Friends in Flight

You aren’t going to believe this. It’s just too good to be true. You’re going to think, “Wow this really would make for a great TV Show”.

My absolute best friend, Kaley, flies for free as well. Her dad also works for the airlines so her family has flying benefits. At any given point in the day, I could literally call her and say, “Hey! Do you want to go to New York?” No we don’t have our own private jets or a pool full of money, we just happen to be best friends who fly for free and who have the bulk of our other friends in New York City. That’s not out of the ordinary at all! Pshhh.

ISN’T THAT CRAZY? Oh, and that’s actually happened before, multiple times, the whole “Let’s fly to New York today!” thing. In fact that was the case of our most recent trip to the city. Our mutual friend had a college graduation party at a swanky venue in Midtown, Manhattan, and we couldn’t refuse the invitation. We decided to fly up for that party and spend one night in the city. Are we Serena van Der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf yet? We wish.

I tried to come up with a simile for traveling with your best friend, but all I could come up with is: “Traveling with your best friend is like traveling with your best friend”. It’s exactly how you would imagine it! Two teenagers taking on the airport (and Manhattan for that matter) like total pros. We have had conversations about how our families would hold competitions when we were little to see who could navigate through the airport the best. It may sound strange, but as an 8 year old I took such pride in knowing the airport terminals like the back of my hand. OK let’s be real, I still take pride in it. But I can’t talk about that feeling with just anyone, because they wouldn’t understand. But to talk about that with my best friend? Perfect.

While we ride the Plane Train in the Atlanta airport, we both mouth the words that the Voiceover is saying because we know them by heart: “The next station is Concourse A. A as in Alpha…” We hop off at our terminal, T (we had come from terminal F) and head to our gate. Businessmen and women stare us down, looking for a sign of a parent and then realizing that we are traveling alone to New York City, a feat that they never could have done at 18 and 19 years old.

But this isn’t our first rodeo together. Our first time traveling to The City alone was when we were 15 and 16 years old (along with our other friend who was 15). We were in Manhattan for a week by ourselves, training at Broadway Artists Alliance. None of our moms were there, as so many other kids’ were. In fact, my parents were out of the country that week and I barely had access to call them! Talk about becoming independent at a young age.

Ahhhh we were naïve then. I remember the three of us linked arms walking down the street as if we were playing Red Rover, nervous about potential dangers from New Yorkers. Man that was a scary walk… all the way to our nearest Starbucks at the end of our street. Bravo, young Kaley, Kelly, and Ann Marie. So proud.

However silly that sounds, I do give us credit for being three young teenagers in The Greatest City In The World alone. While there were hotel chaperones through our training program, our moms had all signed us up for the option of walking back alone and taking care of ourselves. And we did have some hardships on the trip: Our hotel room was on the second floor, visible to the lobby. Our 4th night there, our lock on the door broke. We had no idea what to do! I couldn’t call my parents, but thankfully the other two called theirs. And of course the moms began to freak out. Maybe calling them wasn’t the best idea after all… I mean we can handle this, right?

In the end, we notified the hotel concierge (who we were friends with by name; Winston and Paul we owe you one!) and they called a mechanic to fix it in the morning. We alerted a hotel chaperone of what happened, and she checked up on us that night. We ended up staying in the same room, and barred the doors with all visible furniture possible. (Imagine three girls shoving hotel room chairs and suitcases to barricade the room from the outside world).

So much has changed since then. When Kaley and I traveled to New York last week, we stayed in Harlem in my Uncle’s apartment to which I have a key. We rode the subway like it’s our job and walked through Midtown, this time not playing Red Rover but playing Lets Blend In Like Locals. And we do! Little lost lambs, otherwise known as tourists, will come up and ask us directions. Now THAT is how you know you’re a New Yorker.

I am so blessed to have a friend in a similar situation as me. Not only a friend but also my best friend! We understand each other so well and I can talk freely with someone about flying and not have to worry about sounding spoiled. Score!

While we don’t always get to sit together when we travel, the flight is still so much more fun with a friend.

When we reached 10,000 feet on our way home from our one night stand with Manhattan (that actually turned into two nights because New York wooed us), I snuck into first class and tossed Kay some cinnamon rolls.

As I deplaned when we landed in Atlanta, I walked up to Kaley where she had been waiting for me. A brown package flew threw the air and landed in my hands: Brownie Brittle, a treasure from the First Class Snack Bin.

Now that’s what I call friendship in flight.

 

 

 

 

London Calling // Wide Awake In London

Most of the trips I fly are to NYC, LA, or ATL, back and forth in different directions between those three cities. However, this week I had the incredible opportunity to go on a “weekend holiday” (as a Brit would say) to my favorite European city: London, England.

I have so much to say about this glorious city and the magnificent vacation my parents and I had together there: exploring the city (with and without maps), touring sights that we had not yet seen before, and to top it off, we flew first class there and back! It was such a delight.

“OK wow I have to stop reading this blog. Seriously? This girl is extremely spoiled and talks about Europe as if she had a royal family there or something. First class? C’mon.”

I know. I sound ridiculously spoiled so if you decide to stop here, I do not blame you. Don’t worry, there will be another post next week. I won’t be offended.

But if you do decide to stay, listen up. The ONLY way I get to fly first class to Europe is because those seats are so expensive when flying overseas that not as many passengers purchase them (I’m talking upwards of $5,000). This means there is usually plenty of availability in the business class cabin for a Stand-By passenger like myself to get on. And I hate to say it, but my family and I only like to travel to Europe if there is a good chance that we will get first class seats. When we were younger, my siblings and I would joke that the plane ride was our favorite part of traveling overseas because we got to watch free movies and eat ice cream sundaes, getting a taste of the “Glamorous” life that Fergie sang about on the radio. I know, spoiled brats, right?

But I truly am grateful for the opportunity to fly and vacation to so many incredible destinations. Most of the expense of traveling across the pond is the plane ticket, so to be able to have the opportunity to fly anywhere is truly a gift. I have been fortunate enough to experience other parts of the world and immerse myself in other cultures starting at a young age. I was 10 years old when we went to Europe for the first time. Destination: Paris, France. Since then, I have been to Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Munich, Salzburg, Brussels, and London (now twice!).

What most people get hung up on is the length of our trips. Our family tradition is to go to a European city for three nights only. Yep. Three nights. And actually, this most recent trip to London was only supposed to be two nights, until I convinced my mom to stay a third (which I will talk about in a minute). Because we can pop into a city whenever we desire based on the flight availability, we don’t have to stay for multiple weeks to make up for the high cost of the flight. Plus, when my family vacations, there is not time for relaxation- we are doers. We always follow an extremely tight schedule that has been planned so that we can fully experience the city in the short amount of time that we’re there (Or try to at least- sometimes the city just has so much to offer that we can’t get all of the sights in, just as we felt about our previous trip to London four and a half years ago).

So what did my parents and I do this time in London vs. the last time we were here? Last time: The Tower of London, King’s Cross Station (Platform 9 ¾), Abbey Road, Harrods, Southbank, The British Museum, Covent Gardens, and a bus tour. My whole family, 3 nights, staying in an apartment right off the Bakerloo Tube line.

This time, only three family members were present. We stayed at a hotel in Piccadilly Circus, the London equivalent to Times Square. Our hotel was central to everything we wanted to experience, so it was perfect as far as location goes, but also amusing because it was so central that it was as if we were staying in Times Square. (And if you are a regular to NYC, you know that this is the last place you want to stay).

Despite the sea of people right outside our hotel, I fell in love with this city even more. Surprisingly, my parents and I did not have a plan, and just left everything up to our instincts and desires. The point of the vacation was to not stress out but to truly relax and enjoy our time. And we certainly did.

We toured Westminster Abbey, rode The London Eye, stumbled upon the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, took a stroll through the St. James Garden, explored the Winston Churchill Museum, and wandered around Covent Gardens and Trafalgar Square.

We also saw a show on the West End! Growing up as a theatre kid, it has been my dream to see a show in London, Europe’s equivalent to Broadway. We decided to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, a brilliant show whose technical execution and staging blew me away. The plot was so different from anything I’ve ever seen, and the actors were incredible (and not mic-ed! That is the European way. No mics are used in any show!).

Our last day in London, Sunday, my parents and I were walking through the Theatre district when I noticed a marquee with my favorite actor, Kit Harington on it. He plays Jon Snow in HBO’s Game of Thrones, and I am absolutely obsessed with him. We tried to go into the box office to get tickets for the show, Doctor Faustus, however in London the theatres are dark on Sundays for their day off (performing again on Mondays unlike in New York). This particular show is Kit’s first appearance onstage since playing the lead in War Horse before he was cast on Game of Thrones. Because of his shoot schedule, this performance has a limited run until June 25th. This was my one shot to see the show, but we were supposed to leave Monday morning. However, somehow I convinced my mom to stay with me another day: I would pay for the tickets to the show and the hotel room for that night. My dad would go home to Atlanta because he had to go back to work, and my mom and I would transfer hotels to Covent Gardens.

And let me tell you, it was worth it. Doctor Faustus was interesting and very dark, however I learned so much about themes of price worth paying for fame and fortune. I had the opportunity to meet my favorite actor and my mom and I were in box seats at the theatre. On top of that, we had a wonderful afternoon exploring Soho and literally turning down random streets that we thought were quaint, wandering around like we were locals. It was magic.

I know this post has been very long, but how could it not be? London is my favorite city in the world. Not only did I come to love it in new ways this trip, but also I found pure joy and learned a valuable lesson.

Part of the reason for taking this weekend holiday was to take a break from the “A” word. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been advised to find happiness outside of the acting business and enjoy life to the fullest. So, coming into this trip, I booked out with my agents, and let go of any thoughts about acting. I had had two auditions and a callback before I left, but they never entered my mind during our stay. And you know what? I had one of the best weekends of my life- I had a wonderful time in my parent’s company. The irony: acting was still all around me, and I was HAPPY about it! We ran into a Warner Brothers film set for a new Ryan Reynolds/ Samuel L. Jackson movie, and saw two shows on the West End.

Our last night, at 1:30 am London time, just as my mom and I were about to turn off the lights for good and I doing my final scroll of my Facebook feed, I got a message from my agents. They asked if I could call, yet I couldn’t because I can only use Wi-Fi on my cellphone in Europe. The first thought that entered my head: “Oh no, I have an audition tomorrow and now that I decided to stay in London another day, I may miss it”. But then I read the words, “You booked it Kelly! You booked (insert the name of a TV Show here)”. I was overcome with happiness, excitement, and disbelief, shaking uncontrollably. No longer was there an ounce of tiredness in my bones. I came to London to let go, and once I truly allowed myself to do so, God showed me that enjoying life and His creation leaves for more opportunity for His purpose to prevail.

*

I used to have an extreme fear of jet lag when traveling to Europe; a fear that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Of course, when I was overcome with this anxiety, I lay awake for hours. However, during this trip to London, I slept soundly every night. Falling asleep was a breeze and I truly latched onto the time zone!

Last night, after I received the news of my booking at 1:30 am, I could not fall asleep for hours. My mom and I were overjoyed, texting friends and family and squealing with delight over the wonderful news. We couldn’t fall asleep until 4 am. We were wide-awake in London, yet I wasn’t afraid about not being able to sleep. I didn’t mind at all. Besides, I knew we had lay-flat seats in first class on the way home to rest on.

The Fly Girl

Come Fly With Me

In 2015, I boarded 85 planes and flew 85 times. This number means I flew on average at least once a week, sometimes two. [My record however was 6 planes in 7 days]. No, I am not a businessman, nor do I work for a company that requires me to travel back and forth to some mundane office job. I am not even of age to work in an office, nor do I ever intend too (no offense to anyone who does, it’s just not the path of life that I am on).

My name is Kelly, and I am 19 years old. I have the incredible blessing of flying for free- my dad is a pilot, so my family and I have free flying benefits. I can go anywhere in the world for free as a Stand-By passenger- this means that if there is an empty seat on the plane, I can hop on and take that seat. (With some priority rules of course, which I will discuss in later blog posts)

I am an actress. I work in TV/Film, Voiceover, Commercials, and Musical Theatre. Most actors plant themselves in one city in hopes to conquer that particular market (The Big 3 Cities being LA, New York, or Atlanta). However, with my flying benefits, my parents and I have come up with a schedule where I am able to fully and completely work in all three markets, commuting back and forth from each, and changing my home base every once in a while. I recently moved back to my hometown near Atlanta for the summer, however I will be commuting to LA and NYC quite often. For what, you might ask? Auditions, workshops, classes, networking opportunities, and to visit friends. I have agency representation and free lodging in all three cities, so I am able to be a local hire and audition in all of the major markets! I do not take this opportunity lightly- while I am young and have the ability, why not take advantage of my circumstance and also pursue my dreams?

But this blog is NOT about acting. In fact, I am doing this because writing is a hobby I very much enjoy, and takes me out from under the cloud of stress that constantly hangs over my head. Recently I have been told that I need to find other things in life that make me happy, anything but acting. My fierce passion for my career has a tendency of consuming my everyday thought, and consistently holds the key to my happiness. However, I only have one life, and I am beginning to realize that the best way to enjoy it is by maintaining strong relationships with people I care about, and doing the things that I love. I love to act, but if working as an actor equals my happiness in life, then I will probably never work. It’s the ease of acting, the radiant joy that comes from within combined with the skill (and mostly the look) that you have, that books you the job. If you are in your left side of the brain, thinking about how badly you want the job and piling up pressure on yourself, your body will crack in the audition room. As an actor, I balance on a thin wire. In order to avoid the sharks circling beneath my feet, I must think about anything other than the potential of falling while walking on the tight rope.

[I know. I just talked about acting. THAT IS THE LAST TIME! This blog is indeed about traveling, and I will only mention the “A” word again if it pertains to my reason for hopping on another plane. ]

This blog is about my experiences traveling. Not necessarily the destinations I go and the “cool” spots to visit, but the experiences I have as a 19-year old girl flying alone. I meet so many people from all walks of life, and go through so many crazy situations on a typical travel day. I will also include passages about my favorite airports, the cheapest and easiest modes of transportation when arriving in a city, my go-to travel essentials, in-flight entertainment, and details of current trips plus flashbacks from when I was young.

One last thing: I do not think I am better than anyone. (And if it sounds like I do from this post, please tell me). I am not trying to promote myself and get a following online. I am very aware of how spoiled I sound when I talk about flying, and trust me, I am trying my best to avoid that air. I am insurmountably grateful for this life that God has given me and for this unbelievable benefit I was dealt.

Honestly, I never would have decided to blog about my experiences if it weren’t for the encouragement of my boyfriend, Parker, and a recent encounter with a casting director named Kim. I lightly mentioned to Kim in conversation that I flew in that afternoon for a workshop she was teaching, and intended to fly out the next morning. She was intrigued, and soon we began talking for 25 minutes about my situation and my experiences. I mentioned that I had thought about writing a blog, and she immediately responded, “YES. Also, write a Pilot”, no pun intended, “This would be such an entertaining show”.

For now, I am sticking with the blog. I hope that you enjoy my posts and if you feel compelled, share them with your friends! (But if you don’t, then that’s fine too. Because again, I am not trying to promote myself)

Thank you for flying with me!

The Fly Girl