I am mesmerized with foreign cities and abroad destinations. I know the United States has many a magical city and a broad spectrum of sites, but rarely do I feel inclined to explore locally more than other countries. And even more rarely, do I feel the magic of America. This was until I was able to experience Albuquerque and The International Balloon Fiesta.

Kara Mulder travel blogger flight attendant hotels.com

I was around 10 years old when I first realized such an event with colored flying machines existed, and that it was possible to go up in the air in a basket. Immediately, I filed the experience of riding in a hot air balloon and going to Albuquerque in the back of my mind. One day, I would do that I thought to myself. And, then I kind of forgot.

It’s funny how dreams happen. They seem to have their own meandering path, actualizing in the most unexpected moments. Somehow, someone found me, asked me to write about this one thing, invited me to go do this other thing, and one thing led to another, and I found myself in New Mexico thanks to Hotels.com.

Adventure I love you Kara Mulder

As a flight attendant, I get to travel a lot more than the average person, but unlike the average person, I have to plan my trips and get away when no one else wants to go. So, going to the balloon fiesta as a flight attendant was not bound to happen anytime soon. Also, these days, planning my own trips takes energy I don’t have, and being away from home anymore than I already am, requires an investment that I’m not sure I possess. I’m still obsessed with travel, but I’m more picky with my experiences.

When Hotels.com picked me to join in their first attendance at the fiesta, I was ecstatic. I don’t think I ever comprehended the scope and size of the festivities. What struck me most was the community feel and kindness granted from everyone I met. Families and friends go year after year; seeing their old friends and making new acquaintances. With over 500 balloons that show up during the nine-day festival, it’s the biggest and most international ballooning event in the world. There are a lot of people to meet and a lot of food to eat.

Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico is the ideal location for such an interesting experience. Beautiful and vast, the skies are a picturesque contrast to the bright colors of the balloons that dot the sky. I believe that the state of New Mexico is one of the most underrated in all of America. Maybe more people visit than I think, but rarely do I hear people say, “I’m planning a trip to New Mexico.” I hope I start hearing you say that, because there is a lot to it. I know I need to go back soon.

Over a two day period, I talked more about food and donuts than I ever have in my entire life. The food in Albuquerque is good; not exactly Mexican, but not exactly not. Try Sopapillas with a dab of honey. It’s delicious.

The balloon pilot, Randy, and his wife have a honey beehive I discovered. I found this interesting because my dad also has honeybees. And he’s a pilot, although he flew private jets and not balloons. Randy was the sweetest man and if there was a #relationshipgoal to be had, it would be the story of he and his wife Gwen. Married 50-something years, they go on adventures— always. Adventures together.

“Adventure, I love you.” It was this trip that reminded me that I do love adventure, that being in the sky is where I will always belong, and somehow, I need to escape ‘the airline,’ and find freedom again.

Maybe life is a little like flying in a hot air balloon. You don’t really feel like you are moving, but you can’t help but notice the distance between you and the ground. You can recognize the changes and realize the progress. And sometimes, it’s terrifying, but mostly, it’s simply exhilarating.

ABQ Balloon Fiesta New Mexico

I hope I get more chances to explore my country. It’s really truly beautiful and has it’s own sort of magic. It will never be Denmark, and I may always love those Danish men more, but stand alone, I’m thankful to be an American and absolutely blessed to have my adventures.

If I can give you a few sentences of advice it’s this: 

Always be a dreamer.

Maintain your curiosity, and

DO SOMETHING that will build your skills

and career in some way.

For me, building my career has been blogging. Don’t just travel, but travel intentionally; with purpose and while building something.

And remember the magic of where you are now. 

About the Author

Hello, I’m K. J. Watts, but my friends call me Kara. I fell into the sky and have worked as International cabin crew, on private jets as a corporate flight attendant, and earned an FAA Private Pilot Certificate. Over a decade ago, I started this blog, which developed into a love for writing and a debut memoir based on Flight Attendant Life. A California native, I now live in Sydney, Australia, where I enjoy spending time with my husband, writing, and surfing.

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