airport hotels. I love the way Theroux focuses on the journey, not so much the destination, and all the interesting people he meets along the way.
What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned on the road?
Make sure you’re familiar with the foreign currency. I say this because years ago, on a layover in Paris, I went to an ATM and accidentally took out my entire savings. Imagine walking around Paris late at night with a wad of cash in your purse. On a more serious note, I did not learn my hardest lesson on the road, to trust my instincts, to listen to my sixth sense, but that lesson has served me well, may have even saved my life, on a few different occasions on the road. Every person, especially female travelers, should read the book The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker. It’s amazing. Life changing.
What advice can you offer to women with itchy feet?
Stop waiting around. It doesn’t have to be your dream trip as long as you get out of your comfort zone and just go! Whether you take a weekend road trip or go out of your way to check out a new restaurant, new and different experiences is what life is all about. You only get one chance at life, so live it!