The Crimson White

Travel writer ‘jet hikes’ her way across country

Becky Robinson

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Since July 2012, travel writer Amber Nolan has been hitchhiking across America. But the 28-year-old travel writer isn’t sticking her thumb out on highways. She’s using small planes.

Nolan, who recently stopped in Tuscaloosa, said the idea of “jet hiking” came when she spoke with a local pilot about her desire to see the country.

“The [general aviation] community is really, really tight knit and they’re wonderful people that enjoy sharing their passion of aviation with other people,” Nolan said. “The first flight was from Rochester, N.Y., to Nashville.”

From Nashville, Tenn., Nolan traveled through most of the western United States and the southern states. She said she frequents air shows, airports and online forums to find pilots willing to giver her a lift.

It’s a lot of just getting the word out to people and networking,” Nolan said. “I kind of go where pilots are going, I don’t really have any set schedule.”

Marcus Burge was one pilot who helped Nolan in her journey, giving her a ride from Columbus, Miss., to Tuscaloosa.

“I found out about Amber’s Jet Hiking adventure through her website, jethiking.com, after a friend sent me an email telling me to check it out,” Burge said. “I found out she was in Dallas and contacted her, letting her know to contact me when she was looking for a ride to or from Mississippi.”

Burge and Nolan met at the Dreams of Wings event in Columbus, Miss., and made the half-hour trip to Tuscaloosa in a Cessna 152.

Nolan said during her stay in the city, she visited local restaurants, went disc golfing and took a trip to Moundville, Ala.

While traveling cross-country in general aviation planes is adventurous, it doesn’t come without its trials.

“I actually went through all my money,” Nolan said. “Twice. I do freelance writing along the way to fund it, but it’s barely enough to get to the next stop.”

When she is low on cash, Nolan said she takes jobs at restaurants and hostels or goes back to her home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to work in shipyards.

Erin Seidemann, a pilot from New Orleans, La., also gave Nolan a ride in her journey.

“My friend works at an airport in nearby Gonzales, Louisiana, and Amber had been dropped off there seeking a ride to New Orleans,” Seidemann said. “I was hopelessly intrigued by my friend’s short description of what Amber was doing, so I got her contact info and sent her an email offering to let her stay at my house while in New Orleans and to see if she needed a ride to her next stop.”

When Nolan arrived in New Orleans, she stayed at Seidemann’s house, something she does frequently.

Nolan said she uses a website called couchsurfers.com to find people to host her.

“I feel a lot safer doing this in a plane than in a car,” Nolan said. “I can look them up ahead of time, talk to them and friend them on Facebook,”

Nolan’s trip has also brought positive attention to the struggling general aviation industry.

“This segment of aviation is not widely covered by news media outlets, except in the event of tragic accidents,” Burge said. “There are so many positive things happening in general aviation, such as Angel Flights, Pilots N Paws and Operation P.R.O.P.”

Seidemann said she was glad to see that Nolan was bringing more attention to female pilots, which is a “huge cause” for her.

Nolan doesn’t know when her trip is going to end, but she does have plans for when it does.

“The more and more I’m doing this, the more I’m enjoying it and I plan on getting my [pilot’s] license when I finish the project,” Nolan said. “I’m learning as I go a lot, it’s just not official.”

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Travel writer ‘jet hikes’ her way across country