Fellow nomads, meet Ricky.
Or as his passengers know him, Mr. Darlington.
Yes, that’s really his name.
As a longhaul pilot for Lufthansa, Ricky does more than wear a uniform with Mad Men-worthy panache. He uses his lofty perch to host an ongoing guessing game on Instagram. Underneath each post, he offers a hint based in the location’s history, geography or culture. No geotags are posted until somebody succeeds in identifying his whereabouts.
Remember the game “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” It’s like that, but for grown-ups. Speaking of which, a caveat: if social media brings out your competitive side, think twice about following this account.
Having prided myself as a pre-teen on my knowledge of geography, it is with deep chagrin that I confess to a score of exactly zero on Ricky’s Instagram quiz. But his beautiful photography and the lessons in geopolitical arcana are totally worth the blow to my ego.
When not gracing passenger aircraft (and elevator mirrors) with his rakish good looks, Ricky lives the life we all say we’d live if we got paid to travel. That is to say, he gets out of the plane and goes exploring. According to Ricky, this is a lot rarer than you might imagine.
“There are a lot of colleagues that settle for staying in the hotel, at the most going to a shopping mall,” he dishes. “Sometimes it’s really hard to push yourself out of bed–the hotels are usually high class, and you could easily just stay in and enjoy a comfortable life.”
For Ricky, though, this is far from enough. Back when he worked in investment banking, nobody was curious about his life. Now he not only gets paid to travel the world, but to experience it on behalf of others.
“Every time I land in a country where I normally never would be–like Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan or some remote place in China–feels like something unexpected. Places I never would have seen otherwise, searching for photogenic gems, doing road trips, enjoying food in its proper surroundings–everything is possible.”
Hey, we’ve all got to work.
Give us the deets on your nomadic lifestyle.
You could say that I have two lives. One being rooted at home in beautiful Stockholm with my family, in a suburb with a station wagon; the other one, being a nomad.
Every layover is different for me. My last trip was to Tokyo where I didn’t even get a glimpse of daylight. We went around restaurants and bars in Shinjuku and Shibuya until early in the morning. My next trip is San Francisco where I’m going to Lake Tahoe with some colleagues.
What’s the most common response you get when people learn that you’re a nomad?
People seem to be very interested, asking a lot questions and telling me about their own experiences as passengers. Many ask about how dangerous certain situations are, like turbulences or thunderstorms. Others want to know about the technology, like how we know where every button is. Many ask how it feels to be responsible for the lives and health of over 300 people.
Does having a family make nomadic life harder or easier?
My family usually stays at home when I travel for work, although I brought my son and father along once, and my wife twice. That was great and I’m going to try to do that as often as possible. It’s just difficult right now with two small kids; they’re 7 and 4.
I’m back again after a week in Hong Kong and it’s a great feeling to get this warm welcoming at home. Being a pilot is like having two lives, as I’m gone more or less half of the time. Being away, I can do that spontaneous stuff that I can’t really do at home, enjoying the nightlife, culture and sights as I want – so I look forward to almost every trip. But being away also makes me miss my family (and also gives me a bit of a bad conscience) so I’m really eager to get back home and focus 100% on the family and that everyone’s happy. It’s not an easy task, but I think we’re doing fine. It’s not so bad either as a couple, making us long more for another. The best with having two ”lives” is that one reenergizes the other. So what does this mean? That I’m pretty damn happy most of the time and get to live my life as I want. Look, even my socks are happy 😉 If you’ve read so far, you’ve deserved a quiz: as you can see I’m wearing my hat- actually I don’t wear it too often because it’s not required, in contrast to it being compulsory in many companies. This is a question for non-Lufthansa people: why do you think we don’t have to wear it? Photo cred: my mother-in-law ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The #lufthansa #pilot Ricky’s #awesome #avgeek, #wanderlust, #travel, #plane and #crewlife #quiz, this time wearing #HappySocks and spreading #HappinessEverywhere. #family #homeitis #homeisbest #bortabramenhemmabäst #origami
What’s one tool you can’t live without?
Well, the plane. But seriously, my camera. I always have it with me and photograph all sorts of things, although mainly architecture and landscapes (also from the cockpit). Some of my photos end up on my Instagram account–that was just a fun thing for friends at first, but grew pretty quickly, as people seem to find the idea amusing.
For me it’s great, because it gets me motivated to find new photo locations. If I don’t have a plan, there’s a risk that I stay in the hotel doing nothing, too.
Love the style of the women here, so colourfully dressed. Although the trash in the background river makes a rather somber contrast. Anyway, a few blocks away there were people standing on the streets watching boxing, a huge sport here. Another clue: a ‘record’ was set here in 1957, which one? And of course, where am I? The #wherethehellami #avgeek and #crewlife #travel and #wanderlust #quiz. #boxing #colors #universetoday #fantastic_universe #huffpostgram #wonderful_places #ghana #independence
What’s one thing you know now about nomadic life that you wish you’d known earlier?
It wasn’t really up to me, but if I would have had a free choice, I would have started with longhaul flying before having kids. Then my wife and I would have been away all the time, only choosing the longest layovers.
What a lovely guy taking us through the canals of this charming, yet tourist-crowded city. It didn’t even disturb me that he was flirting with my wife… We’re in one of many ‘Venice-of-the-Norths’ and you can get some nice moules frites, beers and cheeses here. I’m not gonna mention the chocolate though, I think it’s totally overrated. Where could we be?
Tell us about something unexpected that nomadic life brought you.
Once a taxi driver in Harbin, China, left me alone in the car, parked on a super busy street. It was dark and minus 30 degrees Celsius; angry Chinese were honking at me, as he was gone for 10 minutes. Turned out he went to the toilet. As we pilots say, haste is waste.
Where’s your secret spot?
I love hanging out in Arthur’s Tavern in New York–a small, laid back jazz club near Christopher Street. Especially on Mondays, when New York’s oldest Dixie band plays. These guys really have music in their blood.
Most important tip for nomadic life, in 7 words or less:
Skip the museums!