5:30 AM on a brisk Austrian morning in May. Deep in our sleep, we hear knocking on the windows. I untangle myself out of our small shared sleeping bag, roll down the window of our Skoda station wagon, and stare blankly as a local farmer yells at us (in German) for accidentally parking on his land.
A little bit of searching on google maps later and we find another empty field to finish our nap in the trunk. What we discover is an exceptionally beautiful view on the Innsbruck valley, and hey, the sunrise lighting is perfect for pictures! Screw sleep, it’s time for a groggy eye photo shoot. The perks of dating an influencer.
As impressively motivated Austrians complete their morning walks, sharing an occasional judgmental glance towards us, I shift my focus towards the focus. Gotta get the shot just right. Andi makes suggestions here and there; how to frame the shot, where I should position her in it, what the zoom should be. I’m just barely hanging on after sleeping a couple hours on hard metal with a tiny bit of carpet on it.
We celebrated our one year anniversary last month. And the one year anniversary of the world shutting down. Definitely some interesting timing there…
But as the world was shutting down, we were starting out. We met in Vietnam when the world was still normal and we returned home to lockdowns, confusion, panic, and a strange lack of toilet paper.
Both of our jobs were in peril. I was receiving furlough warning letter after letter, and she was getting hate for going to the grocery store, not to mention traveling (as safely as possible) during the pandemic. Over 20 countries later and we’re still healthy.
(Note: If travel was as inherently dangerous as the media portrays, our safety precautions wouldn’t have worked on the 60 flights we’ve taken and venturing we’ve done. Nor would we have tested negative on nearly 30 Covid tests each, and more recently an antibody blood test. There’s a point where it’s not just “being lucky” anymore.)
As the world bunkered down, I was still working as a pilot. Before mask rules. Before decent testing. Before we really knew what the hell was going on.
Country after country locked down, including Austria, where Andi lives, and the US where I live. But we made it work. When there’s a will, there’s a way.
I managed to use love as a way to get into Austria, where cases had plummeted to near-zero and I could start my new job as Instagram boyfriend. At least that’s what I call my main job. My part time job is flying.
Hotels were still closed to non-essential travel, so we rented a Skoda Octavia station wagon for $600USD a week and slept in the trunk on a tour around the Austrian Alps. We used the frigid glacier lakes to bathe and shared a tiny sleeping bag with a couple cheap pillows to sleep. Did I already mention that when there’s a will, there’s a way?
Spring had sprung in all sorts of ways; the weather was finally nice, our love for each other was blossoming, life was returning from captivity, and I was warming up to my new role as Chief Instagram Intern.
Now, you may be thinking that an airline pilot and travel influencer make the perfect combo. And you’re damn right.
Sure, my travel benefits (cheaper flights) help. But Andi’s not actually eligible for them yet. They’re currently in use by my family. One day she will have them, but you’d be surprised how well you can travel without them.
The bulk of it is our combined love for travel. Andi has opened my eyes to new adventures, moving off the beaten path and out of my comfort zone. I see travel and the world in a whole new light, and I’m far more comfortable taking chances and jumping into new opportunity.
We inspire each other, and there’s no way we would have been as adventurous and had so much fun without each other.
The last year has been tough, but we’ve both emerged more successful. Andi has found a new way to inspire travel and create content: videos. Whether it’s reels on Instagram or TikTok videos, she’s on it.
Imagine the social media world without TikTok. In the late 2010s, Andi found success in such a world, growing her audience on Instagram to over 300K followers with no guidance whatsoever.
I’ve gone from almost getting furloughed to having to decide which airplane I want to fly next: a bigger one with less seniority or a smaller one that gets me more time off. It’s the flip of a switch. Drake, is that you?
In the meanwhile, Andi has implored me to broaden my horizon, seek new opportunities, and redefine myself. And I have – I no longer see myself as just a pilot, but as someone who loves flying for what it is – a job.
Call me an Instagram boyfriend, but I enjoy exploring my creative side and learning new skills. And I can only thank Andi for that.
So what’s it’s like dating an influencer as an airline pilot? Pretty damn awesome. From staying in places like Jade Mountain to taking my girlfriend along flying, there are a lot of pros.
The cons? Well, my schedule doesn’t always line up. I have to work sometimes, and it doesn’t help that I work in another country a couple thousand miles away. Her ESTA travel visa waiver can only go so far….
Settling down isn’t really an option for either of us just yet – we are far too busy for that. Time at home is sacred.
And yes, I do sometimes lose my patience on cut #67 of trying to take the perfect reel. But that’s part of the deal.
A deal that includes a lot of love, a lot of travel, and a lot of discovery. A pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.