Amber Nolan is stuck. The 30-year-old is in Alaska and she needs to get to the lower 48 — “or Hawaii.”
She plans to leave Alaska by plane and it likely won’t cost her a dime.
Nolan’s not a stowaway. The aviation enthusiast calls herself a “jet hitchhiker.”
Since 2012, she has hitched rides on jets, planes and the occasional B-17 bomber all across the United States.
“So far I have been to 46 states. All I have left on my list is Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas and Hawaii,” says Nolan.
In this age of tough airport security, something as casual as hitchhiking might seem out of the question. But Nolan says it’s easy.
“The way it works is, I just hang out at small airports talking to people. There are about 14,000 general aviation airports across the country. There is a whole community there and if you are passionate about flying, they love to talk to you.”
Nolan finds out where her new friends are headed and catches a ride.
“I have no agenda or time frame to get anywhere and I’m completely on other people’s schedules. I just get rides in the general direction I need to go,” Nolan told CNN.
The flights may be free, but the ride isn’t.
Nolan has no sponsor for her adventure, so when money gets tight, she picks up odd jobs.
“I’ve worked at restaurants, youth hostels, housekeeping on yachts,” says Nolan. “I even worked with the AIDS healthcare foundation for a while. I take whatever I can get and I stay with whomever I can. I have been basically couch-hopping this entire time.”
Nolan has also been blogging about her experiences on JetHiking.com.
Like all good journeys, Nolan’s will come to an end.
Eventually, she’d like to write a book about jet-hiking and get a pilot’s license of her own.
“That whole free spirit nature, your Amelia Earharts and Charles Lindberghs, are hard to find these days,” she says. “People only really hear about plane crashes and negative flying stories.”
So far, Nolan’s story is anything but negative, filed with chance encounters and friends new and old in towns and airports across the country. And, of course, for Nolan that’s the point.
“It’s more about the journey, the whole thing is actually the goal.”