What is love? Letting your gal sit left seat in a 727!

What is love? Letting your gal sit left seat in a 727!

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.

Enjoying airplanes landing during DorkFest at LAX

Enjoying airplanes landing during DorkFest at LAX

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

Visiting the Museum of Flight

Visiting the Museum of Flight

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

It is hard to see, but there are over 20 pins in the board. We only pinned a place if we flew to it. The left over pins make me cry every time I see them.

It is hard to see, but there are over 20 pins in the board. We only pinned a place if we flew to it. The leftover pins make me cry every time I see them.

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.

My Conclusion

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.
We loved going camping in our 1973 VW.

We loved going camping in our 1973 VW

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

https://www.airlinereporter.com
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46 Comments

I’m sorry for your loss. May her memory be for a blessing.

I’ve learned that it’s essential to travel with someone before you truly consider a permanent relationship. Travel exposes things you would never otherwise know, for better or worse. Perhaps most important, you should learn how early (or late) your mate wants to get to the airport before departure. This may be the single most important predictor of relationship bliss.

Michael Moscaritolo

I am so sad to hear of your loss David. Blessed you had the short time with Brittany but too short. My heart goes out to you.

I am so sorry for your loss David. My thoughts and prayers are with you and her family.

JL Johnson

We love ya, dude. Hold onto those amazing memories! Glad we got to share at least a few of ‘em with you.

Hey, don’t forget about that crazy guy who’d checked out of the hospital (against medical advice?) and still had an IV in his arm who showed up to Dorkfest looking for you two. That was a HOOT!

It is a blessing to find a great travel partner. You and I are both lucky in that regard, I love traveling with my wife. I’m sorry your journey with her was cut short, but thank you for writing this article and reminding all of us to cherish our journeys together and what really matters.

Dianne Davis

So sorry. You both are way too young to have gone through such a sad time. She was amazing. I am glad you had her even for a short while.

Steve Zwerin

What a beautiful tribute, David. Thank you for sharing. She was just as lucky to have you in her life as you were to have her.

Ken Donohue

So sorry to hear of this, David. Your story of adventure with Brittany was heartwarming and a reminder to all of us that life is fleeting and we need to make memories with those close to us. Take good care.

Sholto Douglas

David, what a shock to hear of the sad loss of Brittany. My heart goes out to you but, by opening yours on here, I can see that you have come to terms with one of the cruelest things that life can throw at you – the loss of your soul mate.
I hope that you will, despite everything, have a peaceful Christmas and that you will continue to rebuild your life through your enthusiasm for this site.

Sarah Collins

Thank you for sharing your tribute David – I know it would have been hard to write, but sharing your personal story with your readers is brave and I hope it has helped you in some way.

You were meant to be together and you are spot on – travel is fun, it is the journey and not the destination but having the person beside you who shares all the highs and lows with you can’t really be described. You have reminded everyone to cherish travel and the people we travel with who make the memories so enjoyable.

And #fuckcancer

Jonathan Greene

Sorry to learn about your terrible loss. I hope that there was some sort of catharsis, or therapeutic benefit, in writing about and sharing your loss with your readers. I don’t know if I could do this, I don’t think I have the inner strength.

I certainly appreciate your willingness to share such private memories. Thank you.

I am very sorry for your loss. What a heartbreaking story and I hope you can enjoy the memories for a lifetime. Wishing you the very best!

Shams and Myriam

Totally saddened by your loss, may she be blessed and her memory may bring peace to you.

Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your story, David. You are a gifted writer in many dimensions. You were indeed blessed with an incredible partner for way too short of a time.
May the next season of your life bring gentle breezes of healing.

David Gray

Sorry for your loss, David. Thank you for sharing your story.

I’ve got stage IV colon cancer. Reading this actually made me feel better because my wife and I have had similar experiences with our travels. I hope she can remember the good times we had after I’m gone.

🙁 I am going to send you an email Rafael!

David

Dave Butcher

So sorry for your loss David. Cancer has touched one too many people in my life including myself. My thoughts go out to you and both of your families. #fuckcancer

Jim Harper

What a wonderful tribute to your love and life together. Time and travel heals, and wonderful memories will fill the terrible current void as places visited remind you of your times exploring together .

David, I’m so very sorry to hear that Brittany’s cancer prevailed. She had a beautiful energy, and you’ll feel it around you and remember your love. Wishing you peace and ease as you put one foot in front of the other.

I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing. Take care, and I look forward to seeing you.

Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

Sorry for your loss. May her skies be ever clear.

My sincere condolences.You will meet again but not yet.

Oh, David. I am so sorry to read about Brittany’s passing. My heart goes out to you. I lost my mom to colon cancer almost 40 years ago. Please accept my heartfelt condolences. Your stories about the two of you seeing the world amid things-with-wings…they are delightful. I’ve stayed there on Creek Street in KTN…so I know that smell BTW. HA

Thank you for sharing these lovely memories of you and Brittany…it reminds me of what’s important in life. You know…like wearing cowboy boots with your beloved.

#FairWinds

Thanks Scott! And no joke, once we got there and realized the fish situation, I thought to myself “why the HECK didn’t I reach out to Scott to get some advice.” You know how it is… if you write about travel stuff, you think you can figure it all out, but that is not always the case!

David

Hey mate. I am sorry to hear about all of this, I am glad you are starting to slowly get through the grief. I know exactly what you mean about Creek St, I visited back in 2019 on one of the last cruises of the season (at the end of September) and even then the fish were coming back in droves to die. The river was full of them you could probably walk across and not get your feet wet.

Hope to see you back writing more soon!

Troy Brown

I’m so sorry to hear about loss of your wife. Thank you so much for sharing a part of your life with us, your doing good work.
Praying for you and your family.

What a great way to honor her and your relationship.

We are rooting for you.

“it is love when you constantly give her the window seat”
Truer words were never spoken…

David, I’m so sorry. I lost my mom to colon cancer 21 years ago and I too wrote about our travels since it was therapeutic. I will keep Brittany and you in my prayers.

Man, David, your story just tore me up. What an amazing and touching tribute to your partner, friend, and soul mate.

I don’t know you, except from occasionally reading your posts. I still wish I could find a way to say something that would comfort you. Nothing really seems appropriate. I guess that best I can do is say that time will help heal the wound. It will never be the same – there will always a big ugly scar there, but it WILL heal. There is a purpose for your life, to what we don’t know. To serve others, or maybe eventually another lonely soul will need you and it’s meant for you to be there for them.

When Jimmy V said “Never give up”, he was also talking about those left behind. Don’t give up. If you do, when you see Brittany again she will knock you in the head.

God Bless, David.

John CUNNINGHAM-SMITH

So sorry for your loss David. My thoughts are with you at this tragic, sad time.

Rahsaan Johnson

David, thank you for sharing this beautiful story. We’re all here for you, friend.

Mark Herbers

I’ve always enjoyed your writing David. You paint incredibly vivid pictures in your words. This story in particular really expresses your love for your wife and your adventures together. I am so sorry about your loss. I cannot imagine the grief you feel, being robbed of the future with Brittany. Cheerish the memories you created together and continue to celebrate her in the future. Prayers to you.

Thank you so much for sharing, David. I’m so sorry for your loss and the pain you’ve experienced. Your story is a great way to honor her memory. It’s a reminder to us all that life is about the journey, not just the destination and that we should appreciate our time here on earth and our time with one another. My sincerest condolences to you and all of Brittany’s family.

Javier Plumey

Beautiful post, and a heartfelt way to honor Brittany. You’ve inspired me to pay more attention to the plans that my wife and I make to travel. They truly are ways to make beautiful memories.

Sending love and good vibes your way amigo. Thanks for sharing about what you two shared together.

Dear David, you have written a very deserving and emotional tribute to Brittany through this article. I appreciate it a lot and I’m sure all readers of this blog do. Please stay strong and may God bless her soul.

My goodness, David. I’m so sorry to hear this. What a beautiful tribute.

Much love and good luck on your journey.

David lUddy

David—- Extremely sorry for your loss. Words are simple. Stay strong and focused. FLYING IS
the ultimate. God Bless.

DRL
Commercial `Pilot,
Retired

Taraneh Moll

So sorry for your loss David. I remember seeing so many of your posts over the years on Facebook. Grief is something that will come and go in waves. All the best to you and sending prayers.

Dave Sconzert

Sorry for your loss, David. RIP Brittany.

blair kooistra

So sorry for you, David. I’m glad you and Brittany met, connected and got to share time, love and experiences together. And travel on that Q400! I always enjoyed stories of your trips together–certainly you’d found your soulmate.

I am so sorry to hear this. Aviation is a family and we are all here for you.

Salvador Martinez

So sorry for your loss brother. Glad you were able to share those adventures together…

I am very sorry for your loss. That was beautifully written. I am glad you had someone, regardless of how little time you guys had together who appreciated the same things you did.

I am so very sorry for your loss. One day her memory will bring a smile or a laugh BEFORE tears in your eyes….I promise.

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