‘Cabin crew’, a role that by it’s very nature involves being with people for hours on end, seems like the last career in which you would find lonely people.
Cocktails at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
Dinner and Don Pedros in South Africa with the crew.
Wandering around Wonders of the World and far flung places.
As crew, I regularly go on these adventures with people who were strangers only 24 hours earlier and yet, through jumpseat chats at 1am somewhere over the Atlantic, they have become friends, and occasionally close and lasting ones.
My life as cabin crew, as depicted in photos I share, can often seem to others like I am forever surrounded by people, doing something exciting day in, day out, in yet another exotic or quirky destination.
But the reality can be very different.
For starters, you don’t always gel with the crew you are with or can sometimes find yourself alone for days if others are after a ‘chilled one’, a.k.a. lie in bed with Netflix and room service.
There is of course nothing wrong with this – alone isn’t the same as being lonely after all and I love a chilled trip to recharge as much as the next person (room service is one of the things I have missed whilst on furlough, don’t judge!), BUT it is always an active decision made in line with what I believe I need in that instance, namely to recover, recharge and relax.
However, long trips, like a 9 day gallivant to Singapore can become incredibly lonely if you don’t have anyone to explore or socialise with. I am also guilty of often wishing someone from home could be there with me, as I want to see these new places and experience these things with them and not necessarily the crew. This can be tough.
Secondly, it may sound ungrateful to the ears of those who are less travelled, but… returning to the same destination time and again can get a little boring if you’re not careful, and it is easy to slip into a cycle of isolation down route, soaking up the silence of a hotel room and choosing to do nothing.
Particularly with Covid-19 being so prevalent around the world, loneliness amongst crew is perhaps more of an issue than before – forcible isolation in hotel rooms, all social scenes closed for the foreseeable, you know how it is these days.
Recently, with my own furlough ending abruptly, I’ve been thinking about occasions when I have felt truly lonely when away from home and how I overcame that or what I could have done differently to avoid it.
So here are five ways I try to beat the loneliness bug as crew.
1. GET OUT FOR A WALK
Around the hotel complex, to a shopping centre, down the street, any street, to Starbucks, a park bench to people watch. Whether it’s a five minute or five hour walk, I have always found walking, even if alone, helps ease or avoid loneliness.
I don’t enjoy shopping particularly (I know…what is wrong with me?!) But a quick walk to a store just to look around and be amongst other people is sometimes enough of a remedy for loneliness. A quick purchase of a hot chocolate at Starbucks or a chat with the hotel concierge about where is great for a quick walk means valuable time interacting and being with others. Ask them about their day, make it a meaningful exchange and I promise you will feel slightly better.
2. USE THAT HOTEL GYM!
Or do a quick 10 minute youtube workout in your hotel room!
Those of you who know me know I can be quite averse to exercise, but when downroute as crew I find myself using the gym on the regular. You may not see or speak to anyone when sweating it out on the treadmill, but those little hormonal powerhouses called endorphins that you produce when you exercise are proven to elevate your mood when you are down. You also feel more productive; even if you do nothing else that day, you’ve done a small workout and that, my friend, is a great achievement. Not only that, but it will also help you sleep better, which is all important when it comes to tackling jetlag.
3. VIDEO CALL FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Perhaps an obvious one?
Talking to friends and family back home can be incredibly beneficial if I am feeling a little lonely. We are lucky to have so many platforms to speak with family these days and to see their faces when we need it most: Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, the list goes on. I always feel better after a catch up with my loved ones back home and a quick ‘pupdate’ on my dog (see example of ‘pupdates’ below…).
This does come with a little disclaimer though. While I always try to video call if I am away, time zone changes can make this tough, in addition to the fact they could be working during my layover. When downroute, we have all that time to ourselves to wait but our loved ones may not. So, it’s important not to rely on this as the only means to combating loneliness when away. If I can’t video chat, I’ll send and ask for little video updates or photos of their day so I can feel slightly closer to them. But I would makesure I am doing at least one of the other activities to avoid just sitting in my room waiting for a reply.
Find a good book and get stuck in – there’s nothing like a bit of escapism to transport you out of your hotel room and into another world (mentally, of course). My own preference is historical fiction, but many of my colleagues advocate self help books to channel a positive mindset and I love this idea too!
A series binge on Netflix is of course a good form of escapism, but I try to avoid watching too much TV when away as it can make sleep more difficult than it already is. I find reading to be therapeutic and is more likely to send you off into a nice slumber.
5. STAY CONNECTED WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES
On most layovers, one trusty colleague will make a whatsapp group for all the crew to stay connected. If they don’t, then be the one to suggest it! I always makesure I join these – even if I don’t have any plans or feel up to anything, it’s great to stay connected and know what everyone else is up to.
On occasion, you also end up doing something spontaneous because of last minute plans made in the crew chat and you have a great time and make wonderful friends. My LA mustang trip to Malibu was one such last minute tag along that I joined despite deciding to have a quiet trip. I had felt a little lonely that day so made a spur of the moment decision which ended up becoming one of my fondest memories! This is something I would never have done had I not stayed connected.
I would be fibbing if I said that I never felt loneliness when away from home. Despite all of these measures, which do make me feel better, I can still feel lonely on occasion. But that’s okay. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in this job, it’s that I’m not alone in feeling this. Afterall, my colleagues are going through the exact same rollercoatser of emotions I am and communicating /confiding in those who understand is a great catharsis. It is completely natural to feel this way, but there are things we can do to overcome it as best possible.