My fondest and most cherished childhood memories began with waking up at 4am, to make it half-awake to the airport, to play a waiting game, staring at my name in hopes of seeing a seat assignment for the flight. At the age of 12, my adventures began when my dad started working at Delta Airlines at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. Unlike our forgotten check-in bags which made it to Barcelona three days later than us, our experiences have been truly unforgettable; Barcelona was our first experience traveling non-rev and taught us lessons as well as exposed us to the boundless opportunities that were now available to us.

Since sporting my airplane attire in the streets of Barcelona due to lost luggage, I promised myself I would only fly non-rev with a carry-on suitcase; flights get oversold, and plans change, nearly ten years later as a seasoned standby traveler, I have learned how to discover the beauty of uncertainty and making the most of any experience you may stumble upon. In my personal experience, this has meant running from one end of a terminal to the other just to be told that there are no more seats, with no other option but to spend the night exploring Seoul, South Korea’s night street food markets, jazz bars, and sheep cafés until the next available flight the following afternoon. It also consists of getting text messages from my mom saying “run!” as soon as the plane lands in JFK to make my connecting flight, and other less than smooth journeys. Many people think traveling is always luxurious and easy, and although traveling nonrev can be more exhausting both mentally and physically, traveling unconfirmed and full of uncertainty, has made these experiences more spontaneous, exciting, and meaningful, leaving you with stories to tell when you finally reach your destination.

Since falling in love with traveling, I wanted to be involved in all aspects of aviation and kept it in mind when deciding on a future career path. At the age of 17 I joined an aviation private pilot ground school, passed my Federal Aviation Administration private pilot written exam, and spent the summer flying a single engine aircraft in the greater Washington DC area. At the age of 18 when everyone in my high school was committing to their four-year universities, I was using Delta to travel during a gap year to further understand what exactly I wanted to do. After visiting London, I decided what I really wanted in my post-secondary life was to travel as much as possible. London’s multi-cultural environment and central location amongst European low-cost carriers, made it the ideal city for me to study in university.

I decided to study Aviation Management at the University of West London, and I am currently going into my third and final year. Alongside studying courses such as airport operations management, air route planning and more, I decided to seek employment at one of the world’s busiest airports, Heathrow, to gain a deeper level of insight to the industry that has been a big part of my life. Moving to London alone at the age of 19 has been busy, difficult, yet rewarding, and despite two years of living on my own, homesickness seems to creep on me when I least expect it.

Between my school workload, and my demanding schedule at work, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner back home is not always promised. However, I try to go home as often as I can. I have always felt incredibly grateful to experience nonrevenue travel life and to me, nonrev life means ‘opportunity.’ Initially, it afforded me the opportunity to get away from home and explore the world and its different cultures, but now, it allows me to come back home and share these stories with the ones who allowed me the opportunity to experience boundless traveling in the first place, my parents.

     💙💙💙

Monika

This savvy girl isn’t just the daughter of an airline employee (her father’s a Customer Service Agent for Delta), she’s part of the aviation community herself! A proud student pilot, she’s currently attending the University of West London to study Aviation Management. You can even find her working alongside her airline family at London Heathrow Airport during the school year.

We can’t wait to see the awesome ways in which studying abroad challenges you, Monika, good luck in London and feel free to send us some fish and chips or a lock of Prince Harry’s hair anytime.

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.