Photo Credit: Love at First Flight
From Office Romance To World Travel: Couple Shares The Realities Of Traveling Together
Mahdi and Lanaiza met in the office, working within sales for a travel company, whilst on the life-changing periphery of what they didn’t know would be a love and a business built on traveling together across the world. From break-downs in Costa Rica to figuring it out together in Thailand, this couple shares how they keep the love for travel and each other fresh with their company Love At First Flight.
Travel Noire: Tell us a bit about who you are and where you’re from?
Lanaiza: My name is Lanaiza, I grew up between Mississippi and Florida and have been living in New Orleans for about five years.
Mahdi: My name is Mahdi (like Mardi Gras) and I was born here in New Orleans, where I’ve spent most of my life.
TN: How did your journey traveling together start?
Mahdi: It really all started at work. We both worked in sales for a travel company and as with most good things, it started with banter. We would joke around with one another, and I used to always tell her she looked like she was in a bad mood, as she wouldn’t smile much in the mornings. So she started making it a point to be very extra with her smiles in the morning whenever she saw me. It was one of those where everyone knew we were a couple before we did. Shortly after, we decided that we were wasting time not being a couple, so we officially became one and started taking trips. The first trip was to Puerto Rico, which actually ended up being the destination that started our company, Love At First Flight. It was a bioluminescent tour that did it for us, we fell in love with experiencing new things together.
Lanaiza: We both had the desire to travel, especially working in the travel industry. But because we worked so much, we never really got to take those trips. So when we made the time to travel, it was actually for Mahdi’s birthday. I think it was the first time he had ever gone anywhere for his birthday, or at least for a while. So it really was like travelling for the first time together, all over again.
TN: What did you discover after taking the first flight as a couple?
Lanaiza: We were such good friends before we started dating, so traveling felt like a pretty natural transition. For me, it was most fun learning what kind of traveler Mahdi was. I’m very adventurous. I like to do crazy things like kayaking in the dark and things like that. So I think it was cool to know that he was down for the adventure. I’d say that’s the best thing that you can have in a partner – especially a partner in travel – somebody who is willing to do exciting things with you.
TN: How was the transition from being colleagues in corporate America to starting Love At First Flight?
Lanaiza: Currently we both work office jobs in the travel industry, only now we’re both in marketing. The big difference is now that we’ve discovered the world of traveling together, we work for ourselves on social media together and then as an addition we work for corporate America together too.
Mahdi: But doing our own thing has also been super scary because it’s an unknown field for us both.
Lanaiza: It definitely is scary because neither one of us had any experience in photography or in social media marketing. That was the very new side to things, but at the same time it is so rewarding, freeing. Being able to say that in a year and a half we’ve accomplished so much, especially having started in the middle of the pandemic, is a great feeling. With working for yourself, you decide what you want to do, where you want to go, and you call the shots as opposed to working for someone else. It is so much more rewarding.
TN: After Puerto Rico, what would you say has been your favorite trip together?
Lanaiza: After Puerto Rico, we went super left field and flew out to Thailand. I think Thailand was our first time on a really long flight. It was a lot of firsts for us both, actually. At the time, we actually stayed at one of our properties that we worked for. So that was really cool to experience, seeing the extent of our jobs outside the US. Thailand was really the catalyst for our travel behaviors and a big eye-opener.
Mahdi: Before the Thailand trip, we thought close to home was the way to go, but after going, we felt more comfortable exploring farther in our travels. It was a big cultural change, going from Puerto Rico to Thailand, but maybe for that reason it was definitely a top three trip. For me, it’s up there with Turkey and Guatemala.
Lanaiza: Yes Guatemala! The trip really surprised me, we hiked an active volcano and toasted marshmallows while up there. Trips like those really push us and give us things we’ll take with us forever.
TN: Which was the trip to push your limits within your relationship?
Mahdi: Peru, in the Huacachina desert, without a doubt. We recently went to the Huacachina desert, which also has a lagoon. We were trying to leave and our GPS took us on a very remote route, and we ended up going way further into the dunes than we were supposed to and got lost.
Lanaiza: Moments like those make me thankful for having a partner to travel with because I had a complete breakdown and if I were by myself I would probably still be there right now. Costa Rica was also another example and made me realize that the jungle wasn’t for me. The insects, spiders – not for me, but I was super grateful to not be alone.
Mahdi: We left the hotel in the middle of the night and just drove to our next destination because we just couldn’t sleep with all the spiders and wildlife. And then the car got stuck in the middle of the night, and we had to push it. We documented it all, you can actually find it on the Costa Rica highlights on Instagram.
TN: Do you find that you get asked a lot of questions about the not-so-glamorous parts of traveling together?
Lanaiza: On Instagram everything is already so beautiful and travel is done really well, but we like to share moments like that in Costa Rica or Peru, where we’re getting lost in the desert or crying in the middle of the jungle because that’s a real part of travel. We want to make travel look as real as possible so others can do it too and know that it’s not always going to be perfect. People actually ask more about the things that go wrong because often you see the same types of content about a location. I think our audience appreciate us for sharing the good, bad and the ugly.
We’re actually having a group trip coming up in September to Zanzibar, which will be our first-time in Africa. We haven’t yet announced it, but we want to offer people the chance to see how we travel and to join us on this new adventure as we learn and appreciate the beautiful Tanzanian culture.
Mahdi: It will also be my birthday, so we’ll have extra reason to celebrate!