They called it “The Northern Ireland conflict,” a downplayed attempt at curbing the effects of a war which tore a small country apart for around 30 years. Danielle listened to her teacher describe a recent history she did not remember but whose effects she felt every day. She was only 4 when a ceasefire was announced, and 7 when the “Good Friday Agreement” brought peace to a separated state.
Danielle was an Irish Catholic living in a Republican area, and even though the agreement brought alleged peace, the aftermath of the “conflict” still bore its jagged teeth around every corner of her hometown of Belfast. So Danielle would dream. She dreamt of a life unshackled from the past and of a future away from a city condemned to remember its bleeding years.
Luckily for her, she wasn’t the only dreamer in the family. Her uncles who had grown up with the war fresh in their minds migrated to different parts of the world. During holidays Danielle was blessed to visit them. She had traveled to London, New York and even Tokyo all before the age of 18.
Every single birthday her Granny would get her the same gift, a plane ticket to a destination of her choice. And by the time she finally left Belfast to carve her way through life, Danielle had traveled to more than 10 countries all on her own.
On all her trips, she absorbed the sights and took in the sounds, but it was the airports which intrigued her the most. She gazed at the giant screens and wondered what adventures lay hidden in each destination. The rush of flying captivated her young chaotic mind and opened her up to the life of a nomad.
Fated to fly
As fate would have it, Dani was meant for life in the air. When she applied for the job, she knew she would get it, as if she were destined to pierce through the skies riding metallic wings. And so, on her first day as a flight attendant, she wore her uniform, checked herself in the mirror, and embarked on her first journey as a professional traveler.
Based in Dubai, she flew all over the world. One week she’d be circling Europe – Paris and Rome. The next she’d cross through Egypt to Sudan and South Africa. The deep blue oceans raged waves inside her adventurous heart as she coasted to the Atlantic and discovered the Americas once more.
The first year passed with a blink of an eye, and before she knew it she was spending most of her time in the sky. Her life seemed to become a constant journey, hopping from one plane to the next in what can only be described as nonstop organized chaos. The 16-hour flights, the late-night check-ins, the constant packing and unpacking, and the ultimate feeling of exhaustion made her question her sanity. Nonetheless, she loved it. The thrill of it all was the soup to her soul, and even though it wasn’t always pretty, she always managed to learn something new.
The life of a nomad living in the sky wasn’t simply an escape from mundane reality, it was her escape from a normality of life she could never imagine herself living. Now after wandering the clouds, she knew she never could.
Lost in time
Danielle woke up from her trance to find herself shackled to a seat in an ascending aircraft. She always lost herself during take-offs. The thunderous sound of the plane piercing through the boisterous winds seemed to calm her. She looked through the oval window and saw a bleeding dawn peek from behind the clouds. She took a deep breath and ran through the itinerary in her mind. Tonight she’d be in Belfast of all places, tomorrow back in Dubai. Then it’s off to Canada and South America. She smirked.
Traveling the world for free is great, but it does not come without a cost. Throughout all the chaos of travel, the take-offs and landings offered her peaceful meditation. She paused thinking of the endless poverty that inflicts so many parts of the world and felt grateful for her bed, food and home. Suddenly Belfast did not seem as tortured as she always believed it to be.
Life can seem grueling and crushing when you don’t have a home, but Danielle was a global citizen – building a home from her puzzle of adventures. Time is relative, she thought to herself as she took one more look at the bleeding dawn and prepared for her flight back home.
Home is where the heart is
Joys Entry, Belfast, the narrow street that connects Ann Street to High Street
Dani always considered Belfast to be stained by the years of its war. After 9 years and 79 countries notched on her belt of adventure, the city she grew up in is now a sanctuary to her soul.
People moved on, and the city’s wounds healed as a new generation took over the reins. Whenever she’d visit, Danielle would go to her favorite park and sit on a bench she always shared with her Granny. Her mind would be as clear as a runway on a beautiful spring day, and the memories would be so fresh she could smell them in the eye of her mind.
She’d lose herself in her thoughts and wonder about the next stop in the itinerary of her life. Where would it be? What was her favorite destination? She never managed to answer that question. Will she ever find a home? Did she ever have one to begin with?
She looked up to the sky as a plane flew silently above her, and she realized it’s not about the destination, it’s about the people, the experiences, the emotional attachment, and the stories lived. Sitting on her favorite park bench, she thought to herself… “It doesn’t matter where I am, I will always be home.”
Inspired by the real-life of a flying gypsy
Hadi El Talje is one of 7 billion human beings living on a tiny blue ball floating in the vastness of space. He hopes his writing intrigues your mind and inspires you to be true to who you really are. For writing opportunities, connect with Hadi.