The annual Women in Aviation conference was held in Reno, Nevada this past week. This was my first time attending. There were a few Cincinnati chapter members attending that I knew personally. It’s always comforting to know at least one person when attending this type of event. If it all goes south, you’ve got someone to either blame or ask for help!!
Traveling alone is enjoyable for me. If there’s something or someplace I want to visit, there’s no wasting time on someone else to get approval or make travel arrangements. Some people cannot imagine taking a trip alone. Not me! I’ve been to several destinations solo, which oftentimes includes something related to a personal interest: an air show, a concert, some type of exhibit or museum (LOVE visiting art museums alone). With my new found ability to fly my own plane to almost any destination, the opportunities have broadened even more!
Being an introvert, traveling unaccompanied for a large, social event, having my own room is a necessity. A hotel room is my “recharging” location. Solitude desperately calls out my name after a few hours of small talk. The amount of extra money spent on an individual room is worth my sanity saved and keeps those around me from losing their minds too!
New experiences and new connections are the highlights of every trip taken. If there are no expectations before traveling, I always come away feeling enriched. There were no presumptions for this conference. This sabbatical did not disappoint.
The top three highlights of this trip began on Day One. There were two takeaways on Day One. The first being our excursion to Fallon Naval Base. Some conference attendees had an amazing opportunity to visit this Top Gun training facility. The top pilots of the military! What an elite group! No, it’s not in Miramar, California. There were no shirtless men playing volleyball or wooing any of the female aviators with karaoke. It’s actually a very desolate, unpicturesque location in the middle of nowhere. Literally. There were no chain restaurants to be seen except for a Subway sign at their PX/Exchange. That must be where all of the “hot” dates take place. We were able to watch the training jets taxi, take off and land from the control tower observation area. We were also escorted to the pilots education, briefing/debriefing facilities. Cameras and smart watches were strictly prohibited in the building. We were constantly under the watchful eye of military personnel. We had an aerial view of training flights on a large screen with an explanation of the current exercise. It was pretty cool I must say.
Day One also presented an immediate friendship with an impressive lady named Tara who works at Boeing. She lives about as far from me as possible!! Fortunately, with social media, we can connect and continue to keep in touch with photos, videos and real-time updates. We ran into each other several more times during the week. It was nice to recognize a friendly face in the crowd. I’m hopeful we can connect again at a future conference.
The second highlight was having the pleasure of meeting a former WASP. These pilots had a huge responsibility! Not only for the military, but for women. They had the burden of proving that women could successfully fly and support the military efforts. Millie Peterson was 95 and told story after story. She had so much spunk; I need to step up my game! There’s absolutely no wonder that this woman made history. Recently educating myself on the WASP program, my appreciation has grown for each of these individual women that paved the way, with much opposition, for women aviators. If you’re unfamiliar with the WASP history, you will be inspired by educating yourself.
The third highlight was all of the women’s stories heard through keynote speakers, learning sessions and the exhibition hall volunteers. There were women (and a few brave men (bless their hearts…) of all ages in attendance. All of them eager to make new friends and listen to your story. Women can be a tough crowd sometimes, but I’ve never met such kind, honest, open individuals. There is nothing in the world better than receiving advice from someone who has gone before you and from receiving the heartfelt advice of another personal cheerleader.
As I was packing for my return trip home, I reviewed 3 full pages of notes, counted 18 new business cards and 11 pamphlets of information! I made some very personal connections to some of these “once-strangers.” There’s no success better than that of human connection with someone you know cares about your success. I’m a lucky girl.