On the first day of seventh grade, as an ice-breaker, my science teacher asked each of her students to write down “two truths and a lie” and tasked the rest of the class with guessing the lie. Mine were as follows:

1.  I have two dogs, a Bichon-Poodle mix and a Great Dane

2.  Homemade freshly baked chocolate chip cookies are my favorite dessert

3.  Sometimes I fly to New York for lunch in the city

Naturally, everyone voted for New York, but the truth is, I only had one dog, an adorable little Bichon-Poodle mix.

Thanks to my mom’s job with American Airlines, seemingly outrageous lies like that have been my reality for the past twenty-one years. Grand Cayman for the day? Why not? Paris for the weekend? Oui! I have had countless remarkable adventures like snorkeling with a school of fish in the Bahamas, trekking 1,665 steps up the Eiffel Tower, zip-lining through the Congo Forest in Costa Rica, walking the medieval walls of Obidos, Portugal, swimming with dolphins in Cabo San Lucas, riding on the cable cars of Pão de Açúcar in Rio, enjoying traditional Bavarian folk music in Munich, marveling at the Colosseum in Rome and much more!

Though the non-rev life comes with its fair share of stress, anxiety, and sticky situations (it’s like Hunger Games: Airport Edition – may the standby list be ever in your favor), it certainly has its perks. It presents the opportunity to push you out of your comfort zone and flex the sometimes-uncomfortable muscle of independence, to learn new languages, to immerse yourself in different cultures, and, in some cases, to discover what your true passion is.

I visited Italy in 2006 as a nine-year-old determined to become a scientist who would somehow discover a way to turn trash into fuel (oddly specific… I’m still not sure where that one came from), but I left five days later as a nine-year-old awestruck by incredible historic buildings and determined to become an architect.

Italy was the first country I had visited in Europe and the architecture was unlike anything I had ever seen. It had life and spoke of its time and place. I remember exploring Rome and wondering how many feet had pressed on the backs of the cobblestone streets, how many hours Michelangelo spent perfectly detailing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, how many coins had been wishfully tossed into the Trevi Fountain, and how many inspired artists had spent their days on the Spanish Steps. From the incredible lasting construction of the Colosseum to the bewildering design and perplexity of the Pantheon, I am convinced that Roma is intentionally “amor” spelled backwards. Each day the city revealed even more of its story and I became increasingly passionate about architecture.

Fast-forward twelve years and I am just days away from moving to Italy for one year to study architecture in the city where I first discovered my passion for it (it’s official – tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain really does ensure a return to Rome). If it weren’t for my airline benefits, I never would have even visited Italy. Without a doubt, living the non-rev life has been a blessing! It has shaped me in many ways by teaching me respect, compassion, understanding, patience, and humility and has encouraged me to become a humanitarian architect.

Ever since my first trip abroad, I’ve had restless feet and an intense desire to see the world. Sometimes I travel to see things and other times I travel to do things, but I always travel to learn. Traveling is the greatest way to not only experience and appreciate other cultures, but also to experience my own self in a completely new context. Every adventure I’ve had has broadened my view of the world and the role I have to play in it. For that, I am forever grateful to American Airlines.

     💙💙💙

Katie

Meet Julia. Sometimes she flies to New York, just for lunch in the city! Now that’s #NonRevLife. The daughter of an American Airlines customer service representative, Julia’s been playing “Hunger Games: Airport Edition” on the non-rev list and traveling her entire life.

When she’s not zip-lining through the Congo Forest in Costa Rica, she’s studying at California Polytechnic State University as an Architecture major. We’re so happy that travel’s inspired and encouraged your passions, Julia, and we can’t wait to hear how studying abroad in Italy (for a year) goes!

Want to read the other winners’ essays? Check them out on our blog!

Author: Emily (@ID90 Travel)

Emily is the Content Marketing Manager here at ID90 Travel. An avid non-rev flyer (she grew up in the industry), and passionate private pilot, Emily can’t get enough of all things aviation. When not writing awesome ID90 Travel content she can be found on a Texas patio, being one with nature, or annoying her ID90T co-workers with her many, many, crowdsourcing questions.