On July 10, 2021, my beautiful wife and soulmate Brittany Brown passed away due to colon cancer. Now, that is a sentence that I never thought I would be writing on AirlineReporter… or anywhere, for that matter. She was diagnosed on December 13, 2019 with Stage 2 (just two months after our wedding and three days before her 31st birthday), and she fought with all her might, but this cancer was unbeatable. #fuckcancer
As I make my way through the different stages of grief and remember all of our time that we had together, I have realized how much of a perfect travel partner she was for me – and how I was for her. During the year and a half that Brittany battled cancer, I was not very public about our situation — only some close friends and family knew. So, why share this very personal life experience on the blog? There are a few reasons.
To honor some of the great travel memories that we experienced. To share some stories that will have a home on AR. It will be therapeutic for me. And I trust you. I have been doing this airline blog thing for over 13 years. This website is a passion for me, the other writers and hopefully for many of you. When our lives get complicated, content slows down (or stops), and that is okay. Many of you have been through your own ups and downs and I cannot even begin to say how grateful I am for the love and support of the AvGeek community through everything.
When We Met
Brittany and I met back in July of 2016. We worked at the same company and I saw her on my first day and was like “dang she is cute, maybe I need to talk to her.” Not to insult many AvGeeks, but I think most of us are critically self aware that our strong suit is knowing the difference between a 737 and an A320. Not really flirting with those that we are attracted to.
It took a little bit of courting and patience, but we starting dating in September of 2016. She had mentioned that she enjoyed flying, but I assumed she meant traveling. After I caught her looking at a plane flying overhead, I asked some follow up questions and no, she actually liked the process of flying itself, separate from travel. Oh yea… I instantly just got stronger feelings for this gal!
When we met, she had not done much traveling — I think Utah was the farthest east she had flown. She previously told one of her sisters that she hoped to find a guy someday that liked going on travel adventures. Well, guess who has two thumbs and likes adventures… this guy!
Our First Flying Adventure
Soon after officially becoming a couple, we were discussing how we wished we could wear our cowboy boots more. We lived in the greater Seattle area at the time and felt it wasn’t the best place to show them off. She also mentioned that she had never flown on a Bombardier Q400. I was starting to feel our first adventure coming together… a weekend trip where we could fly on a Q400 and wear our cowboy boots. After some looking around, we opted to head to Missoula, Montana. I won’t get into much details about the trip since I wrote up a story on it that you can read (or at least look at the sweet photos).
When I am doing trips on my own (not press trips for the site), I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Get my airline tickets, a hotel room, a rental car, and then figure out the rest when I get there. And of course stopping to smell the roses. In Montana, for whatever reason we just started driving north on back roads, and stopped at a small town gas station for snacks. They somehow knew we weren’t locals (we had our boots on, so we thought we fit in) and they let us know about this unmarked road that was rough (we had an SUV) and you could see abandoned log cabins from the gold rush era, mostly untouched. It was one of the coolest experiences that I have had.
Flying By the Seat of Our Pants
I found it curious that Brittany was so laid back with having really no plans with the trip. She’s normally one that follows rules, loves organization, and does not fly by the seat of her pants. I thought maybe it was because our relationship was still so young, but that was not the case. Many of our future trips followed this same model and she loved it — we both did.
And it wasn’t just about having fun when things were going well… it was about how we both handled ourselves when things went bad. When we visited Ketchikan (never wrote a story on that), we went in October to miss the cruise ships. But it was also the end of the salmon spawn season. That is when the salmon use their last energy to swim back up river to lay their eggs. I knew that the salmon die after doing so, but I did not know that they try to make it back to the ocean. Many of them end up dying right where the river and the ocean meet. We had a really nice room that overlooked right where the river met the ocean. Every time we stepped out, it smelled of rotting fish. Like a level of smell you cannot describe in words.
For some people, that would ruin their trip. Complain the whole time, and just wait until it was over. Instead we laughed about it. We spent so much energy trying to find the right time to be there to avoid people, that we ended up with stinky dead fish instead. Plus the one thing I wanted to do while there was take Brittany on her first seaplane ride, but the weather never cleared up enough.
However, with the windows closed in our room, we couldn’t smell anything, but we could watch the seals go after the fish. We had a bald eagle land on a pole just a few feet away from us, and we still got to see the beauty of Alaska not only being there, but also from flying in and out of the airport. It ended up being a fun and successful trip (although I would not suggest visiting during that time of year).
As you know there is almost always something that goes wrong when you travel and we both would try to remain positive about it. Find the adventure with-in the adventure and that is hard enough for a single person to do and even more difficult when you have a pair.
She was also genuinely interested in the different airline-themed events. She loved going to Aviation Geek Fest, and we both flew down to LA to enjoy Dorkfest. And it wasn’t like she was just going because she wanted to support me or go with me, she was attended because it was interesting to her.
Staying Domestic — On Purpose
Before meeting Brittany, on average I would go on an international trip for AirlineReporter about once per month. After meeting her, I have taken zero. I have still done some trips, but they were all domestic. That wasn’t because she didn’t want me to go (actually the opposite; she encouraged me to take some of those opportunities), but I work a “real” full-time job, with a limited amount of vacation days, and I would much rather use those days going on random trips with her to nowhere than on an extravagant world excursion worth tens of thousands of dollars.
When we first started our travels, I got this map and put it on a bulletin board. We would put pins at all the locations that we had visited. We got quite a few pins on there from our time in Montana until she was diagnosed with cancer. One of the saddest things for me now is looking at that box of pins and seeing how many are left. They represent all the future trips that we should have enjoyed together, but life robbed them from us.
We obviously had many conversations over the last year and a half of her life. She brought up a few times how important it was to her that I don’t let this whole experience stop me from traveling and that I get back to writing on AirlineReporter. She knew how much I love this site and all my AvGeek friends and readers.
Things have been rough and I know it is going to be pretty darn hard moving forward, but I know I can do it. I can use the same attitude that Brittany and I had on so many of our travels and try to find the positives, no matter how bad things might seem.
I have heard many times “it is about the journey, and not the destination.” But I really think it is more about the travel partner and not the destination. Brittany has truly shown me that having the right travel partner can make travel exponentially more enjoyable. Although my travel adventures will never be the same, I know that I will always have Brittany with me in my heart. I will always love and miss her and appreciate the many wonderful adventures that we shared.
Stories on AirlineReporter That Involved Both of Us Throughout the Years
- My First Spirit Airlines Flight… On Virgin We were stuck in LA an extra day — a city we both don’t really like — because our flight was cancelled. But we made the most of it, just relaxed, and she got to fly on Virgin America for the first time.
- Pay the Anxiety Away – Flying United’s First Class Brittany has always had travel anxiety and this story was to highlight how, even for those on a budget, paying additional money to get additional services can be beneficial. This was also her first time flying first class.
- Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Doing it for Real One of my best travel experiences ever. We flew into New York City for a little bit, then took a train down to Ft. Lauderdale, rented a convertible, and drove down the coast to visit my dad before flying home.
- Flying Salmon Marks the Retirement of the First Alaska Airlines 737-400 Combi I had Brittany go on this story with me as my photographer. To be honest it was more of a way for her to just come to an event with me, but I forgot she has quite a bit of experience taking photos. At the event I was taking photos with my phone as well. When picking photos to use in the story from the event, I was going to pick the best, no matter who took them. It turned out that they were all hers. I was impressed.