do I look like I fly economy?


I used to get so excited flying around the world for work or for pleasure – “jet-setting” they call it. I thought it was the “high life”, so to speak, and I thrived on having my passport stamped with as many different countries’ engravings as possible. Yesterday, I felt proud and superior to those who have never travelled. Today, I am bearing the consequences of my desires.
My parents have been good to me and taken me travelling since a young age. But it was after the first taste of being overseas on my own at the age of 16 that I craved for more. There were so many new and mind-boggling adventures waiting for me! And so the goal was to get overseas for university. Unfortunately that dream shattered for multiple reasons, so I accepted my fate. Yet when fate closed the door, it opened windows to an exchange year in Paris, and representing Hong Kong in various overseas competitions. I bounced around on planes enough for me to learn how to pack quickly and find the good deals online. But as I filed in with the rest of the world onto the 747 to the end of the aircraft, praying no one will sit next to me so I can stretch out a little during the 12 hours, I passed by the Business class seats, and do they look comfortable?!

And so from merely wanting to study overseas, the aspiration of travelling “in style” surreptitiously rooted itself in my head. Back in Hong Kong for the last 2 years of university, my ultimate focus was to continue building my CV that would get me a job in some sort of international company who would pay for my Business Class flights around the world and of course, a spacious apartment to live. Never more would I be stuck living in a studio at the back of some sex shop in Paris ever again, I vowed defiantly to myself.

Needless to say, I was lucky and opportunities presented themselves firstly with international law firms, which I decided wasn’t “my thing”, and ended up with my last company straight out of university. I felt I was on the top of the world – the chance to live around the world, management training, and of course the expatriate package that comes with it. I was feeling truly giddy as I stepped into Business Class for the first time as a passenger at the age of 23: “Miss Li, welcome on board, may I take your coat for you? Would you like a glass of champagne?” I kept a straight face to suppress the giggles, and poignantly accepted my little glass of bubblies as if I do it everyday. Not sure my acting was that good. But oh wells, smirk.

As I saved up money and my income jumped incrementally every 12 months, I started toying with the idea of buying Business class tickets as well when I travelled for holiday. And why not? I laboured and worked hard; I deserve a break, right? At least for those 12-hour flights across the world to some pristine beach, surely. Plus, I had all these friends who worked for airlines who could bump me up a grade, and the mileage I had racked up over the years… I basked in my magnificence as I stroll on board before every other pleb in line and got off first with one hand dragging my little carry-on and one hand scrolling down my blackberry, got my luggage first, and had a car waiting to drive me to oooooh, another 5-star hotel.

Stretching out on my flat bed up in the air is but a reflex now, and waiting for my menu with the vast choices of gourmet and fine wine bears no novelty. And so when by chance, I walked into the cabin via First Class once, I wondered to myself: who gets to fly First class? How do I make enough money to fly First so I can roll around on a wider flat bed on board? Like a hawk I eyed my mileage account, and my heart would skip a beat as the card changed to a more glorious colour every year. My fiancé thinks it’s the most ridiculous thing on earth; I considered it the ultimate proof of my status, lounge and all.

Such desires of vanity brought me to exhaustion, as I tried to climb the corporate ladder faster than anyone else. I tried to produce spectacular results and hold my grounds to manage my career – perhaps I could be the youngest, and first female CEO of the company? Ha. Ha. Ha.

Perhaps I could have been, who knows, but at what expense? Clearly, my health and my mental sanity.

It is partly our wants and desires that fuels these irrational goals, and yet the society does not help either, getting us addicted to that tiered and hierarchical lifestyle, encouraging us to spend more, want more, fly more comfortably. My company spoilt me, yes, but I allowed myself to be spoilt.

When will such materialistic desires end? By the time I get to First class, I’d probably want a private jet! And then, a rocket?

Its ironic isn’t it, I used to love being in the air, found a job to pay the Business class tickets and a salary that would let me afford my own. Yet, today when I can easily do so I am taken out of work because of health, and really, all I want to do is to stay home, drink a cup of fresh mint tea and play with my dog.

The thought of getting on a plane, packing, unpacking, repacking, makes me nauseous. Physically I cannot handle this “jet-setting” anymore. Maybe I’m getting old, who knows? But my body is telling me something and I’d better listen.

At the end of the day, flying around all that much, in such dehydrated environments, is so bad for the skin and ages you faster…


28 Responses

  1. […] acquire these things I needed money. So I tried to make money via a career and slowly I started to possess the things I wanted: I bought shoes, handbags, diamonds, make up; I frequented Michelin restaurants and bought cases of […]

  2. Dave says:

    hello. I used to also luv travelling. I did a lot of it. Lived in Thailand. Japan. Etc. I’m almost to the point of needing to travel inward rather than outward. Cheers!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Dave, thanks for visiting! I love traveling too but like you, I’m also journeying inwards these days and just staying put physically in one place…. Hope both our inward journeys are as fruitful and inspiring as the outward trips! Take care. noch

  3. […] famous poetry did not become the journalist / writer she dreamed of. She studied law instead, more instrumental to establishing a profession, and became a corporate executive. I had forgotten. Till […]

  4. […] got sick and nearly killed myself – suddenly I realized all this experience reaped from being an international executive is highly transferable to any industry, including international […]

  5. […] go of my obsession for title and the corporate […]

  6. […] purpose in writing about the past is not to blame my job, my career, my education, my mother, the external environment or the weather for what has happened to me. […]

  7. srini says:


    I was in a very similar situation,but, at a much lesser level. Had done plenty of mistakes, with so much of arrogance and taking the success to my head, changed jobs to a multinational only to become jobless with in a short period.( 3 years). With very limited options of getting similar employment at above 50 age, I started looking back.

    It has been a very painful journey and do feel delicate to put it in writing. I liked your blog since it just comforts and tells what to look for.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Srini

      Thanks for sharing this heartfelt comment. I can feel your pain in this short message. It takes a lot to look back. I hope you find solace somehow. thanks for reading my writing and letting me know you find comfort in it. it spurs me on…

      Noch Noch

  8. […] better job, then another job, then better get a fxxking good job to pay the bills and support the lifestyle you want. I had that framework engrained in my head since I could remember. Art lessons were full […]

  9. baobao says:

    I can totally relate, it is never enough, is it. I probably have all the things I dreamt of upgrading to five years ago, yet it brought no more happiness than before the upgrade, perhaps less due to bewilderment from”why am I still not happy yet”. I actually never went through the whole big firm, wall street phase, although that is not to say I didn’t want to try. It is not easy to get, you should be applauded for your success and capability. Just now, you have to answer to yourself, the toughest boss of all.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi bao bao

      that’s a great way of putting it – i AM the toughest boss of all to myself, and need to learn to give myself some praise and celebrate success. it’s something i’m learning these days, and try not to be too tough on myself

      how are you doing with being your own boss too? 🙂

      Noch Noch

  10. Thanks so much for the article.Much thanks again. Want more.

  11. […] And so begins the cascade of mentally exhausting ourselves: achieve, work hard for external approval and recognition, compare, compete, achieve. […]

  12. […] I am better because I eat more these days? Then why do I still get panic attacks whenever someone says the word “bank”? […]

  13. […] do I look like I fly economy? […]

  14. […] recommended I read Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, when we were still living in Tokyo. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and I was sprawled on my bed with the computer, punching the […]

  15. […] boast visiting every country in the world as Chris Guillebeau, I certainly have had my share of vagabonding and learnt the secrets of mileage and reward points through credit cards and loyalty […]

  16. Molly says:

    So true! Your story touched me. I echo what you’ve written. Please keep up writing and I want to see more.


  17. […] used to go to Shanghai regularly for business. I never liked it, for I associated the city with superficiality, money and fake friendships. In Shanghai, it was all about the money, the business, and the deals. […]

  18. […] felt responsible for not being able to keep up the lifestyle we had enjoyed over the years. The need to cut back on spending because I am not working, starting […]

  19. […] felt responsible for not being able to keep up the lifestyle we had enjoyed over the years. The need to cut back on spending because I am not working, starting […]

  20. […] 我曾定期去上海出差。我從未喜歡過這個城市,因為我把它和膚淺、金錢以及虛偽的友誼掛上了鉤。在上海,事情從來都是有關金錢,業務、合同。對我來說,浦東機場冷酷得就像客戶跟我談下的利潤低得不能再低的合同一樣。矗立在商業區的摩天大樓身著鋼筋水泥的盔甲,隨時準備抵禦一切友善與理解的溫情。 […]

  21. […] vying for attention, because I had ignored the small voice inside of me for so long. The endeavour to be what others wanted me to be, to chisel into perfection the image society would laud and honour, over exerted my soul, body, and […]

  22. […] a while, I prided myself as geographically mobile and open-minded. I wore expatriate like a badge on my sleeve. This was a dynamic world that I was fortunate to participate in and […]

  23. […] I am better because I eat more these days? Then why do I still get panic attacks whenever someone says the word “bank”? […]

about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.