Good Company Makes Fast Travel

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jackieplane20170530bTravel days are long days. After arriving at the Minneapolis airport at 4 a.m., I went to check my two bags. Either the attendant could tell that I was about to be volunteering all summer, or my groggy “good morning” really hit home with her, and she kindly waived all of my baggage fees. The next step was security. Anyone who has dug a laptop out of its case, while trying to explain to the security agent that you didn’t know peanut butter was considered a liquid, while simultaneously shoving your shoes and jacket back on, after walking through a full body scanner, knows exactly what I am talking about when I say traveling can be stressful. However, airport security is regulated for our own safety, and I will gladly relinquish my jar of Skippy to ensure my safety any day. On top of that, I was lucky enough to have an entire row of seats to myself on my connecting flight from Minneapolis to Seattle – a real treat for my long legs and exhausted mind.

jackieplane20170530On my flight from Seattle to Anchorage, I was positioned between two gentlemen. To my right was a young tour guide busy planning this week’s itinerary. On my left was a man who had fallen asleep before departure. To be honest, I was glad to see that both of them had something to occupy their time, as I was completely content with not uttering a single word to either of them, and catching up on some much needed sleep. As I was digging through my bag for a pair of headphones to drown the noise, I accidentally bumped the snoozing gentleman on my left. Rather than grunting and moving closer to the window, he asked if I was a college student, what I was studying, and what my plans were for Alaska. I explained that I am a dietetics major, heading to Nome, Alaska, for the summer to work at a youth diabetes prevention camp. He proceeded to say “Good, they could use the food police up there.” Hold it right there. There must have been a few overly intense dietitians back in the day, who stuck everyone in the profession with the reputation of being the food police. At that moment, I realized that rather than simply smiling and nodding in order to proceed with my nap, this was my opportunity to pitch an elevator speech about the profession of dietetics to this man and explain that we are not all the food police. For those of you who don’t know, an elevator speech is a short pitch used to define or defend a product or service and its value. I proceeded to tell him that as a future dietitian, I hope to be a nutrition educator, encouraging people to make healthy choices that fit their lifestyle, rather than dictating their decisions.

jackieairport20170530Almost as if it was fate, the flight attendant came by with the beverage cart. After I ordered a tomato juice, he asked, “Did you order that because it’s healthy?” Before I could answer, I realized that as a future nutrition educator, people will be watching what I do and the decisions I make, whether I am “on duty” or not. I told him that I ordered it because carbonated drinks upset my stomach during flights, and I wasn’t sure the next chance I would get to eat tomatoes would be! He also requested a tomato juice, as did the tour guide on my right side, implying that he had also been listening in on our conversation.

Our conversation about nutrition and wellness continued throughout the flight as I heard his story as well. This man was an Alaska native, born and raised in Palmer, a small town about an hour north of Anchorage. He was a welder by trade, and rarely leaves the state, unless he visits his mother in Minnesota. I was surprised to hear that his favorite time of year is the summer because it is when all of the tourists and workers return to Alaska. I had expected the natives to be somewhat protective of their land, considering the outsiders to be intruders. However, this gentleman said he loves when people come to see that beauty and culture that Alaska has to offer. As we flew over the state, he pointed out the specific mountain ranges and landmarks of Alaska. You could tell that even after a lifetime of living in Alaska, its natural beauty still impressed him.


jackienome20170530After my elevator speech which turned into a four-hour conversation with this gentleman, we landed and parted ways. Although I never learned his name, I am grateful that this man inquired about my education and I was able to share about something I am so passionate about. I want to make sure that I am living as a positive example of health and wellness, no matter who is watching me. I encourage everyone reading this to put down your head phones or cell phone next time you are on a plane, or in an elevator, or in a waiting room, and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. It’s amazing how much you can learn from each other!

Some people say they love to travel. What I think they mean to say is that they love exploring new places, and I am not just saying that because I have been awake for 28 hours and have been in a shuttle, plane or airport for the last 16 hours stopping in Minneapolis, Seattle, Anchorage, Kotzebue, and finally Nome. Although the literal traveling part can be mentally and physically exhausting, good company can go a long way!


Jackie Braun ’18 is a dietetics major and psychology minor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.