From Flight Attendant to Travel Writer


TiffanyHawkAuthorPhoto2An interview with author, Tiffany Hawk

How did you go from flight attendant to travel writer?

I’ve spent most of my life trying to travel for free or even get paid to travel. After college, some of my friends did the whole backpacking through Europe thing, but I didn’t have anything resembling a savings account let alone a trust fund, so I became a flight attendant. I got to live abroad, travel to almost every state and to dozens of countries, and I had an unlimited stash of free write-your-own tickets that would get me anywhere I wanted on my days off. It was unbelievable to have that kind of freedom.

Then after 9/11, I got laid off. I was based in London and my work visa was voided, so in a pretty ironic twist, they sent my broke, unemployed ass back to the U.S. – in first class. I desperately didn’t want to leave London or my flat or my friends or my job, so I sat in that first class sleeper suite crying into my Dom Perignon and gourmet cheese plate.

Seriously, though. I was 24 and thought I would die if I had to go back to a gray cubicle. So I spent the entire 10-hour flight working through the What Color is Your Parachute career guide. And I had a brilliant idea. “I know…I’m going to be a travel writer!”

I was so naïve. I didn’t know anything about the media and publishing industries, but I read everything I could and talked to everyone I could and spent every last penny of disposable income on classes. And now I’ve written for the publications I dreamed of, worked as a magazine travel editor, and have a book out.

How did your novel come about?
Honestly, I think I just couldn’t let go of the past. I wrote a lot of short stories and essays about my time at United, partly to process my grief about 9/11, and partly to relive the glory days. But then as those pieces accumulated and gradually started morphing into a novel, I was on a mission to bring the world an authentic, emotional look at the flight attendant life, something more than the caricatures we usually see – the perky bimbo, the battleaxe, the catty gay man. I wanted to really explore what it means to live everywhere and nowhere.

lovemeanywayLove Me Anyway doesn’t stick to the glamorous side of travel. Was that deliberate?

I was completely committed to showing a deeper side of the airline world – funny, serious, good, bad, ugly, sexy, lonely. That said, if I had written this book before 9/11, it probably would have been more glamorous, not just because the industry has changed so much, but because I have. Being a flight attendant really does mean living in this incredible world where anything seems possible, and every day brings something new. But as anyone who travels a lot knows, it’s not always like being on vacation. The thing is, though, the most extraordinary, most life-changing moments usually happen when we’re pushed past our comfort zones.

In the opening pages of your book, you say flight attendants are running away from something. How true is that?

Most of the time, when you get hired as a flight attendant you have to be wiling to relocate to any base the company chooses. It definitely takes a unique kind of person to be able up and leave everything you know. From what I saw, within a few months of starting work, people usually ended up quitting the job or walking away from whatever ties they had. Some people straddled two worlds, but shortly after my class graduated, we had divorces (including mine, lovely story) and girls who quit the moment their boyfriends proposed.

Do you have any other stories from your flight attendant life that didn’t make it in the book?

So many stories just didn’t fit. I would have loved to have included one of my more touching flights. It was Thanksgiving 2000, and a series of long delays and repeated cancellations had put my Albuquerque-bound passengers through the ringer. They had spent hours on the tarmac only to be sent back to the gate, more than once. They’d missed the holiday, and they were pissed, enraged even. It was the kind of fiasco that can turn into death threats and fist fights, truly. But at some point, these people just let go of the anger, decided to make the best of it and bonded with each other and with the crew. To this day it warms my heart that as I was saying “buy-bye,” I was invited to several belated family dinners. Unfortunately, I had to fly on.

Do you have any advice for budding travel writers?

This is not revolutionary, but it’s so often overlooked – study the publications you want to write for as if you were studying for the bar exam. When I was a magazine editor, I can’t tell you how many pitches I got that were wildly off-base. Also, don’t limit yourself to travel magazines or “travel” topics. You can just as easily get a travel story in a food magazine or a food story in a travel magazine. (Hint: Get creative and replace food with fitness or spa or fashion or science.) Almost any topic can be turned into a trip. So go hit the road and tell us about it!

More about Tiffany Hawk: Tiffany Hawk is a former flight attendant and the author of Love Me Anyway, a darkly funny novel about life at 35,000 feet. She has an MFA in creative writing from UC Riverside and her work can be seen in such places as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Traveler, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Lisa’s review of Love Me Anyway on Huffington Post.

Want more to read about travel? Lisa and George’s memoir, Traveling in Sin, is on

Travel Writing Road Tiffany Hawk
Travel Writing Road Tiffany Hawk

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Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She sailed the seven seas by cruise ship for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. Find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over one and a quarter million views (1,250,000) on her YouTube channel. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries, named #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blogs and the top female travel blogger 3 times in 2019. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and has over 160,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and also ran fifteen travel competitions publishing over 2500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on her own site, We Said Go Travel. From 2017 to 2020 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won three times and been a finalist fourteen times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards. She was also a finalist for four other categories including online journalist of the year, digital story for activism journalism with Ms. Magazine, educational reporting for Wharton Magazine and a broadcast lifestyle feature for KTLA TV in Los Angeles.    Niver won a 2019 NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award for one of her KTLA TV segments and was a finalist for articles published in both Ms. Magazine and Wharton Magazine. In 2018,  she was a finalist for stories in Smithsonian, PopSugar Fitness and the Saturday Evening Post. Niver won a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal and was a finalist for travel reporting. Niver has written for AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres (United Airlines), Jewish Journal, Luxury Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Myanmar Times, National Geographic, POPSUGAR, Robb Report, Saturday Evening Post, Scuba Diver Life, Sierra Club, Ski Utah, Smithsonian, TODAY, Trivago, USA Today 10best, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave Rebel: 50 Scary Challenges Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. Look for her underwater SCUBA diving, in her art studio making ceramics or helping people find their next dream trip.

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