Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Project 2: Life of a Traveler

"The life of a traveler is never easy, but it can be most rewarding." This is the way one particular plane hopper views her job and lifestyle. Star Sneller, a higher up employee of a Fortune 500 company, travels, on average, 1.5 weeks out of every month. You'd never know that by looking at her. Always bubbling with energy, always the life of the party. This is a big step down from when she first signed on with the company. At that time, she was approaching every week at a different site throughout the United States.

Star's job requires her to be in charge of 8 different sites throughout the nation. They are all in different states, spanning the length of the country. She has sites in Ponca, Oklahoma; Spokane, Washington; Sterling, Colorado; Moralton, Arkansas; Wilton, Maine; Lakefield, Florida; Nogales, Arizona; and Bismark; North Dakota.

Along her travels, she has managed to make an appearance in countless cities, 43 states, and at least 9 countries. She has had breakfast with Mickey Mouse, lunch with Super Bowl champions, and dinner with celebrities. She has gone bungee jumping in Arizona, saved a man's life in a restaurant in Florida, and gotten lost in Maine. Star has almost done it all.

"This lady has to be single then" you might be thinking. Not a chance. She has a loving husband of close to 25 years and two children whom are attending college. Photos of them and the rest of her family line the fridge and walls of her home.

How do they handle her being gone so much? "It's honestly just routine at this point," says her oldest son, a senior in college. "About once a month we will get a text with where she is headed that week. Usually Denver or Tampa, hard to feel bad for her down there when it's been a record breaking winter here." Do you even miss her at this point? "Of course we miss her. But at the same time, we are in college so her being in a different state doesn't affect us as much as it would've in highschool. That got rough sometimes, her not being able to make it to some stuff or be around to help out with homework. But God bless her she never missed a football game for either of us. Whatever it took, she'd be back for Friday night."

When you think about it, that is actually an insanely difficult feat to pull off. Six years of highschool football games (for an admittedly sub-par team) and through cancellations, weather delays, and a plethora of unforeseen circumstances, she never missed a Friday night where her children were playing. Her younger son weighed in on this too: "She's amazing. It's really that simple."

Star is a member of the platinum million miles club for Delta airlines. In short, she basically gets whatever she wants when she flies with them because she gives them so much business. She also has an ever increasing abundance of hotel loyalty points that she is more than willing to share with her friends and family. Her view on it being that there is no way she could use them all. "I sent my son and his girlfriend to New York to see a friend of his last year during spring break for essentially nothing. I love being able to do that," she says.

Star has some stories of her own that's for sure. She talks about a time where she was out with clients at a dinner in Tampa, Florida when a man at the table next to them began choking. Instinctively, she wrapped her arms around the man's midriff and performed a perfect Heimlich maneuver. Needless to say, they got that client's business.

At a recent Denver Nuggets game, she got to meet and take pictures with a current Denver Broncos player, Malik Jackson. Her son, a longtime, huge fan of the Broncos, was incredibly jealous. "I hear my phone buzz and see it's a pic from mom." he says, "Open it up and there she stands next to Malik. Not to mention she was in a luxury suite at an NBA game. Just another day in the office for her."

Seeing the Nuggets play might not be as cool to her as it is to her sons or husband, but the rest of Denver, and the whole of Colorado might make up for that. She has dined in the John Elway's restaurant, the premiere eatery in Denver. "It was just surreal to be sitting there, in Denver, in John Elway's restaurant. "I'd move to Colorado in a heartbeat. It's so beautiful there with the mountains."

Colorado isn't her favorite site to visit, however. "Maine is absolutely gorgeous. Everything about it is beautiful," Star says. She has a story about Maine too. She got lost there once. "I turned either either before or after the GPS told me to because it hadn't been updated yet for the construction on the road. I ended up 30 miles away from where I wanted to go in the mountains before I could finally turn around. It took me three hours to go 45 miles." Looking back now she laughs while telling it, but she admits it was very scary at the time.

Star has come to appreciate the cultures she has been exposed to as well. Even here in America, she has realized there are many different cultures and ways of life. "The food! Maine has some great lobster shops that I will never get to enjoy. I'm allergic to seafood unfortunately, but the South has great food. In Nogales, you're only 10 miles from the border of Mexico. Naturally, that is some of the best Mexican I've had."

Surely someone that travels so frequently has seen her fair share of celebrities around town? You betcha. Off the top of her head she can list Miley Cyrus, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Justin Bieber's mom. "I was in the Atlanta airport in a shop and I see this huge guy get off the escalator and stand there with his arms folded the way secret service does. The clerk says 'O, here come's Justin's mom. She's in here all the time with her bodyguard.'" Good to see that Star doesn't just know who Justin Bieber's mom is then. That'd be weird.

It takes a tole on her too though, all the traveling she does. "You effectively lose two days of your life out of every week. Hopping time zones means you don't really have a full day, especially when there are layovers and inclement weather." She has been sick on the road before and had to stay overnight one more time before she was fit to fly again. She has been part of emergency landings and day long cancellations. She had been delayed more times than she can even guess at, too. But through it all, she continues her travels; because she loves it.

Her job has opened an endless number of doors and has even given her the opportunity to live in a different country. She spent a year of her life living in Ireland before she could no longer stand to be away from her family, the bi monthly visits and long distance, extended phone calls just weren't cutting it anymore. So what did she do? "I brought them with me! I told the company move me back and have the branch fail or move my family to me." So the company did just that.

Now, with her kids in school away from home and her husband busy with the improving housing market and the middle of every hunting season imaginable, she has begun traveling a bit more frequently. "Soetimes I hate my job because I'm a manager and I have to fly down somewhere solely to reprimand or fire someone. But then I remember that this has presented me with so many opportunities. I can't imagine my life without it being classified as 'the life of a traveler'".

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