Choose Your Own Adventure [Lessons from the Mile High Club]

I waltzed into work the other day (a small crew room in the airport) and opened my mailbox (to make sure I had gotten my paycheck) and inside, found a thick road map of the United States. It was fresh and new–smelt like paper and ink. I pulled it out slowly and smiled. My mother’s good friend was a flight attendant, and I knew right away it was from her. Inside, a note read:
Enjoy the journey — Always look out the window and mark the spots where you’ve been. 
Love, Cathy
It was a simple note. I started flipping through the pages full of green, blue and orange. Jagged streets– red blue and black. Full of interstate highways, cities, towns…places I’d never been and places I was going. I was filled with warmth and adventure. I put the atlas in my purse to read through on our descent into Florida that evening.
When my stomach felt the first hints of dropping, I pulled out the atlas and flipped eagerly to Florida. We were flying into Fort Myers, and I knew we would be cruising along the coast. The sun was dropping in the west, and the horizon was black on a fiery orange–sandwiched in between an oddly fresh blue. I tried to take a picture with my cell phone, but it couldn’t capture its depth and drama.
I positioned my atlas so the coast was facing away from me. I looked out the window toward the ocean and could see the deep indent in Tallahasse. I could see St.Vincent Island push further away from the last piece of land. I felt like the only person in the airplane who knew where we were. I felt secretly worldly. I felt like I was going somewhere, and way up there in the sky, I felt like I knew the destination. My feet were planted firmly on the hallow plane floor. And for once, it felt steady.
I highlighted Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Lakeland Florida on my road atlas, because we were heading toward a 3-day layover there. I scanned through the rest of the map and highlighted Washington DC, Las Vegas, Boston and Seattle. I couldn’t wait to fill the map with neon dashes.
As we came closer to ground and city lights started protruding from dark chasms of earth, I pressed my face against the cold window. Condensation ruined my peripherals, but I took it all in. Although plane windows are small, I wanted to remember to always look out of them–and never forget where I was. When you travel a lot, it’s easy to forget that you are in an entirely different city. I was thousands of miles away from home, and my road atlas was going to stand as a reminder of how much more world I was going to see than the average person.
On the back of the atlas was a photo of a winding blacktop road and a quote that read,
“Maps open a world of possibilities to travelers of every kind. Through charted courses and roads yet to be discovered. So, take that highway by storm. Navigate your business to success. Choose your own adventure.”
I nodded to myself. I was choosing mine.

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