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Lessons from my flight attendant mom: Travel well and find your way home

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a traveler.

I grew up on planes and in airports with my mother Susan working for the now defunct Eastern Airlines in the 1980s.

Many hours were spent in airports with my mom, dad and sister as we flew standby/space available (aka: Russian roulette as my grandfather called it!) and often didn’t get a seat on the plane we hoped to take.

But we eventually would get a seat even if it meant returning to the airport the next morning and getting a flight at the crack of dawn. Yup, it would always work out one way or another and our adventure would take flight.

All that time as a little girl with my family spent in airports has led me to adore airports now as a grown woman. So many people complain about airports, but not me! Even with all of the changes in security and all that jazz, I’m a total fan of airports.

I love the energy of coming and going, arriving and departing. It fuels me.

I’m obsessed with journeys and adventures … and I learned this from my mom.

My mom LOVED working for an airline when I was a kid. It brought her much pride. She started as a reservationist at Eastern Airlines answering phones and helping travelers book their travel long before the Internet came along that allows us to now do this online with a click of a button.

She then moved into selling tickets directly at the Atlanta airport and at ticket offices around the city.

My mom loved talking to travelers about where they were going and why. She especially loved international travelers! Exotic destinations really got her blood flowing!

And she REALLY wanted to be a flight attendant, but she wasn’t tall enough at that time. You had to be 5 feet, 2 inches, and she was 5 feet, 1-¾ inches (darn!). I knew even as a little girl that being a flight attendant was her dream, but it seemed just out of reach (literally).

When Eastern Airlines went bankrupt, my mom eventually went back to being a teacher, which was her career before I was born. But she never really loved teaching children quite like she loved working in the travel industry.

And the industry, it was a changing … and eventually that height restriction prohibiting her from being a flight attendant went away in the 2000’s, making my mom’s dream possible.

And after 25 years of hearing my mom talk about how much she wanted to be a flight attendant, I finally gave it to her straight: either become a flight attendant and live your dream OR stop talking about it.

What did she do? She became a flight attendant (aka: in-flight crew) with JetBlue. She was in her 50s, one of the oldest in her training class. But it didn’t stop her!

Because of her length of service with JetBlue, she now has LIFETIME flight benefits!! Her traveling passion knows no bounds.

So not only did my mom teach me a love of travel, but she always has proven that dreams have no expiration date.

My fondest memories of travel with my mom are a winter trip to Switzerland when I was 15 (as a Floridian at that time, I learned the meaning of “cold!”); a 2-week European bus tour when I graduated from high school; exploring Hawaii when I graduated from college (highlight: tandem parasailing!); an Alaskan cruise when I was in my 20s; and a cruise of the Northeastern United States when my first child was just a baby!


Through my mom, I’ve gained an appreciation for different cultures, languages, geography, food and people. Thank you, MOM!

I delight in seeing the world.

It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with my husband Steven. He shares a passion for travel! Together we’ve been to lots of awesome spots in the U.S. and abroad, including China, Japan, Mexico, Canada, France, Spain, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Estonia, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Austria, and Czech Republic (and I’m sure I’m forgetting some!).

We want our 3 children to appreciate the world around us AND to see how BIG and SMALL the world truly is.

We want our kids to know how to find new destinations, deal with the unexpected, and enjoy it all.


And if you know how to travel well, then you know how to live well.

One of my all-time fave quotes is:

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

I’m writing this post after just wrapping up a family adventure to Montreal for Spring Break.


Steven took our son Sean to his first Major League Hockey game (to a playoff game no less!).

We museumed (my made-up word for enjoying a ton of museums!).


Ate delicious meals, chocolate and croissants.

Talked to strangers.

Went to dinner with new friends we met at the hotel pool.

Delighted in being in a foreign country and NOT buying an extra data or cell minutes plan, meaning we weren’t habitually on our mobile devices.

Found our destinations by car through paper maps (gasp!) and talking to each other.

Shacked up in one hotel room with all 5 of us (easier than you think!).

Flew paper airplanes in the hotel lobby.

Indulged our children as they rode the hotel escalator dozens of times for kicks.

Reconnected with hotel staff we met 2 years prior when we were guests at the same hotel. So many of them remembered our children … and noticed that we added an extra baby since our last visit!

Walked cobblestone streets and marveled at the architecture and history of an amazing city.


My mom taught me that it’s okay to get out of your everyday surroundings to find out what you’re made of.

It’s okay to get lost.

It’s okay to ask questions.

It’s okay to take off for weeks at a time to explore the world.

It's okay to take breaks.

It’s okay to love airports and passports and not being able to read the signs.

When we do, we see how similar we all are as people even though we may look different on the outside or by the language we speak or the currency we use or customs we follow.

If your eyes are open on your journey, it’s impossible to be unchanged by travel.

And that’s a very good thing because travel teaches you how to LIVE.

Family adventures give new meaning to the word “HOME.”

And isn’t that beautiful feeling of HOME, COMING HOME and FINDING YOUR HOME what we most want to teach our children?

Jenny Fenig is a mom, wife, coach and author of “Get Gutsy.”

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