August 1, 2013

Free Flights & then Some: What I’ve Learned from Working at an Airport. ~ Hosanna Rasmussen

Two years later–I’m still on the ramp and I’m addicted to the lessons I’ve learned.

The only reason I began working at an international airport was because one month of unemployment was really starting to grow old, along with the decreasing quantity of food in my cupboards. I knew things had taken a slanted turn south when I started comparing the prices of egg cartons.

I had moved to the Twin Cities of Minnesota, with people I did not know, in a suburb that I had thought was downtown. One of these new roommates worked at the airport and so I applied three times—when I finally got a call back, I decided to just do it. I felt as if I had no other options. It was the dead of winter; Minnesota was sleeping.

I knew four things about this job.

  • A main component of the interview was saying “yes” to working in any weather condition—thunderstorm, wind, blizzard, heat—even though I need a blanket in sixty degree weather, while sitting outside.
  • The training is intense, long, and detail-orientated.
  • I had to be content with constant lifting and handling luggage, even though, I was a weakling.
  • I’d get free flights.

Pause there.

Free flights.


So, of course I said “yes, yes, yes” to all the questions, and shrugged off the Minnesota extremes like they were the cream of the crop when it comes to climates. I got fingerprinted and did the training, and eventually, I was a “rampie.”

Working on the ramp, stacking bags like Tetris, pushing carts through inches and inches of snow, back bent and hot under many layers, working in and around the bellies of airplanes—this became my work day, the Midwestern extreme conditions became my office, and the sunrise and the sunset became my office wallpaper.

Honestly, I love it and what I’ve learned in the process.

1. Travel culture exists.

It is created by many like-minded individuals or it is created by a few persons with similar interests. Essentially the same thing, right? What I’m saying is that you don’t need an airport to be surrounded with travel. You need one person—one person who is like-minded and desires to experience this world, to share stories with over a late happy hour beer, smiles settling into a peaceful contemplation of travels and an inner contentment that comes from having been and having seen, while still being and still seeing.

Perhaps all you need is yourself. You are travel culture. The key is to focus on it, to not let your visions go out of focus before they’re achieved. So, surround yourself with this feeling—immerse yourself in this world. Research it online. There are communities. There are blogs. Meet people. And, most importantly, travel.

 2. That if you want to go anywhere, you have to sacrifice your fears.

I hate flying. Absolutely hate it. Even short flights to Bemidji (a mere forty-minute journey) cause panic attacks and a quick spilling of last thoughts. I clench and grip the sides of my seat and close my eyes whenever there is a slight deviation in sound, feel and speed. Reading doesn’t help and neither does music. The best solution thus far was pouring Nyquil into an aged hotel shampoo bottle.

I say “sacrifice” because even though you do have these fears, from birth or acquired, we still choose to feel them—to let them control us for however briefly they exist within us. We let them hang around, resting their hands under their chins watching us from the corner, or for me, watching from the oxygen mask that I know is somewhere above my head.

We can feel our fears, but we can also keep them from controlling us and our decisions. If I would have let my fear of flying have the biggest priority over all my other feelings and instincts, I wouldn’t have experienced any of what I’ve experienced from my flying trips. Any of it.

In the first year, I took approximately twenty-five trips, and was terrified out of my mind each time. I wouldn’t have flown to Narita, Seoul, or San Francisco. Hell, I wouldn’t have taken a 16 hour trip Amsterdam for a seven hour experience.

Thanks to these trips, I am that person, who, while mid-story pauses and smiles quietly to herself at having been and having seen. That would not have happened had I let my fears take precedence over my visions and desires.

3. Some things take time. Like, getting where you want, or becoming the person you want to be.

I’m 110 pounds, barely over five feet tall and can lift and stack luggage—heavy luggage. But this took time, lots of time. It took struggling to raise a two pound planeside over my head. It took a full year of cultivating the right muscles and training my body to respond to the pressures of my job. When I say it took a while, it really did.

If you want to accomplish something, you have to have a certain mindset for that accomplishment, and as each accomplishment is different, so is the mindset necessary to achieve that. Every mindset is different, but it is a focus and it also requires patience. Whether you are facing a cart of fifty bags or your next goal, stay focused and have patience. It’s all about training and preparing your mind.

4. People are different and yet people are always going to be people, and that is beautiful.

I’m from a rural town that worships football games and hay fields, the kind of town that has a church, an ice-cream shop, a meat market, a high school and houses. In other words, I had no idea what the word diversity meant, and now, I work with people from every country and heritage.

Walk into a break room and you’ll work with businessmen, hippies, college students, middle-agers—the whole lot of everyone. You’ll meet people directly from other countries who are saving money to bring the rest of their families over. You’ll meet people from other countries who haven’t seen their family in twenty years. You’ll meet 60 year-olds who quit their day job to travel. It isn’t uncommon to stumble into a Russian conversation. You’ll become the best of friends with the 50 year-old guy from all corners of the world—Somali, Africa, Italy.

And the best part? You’ll hear their stories.

Fundamentally, people are people, despite differences in nationality and heritage. People know how to come together and people will come together. It is good to remember that despite differences, all people laugh, smile, mourn, embrace, remember, and love.

And the beauty of this is that this, as well, can be experienced without working at an airport.

And perhaps that is the greatest lesson I have learned through this job— you don’t need to have benefits to do or to be anything. You have to have a mindset of risk and openness, and once you have that—you are limitless.


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Asst. Ed: Tawny Sanabria/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{photo: via Pinterest}

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Hosanna Rasmussen