Wanderlust couple Ralph Vega and Tim Ellington recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary in March. Kudos! But before they were hitched, Vega was born and raised in Chicago and Ellington was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. And today, Fort Lauderdale is home to the traveling duo.
On the surface, they look like a cute gay couple, but these frequent flyers are flight attendants for two different commercial airline carriers. Vega works for Delta Airlines, and Ellington works for JetBlue Airlines. The couple has traveled around the world and has visited a combined total of 38 countries.
So, we decided to not only ask them our regular Vacationer of the Week questions, but we wanted to get the real scoop on what it’s like to be a flight attendant. They offer words of wisdom for frequent flyer, dispel common myths about flight attendants, and tell us where their wanderlust will take them next!
At what age did you receive your first passport? What was your first trip?
Ralph Vega: I received my first passport when I was 16. My parents got my passport to take our first family trip to Mexico.
Tim Ellington: I was 26 when I got my first passport to visit Barbados for my first international trip.
What trip or travel experience sparked your passion for travel?
Vega: It was my second travel experience that sparked my interest in travel. I decided to take a cruise to the Caribbean. After touring through the Caribbean, I was able to reflect on my travel journey and realized there was more of the world to discover. So, I continued to take solo trips, and eventually, I decided to become a flight attendant.
Ellington: My first international travel experience provided me with some insight into how essential travel is to your life’s balance. I decided to become a flight attendant and that allowed me to explore different countries throughout my work tenure.
What inspires you to travel?
New destinations, friend referrals, and social media play a huge impact as inspiration to continue traveling. The pandemic has taken a huge toll on our ability to travel to new destinations, but it hasn’t stopped us. We have been able to travel to new domestic destinations through work.
Please tell us how you identify yourself on the LGBTQIA spectrum. Tell us if how you identify influences the way you travel. If so, how?
Vega: Tim and I identify as gay. We try to find gay-friendly travel destinations; however, that doesn’t dictate our decision-making process when planning a trip or traveling. Traveling to gay-friendly destinations allows us to feel safe and comfortable in our surroundings. In an ideal world, we both hope that every destination is gay-friendly but that is not always the case.
Is there a travel destination that most queer travelers would think isn’t safe to visit, but you’ve visited and enjoyed it?
Vega: Five years ago, I visited Colombia for the first time. Colombia has had a bad reputation throughout the years for not being safe, but times have changed, and I believe that Colombia is a hidden gem that people will eventually start to discover throughout the years. Tim and I have visited Bogota, Colombia together and now we want to explore more of the country
Cuba is another international destination that LGBTQ+ travelers should consider visiting. We were able to travel to Cuba in January 2020. We were both surprised by the country’s beauty, including Havana and the countryside. We noticed there was a large LGBTQ+ community on the island. The people were extremely humble and friendly. We visited a gay bar, and we were pleasantly surprised by the events, activities, and how everyone surrounding us was having an amazing time. And the food there was unbelievably fresh, delicious, and inexpensive. Tim and I both felt safe in Cuba, and we’ve recommended it to close friends and family.
Was it naturally easy to start traveling with one another? Why or why not? What are the perks of traveling as a couple?
We’ve traveled together on road trips, each other’s layovers, and both to domestic and international travel destinations. We are both flight attendants and we’ve learned through work the importance of how we complement each other when we traveled together. We both respect each other’s strengths and traveling together is usually stress-free. As a couple, we have been able to learn and grow with each other throughout each vacation.
What would you say are some common myths about flight attendants that are not true?
Some common myths are that we are not all air mattresses or glorified servers and bartenders. The main responsibility of a flight attendant is the safety of each passenger on board. There is a negative stigma about flight attendants. You cannot always judge a book by its cover. Everyone is different. Despite what people think, most flight attendants are very smart individuals who usually come from an academic or medical background.
Name one insider flight attendant tip that you can share with passengers.
Adopt and understand the “Golden Rule,” which is the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated. Acts of kindness go a long way, like smiling and saying or responding to a “hello.”
When traveling, it is important to stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings.
What are your top three favorite places to visit?
1. Thailand for the food, the culture, the sites, and the people
2. Brazil for the sites, the beaches, and the food
3. The Netherlands for the culture, architecture, the food, the people, museums, and bike riding
This article first appeared on our sister site, Vacationer, as part of their Vacation of the Week series.