Travel is wonderful. It's the most mind expanding experience a person can have, in my opinion. But coming home to Maui always moves me.
The Hawaiians consider rain a blessing. If you're having a backyard birthday luau -- a tradition here for a child's first birthday -- a passing shower is gratefully received. A gentle rain was falling as my flight from Los Angeles touched down yesterday and that's certainly the way I felt.
Some months ago, I wrote about American Airlines' asinine policy of refusing to sell you an upgrade to first class if you had purchased your economy ticket with frequent flyer miles. Hawaiian Airlines has no such policy and so I splurged yesterday and flew home in style. It was, at the time, very much worth the extra cost. You don't start feeling guilty until after you land.
I sat next to a very nice, very interesting man on the flight. He was born in Italy, but has been in this country for almost 30 years. He's a airline captain for a regional airline and is based in Los Angeles.
He told me he originally came to this country to learn to fly and then to get a job somewhere -- anywhere -- with an airline. Coming to the U.S. for flying lessons struck me as odd, until he gave me the explanation: It was, and still is, much cheaper. Student pilots pay for the use of the plane, for the instructor's time … and for the fuel. So when you're racking up hours and hours in the air, it makes a big difference if you're paying $2.50 a gallon for the aviation gas instead of more than $8.00.
He also said that jobs with Hawaiian Airlines are highly prized among pilots all around the country and that the airline gets many times more applications than available openings. He himself has applied, notwithstanding the fact that he's a captain with his current airline and his application to Hawaiian was for first officer. He pulled out his iPad and ruefully showed me his letter of rejection from Hawaiian Airlines.
I once asked another Italian friend who visits Maui regularly where he would recommend I go if I had to choose one place in Italy to visit. He said Siena. I mentioned that to the Italian pilot I sat next to yesterday and he agreed enthusiastically. Siena, he said, is not too big, but is historically significant and is in Tuscany, which is renown for the food and wine which comes from the surrounding area. I am, therefore, resolved to make Siena my next foreign destination.
When might that take place? Ah, that is indeed the question. I have no idea, but thinking about something like that and even starting to look into some of the initial details . . . well, that's a big part of the fun, isn't it?