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Follow Friday: Heather Poole’s Life at 35,000 Feet

Editor’s Note: Inspired by Follow Friday on Twitter, I am profiling (in far more than 140 characters) extraordinary travelers who you, too, should follow! Through these profiles, I want to introduce you to globetrotting souls that follow their hearts to places near and far, so join me each Friday in my quest to be inspired by some of the most intriguing adventure seekers on our planet!

Be Inspired by: Heather Poole, Los Angeles
Follow her at:

She works inside a “germ-infested Petri dish;” she met her husband “somewhere over Illinois;” and she often plans her travels around “places a coworker has just returned from.” Any guesses on how Heather spends her 40+ hour work week? Aside from writing her column, Galley Gossip, for and finalizing her book of essays called Cruising Attitude: My life at 35,000 Feet, she has spent the past 14 years as a flight attendant for a major U.S. carrier, flying back and forth from New York (where she works) and Los Angeles (where she lives).

@jenngaines: First, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m the one standing in the aisle wearing navy blue polyester and asking you what you’d like to drink. If there’s one thing I know, besides bad food and uncomfortable seats, it’s what it’s like to work inside a germ infested Petri dish. All kidding aside, I met my husband on a flight somewhere over Illinois seven years ago and now we have a three year-old son who has traveled so often he calls his belt a seat belt and prefers to keep it buckled at all times, even when he’s asleep. While I love pushing and pulling three-hundred pound carts, I also like to write.

@jenngaines: Please tell me a little bit about your most recent adventure.
Adventure, for me, is being spontaneous, going outside the comfort zone, trying something new, and it doesn’t always have to be travel related.  Just driving a little out of the way to check out a new restaurant is adventurous in my book. But as far as traveling goes, I’d have to say my LAST adventure was trying to get from Chicago to New York on my flight attendant passes. I spent about 10 hours at the airport wondering if I was ever going to get on a flight.  One of my biggest adventures took place before I became a flight attendant.  I was actually working a regular 9 to 5 job in Texas when a coworker I didn’t know too well happened to mention he was going to Monterrey, Mexico on business. I sighed and said, “I wish I could go,” and he was all, “come with!”  So I did.  The crazy thing about that trip was we actually drove there!  And somehow we ended up in a magnificent house on a mountainside that was so high up we were in the clouds every morning until noon! Oh and then there was the time I met a passenger from Holland on a flight I was working who invited me to Zandvoort (The Netherlands), but you’ll have to read about that later.

@jenngaines: People travel for different reasons. As a traveler, what really inspires you?
When I vacation, I travel for relaxation. My husband flies over 100,000 miles per year and a lot of times it feels like we’re playing Tag when it comes to who is staying home to take care of our son and whose turn it is to get on an airplane. When we all travel together, we like to go to places where we can just sit on a balcony and let the vacation come to us. What inspires my travels? Other travelers – especially other flight attendants! Seriously, if you want to know where to go on your next vacation, ask a flight attendant. It seems like whenever I’m working a flight I always end up on the jump seat next to someone who has just returned from an amazing destination. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve planned vacations around places a coworker has just returned from. On my last flight I met an L.A. based flight attendant who had just gone to Fiji.  According to her, the best way to get there is on Air France (especially if you’re a crew member). I also recently met an interesting passenger named Milly, who had so many wonderful things to say about Bali it’s now on my list of places to go.

@jenngaines: What is your most memorable travel experience?
Going to Italy last year with my husband was by far the best trip I’ve ever taken.  I love Italy because it’s romantic and beautiful and the food is absolutely amazing. We spent three nights in Venice (Cannaregio), Positano and Rome. I’m just dying to go back to Positano, rent a scooter and drive the Amalfi coast again. The views there are breathtaking. What’s even better, a glass of Italian red wine and a big bowl of pasta e fagioli with a loaf of crusty bread at Bruno’s. That’s where we sat outside and ate while watching the ferry’s depart to Capri.

@jenngaines: What is the most challenging travel experience
That’s easy – traveling with kids! Now that I’m a mother, I have to say that traveling with a child can be VERY challenging, especially when you’re doing it alone – and flying standby.  My son is wonderful on a transcontinental flight, but even so, I always feel as if I’ve completed a marathon by the time we land. I’m that exhausted.  That’s because I’m constantly trying to keep him entertained. My advice to traveling mom’s: pack light, fly during nap time, use a messenger style diaper bag or back pack so that your hands are free to do what they REALLY need to do, and don’t forget the DVD!


My name: Jennifer Gaines, but my friends call me Gaines, Jenni-Dallas or just plain Jenn.

(Find me on Twitter @jenngaines)

Travel ambitions: It's my mission to visit each of the New 7 Wonders and to step foot on every continent before my next milestone birthday.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Find the local hangouts to experience the real, true culture of a place. During a trip to Europe, my friends and I spent several days with a French family in the small town of Vichy. We had a private party in their family-run creperie, feasting on cheese-stuffed crepes and sampling wine that we picked up in the Bordeaux region a few days earlier. Their English wasn’t much better than my French, which is limited to a few well-known phrases from Moulin Rouge and the question: Parlez-vous anglais? (I'm proud to say that I can spout this question off in several different languages, and luckily most Europeans do indeed speak English!) After a few bottles of wine, the language barrier was hardly noticeable (slurring actually sounds the same in French!), and we managed to swap stories about life in other places. What a slice of local flavor!

My most beloved place in the whole world is: My grandparents place in Texas. It’s a 10-acre oasis in between two sprawling cities: Dallas and Fort Worth. A creek runs through their enormous backyard, where Granddad built a deck over the water. The entire place is shrouded with all types of trees (mainly pecan), blocking the Texas sun in the summer. Dusk is the best time to sit on the deck, drink a glass of ice tea and watch baby raccoons from the spring litter surround their back porch as Gram feeds them bread (no lie!). There will be dozens of raccoons eating on any given night. In the fall, my family gathers in the courtyard in front of their house for an annual “weenie roast.” Granddad lights the bonfire, and we roast dogs and s'mores. Yes, y’all, we’re from Texas!

Favorite way to get around: Well, I’m not much of a driver. I get lost easily and my tires have never come across a curb they didn’t want to get to know a little better. But, I do enjoy cruising around and listening to music. That said, I much rather explore a place by foot (with my iPod in tow) for a more intimate encounter.

View that took my breath away: Coming from Texas (where the view is wide but there’s not much to see), scenes from my new home of San Francisco never fail to amaze me. The city is a pedestrian’s dream, but don’t forget to turn around and look behind you as you meander through its neighborhoods. You won’t realize it, but you’ll be at the tip-top of a hill and the ocean will suddenly seem to be at eye level. Take a drive through the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge where even more stunning views await!



Awesome to meet you at TBEX ’09 Heather, and this article is great. You’re doing a great job of bringing personality and humanity to the flight attendants of the world who are often mistreated by cranky passengers :).


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That is awesome! It’s kinda my secret dream job to be a flight attendant, asides from the little problems like having to deal with unruly passengers, it seems amazing to be able to say your occupation is traveling the world – getting put up in hotels and being able to tour the countries for reduced fair with an IATA card.

Or maybe I’m exoticising the occupation a bit much.

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