In Episode 7 of 85 Percent, host Beth Santos sits down with changemakers in the LGBTQ+ travel space Kirstie Pike and Christine Diaz of On Airplane Mode.

Episode 7 of the 85 Percent podcast is live and we can’t wait for you to meet Kirstie and Christine of On Airplane Mode!

New to 85 Percent? Here’s a quick intro

85 Percent is a new podcast hosted by Wanderful’s founder and CEO, Beth Santos. We’re talking about the fact that 85% of travel decisions are made by women, yet women are consistently left out of travel marketing and leadership.

In each episode of this podcast, Beth sits down with a trailblazing woman (or in this case, women) who is making moves to create a more equitable travel equation for all of us.

Introducing Episode 7 with Kirstie Pike and Christine Diaz of On Airplane Mode

Kirstie and Christine are an award-winning multicultural LGBTQ+ couple using their platform and production company On Airplane Mode to inspire others to follow their passions all while celebrating who they are and who they love! They started their platform from the ground up to empower women and the LGBTQ+ community to have their voices heard. In under two years, they are proud to have built an engaging and loyal following of half a million, success across multiple social media platforms, and recognized across multiple media outlets.

00:03

“Excuse me, miss. Yes, you need to put your phone on airplane mode.”

“Okay, setting it right now.” 

00:14

Christine Diaz: I’m a very punny kind of girl. I love a good time. It was available. It was something that we always did. We traveled a lot even throughout our relationship and so,

Kirstie would just always remind me “put your phone on airplane mode”. So we found ourselves saying it a lot and more often, but it started with us wanting to take pictures and travel the world.

Welcome to the 85 Percent Podcast

00:36

Beth Santos: Did you know that women make 85% of travel decisions? Whether booking a trip for our families, or cleaning the hotel rooms. Women are the backbone of the travel industry. But the people we see in travel shows, marketing and leadership. They don’t look like us. Now we’re cutting through the noise to talk to the changemakers the trailblazers and the women who make travel what it is and how we can make travel better for all of us. This is 85 Percent, I’m your host, Beth Santos. 

Meet Kirstie Pike and Christine Diaz of On Airplane Mode

Beth Santos: Get ready to be On Airplane Mode yeah, I said it. I mean, the pun is irresistible. I just love everything about it. I first crossed paths with the award-winning power couple Kirstie and Christine, On Airplane Mode in the New York Travel and Adventure show. I ran a session for content creators and they hosted a session after mine. I remember searching for their Instagram wondering “who are these gals?”. I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of them. Then I realized I was in the gross minority, 150,000 followers on Instagram, nearly half a million on TikTok. I had to admit, the following was pretty impressive. I’ve learned a lot about the evolution of the content creator industry. 

In 2009, I started a travel blog that eventually morphed into the international community that is Wanderful today. If you remember, there was a time when blogging was the social media of its time, then all of these other platforms developed and became part of the mainstream. And great things have come with it a way to stay connected unlike ever before with anyone just about anywhere. But other less positive side effects also evolve an era of FOMO ‘fear of missing out’ and creating these false realities, especially in travel. In the travel creator world. It’s really easy to make travel look perfect and picturesque. But it takes a whole kind of other creator who’s willing to stand up and share some of the things less talked about. 

I admire how much Kirstie and Christine use their platform to not just talk about the beauty of travel, but how important it is to find queer representation in the travel space. They create visual images and tell stories that inspire others to get out there. They’re also real about what that experience is like for them. After this conversation, you’ll understand even more how Kirstie and Christine are using their platform, on a whole other level, something that should inspire all of us.

How did On Airplane Mode start?

03:11

Christine Diaz: It started with us wanting to take pictures and travel the world. I mean, actually primarily traveling the world and that was our passion. We wanted to see things, learn about different cultures, embrace things outside of where we were living.

03:26

Kirstie Pike: When we first met to kind of back it up even more I had met her I’d been traveling with friends for two years prior to moving to New York, she was in New York and working in an AD Agency. And I was like, not for long, we’re gonna quit and you’re gonna move to Asia with me, and we’re gonna travel. And you know, of course, her parents were like “nah who is this? Who is this girl”.

Christine Diaz: Yeah, being a first-generation American, they were kind of like, “who is this girl? What is she doing to you?”.

03:53

Kirstie Pike: Yeah, and I’m over here like here’s freedom. Like, in the hurt years, you can do it, you can quit. And anyways, so we did we saved for two years at that point, because she was very much like, I also want to travel and I don’t want to wait till I’m retired and evil. So we worked very hard for two years in New York and saved up as much money as possible. And we bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. And we started traveling from there. We were in Southeast Asia for over 10 months. Along the way. You know, we were asking strangers “oh, could you take a picture of us? Would you mind temple in the background and just gorgeous, beautiful beach or? “

And of course, like your voice?

04:29

Christine Diaz: Yeah. And then it’ll always be like, half our ear is in the frame. Or like in the middle of talking. 

Kirstie Pike: Our eyes are closed, blinking. And they’re like, oh, and then they turn it sideways and you’re like, oh my goodness, like we just need to buy a tripod. So we bought a $15 tripod in Myanmar and just random tiny store and it came with a Bluetooth remote. We were like cool, we’ll take our own pictures from now on. And you know, we started getting more creative with it. We’re like, well, now that we can kind of set it up and let’s make it really cool and have fun with the editing process and see if we can tell a story behind the photos. and started off really, just above the way we like to do it. 

05:03

Christine Diaz: Yeah I mean, the good thing also was that we were backpacking, and we didn’t create a schedule around it, we had an infinite amount of time. So we were able to kind of pick up on, you know, YouTube tricks on, okay, I like this background, let’s make these colors look aesthetically, pleasing on Instagram, like, okay, let’s just run with it.

05:23

Kirstie Pike: You know, we’ve started posting those pictures, and they’re started getting some traction online. And we were like, well, this is really cool. But I think it really was a pivotal moment for both of us when people started DMing us from all over the world, every country, you could think of saying, “Hi, you know, I just found your pictures, is it possible for me to travel to this country and hold my partner’s hand? You know, is it okay? If I bring my queer family to that destination and feel safe?”

And you know, at first, we were both like, why are people asking us? You know, what, why, why us? And then we realized very quickly on that we were representation for people, when there there isn’t much, you know, there isn’t much queer, female representation in media at all. And there weren’t very many places where people can come and directly answer questions about traveling safely as a queer traveler.

06:07

Christine Diaz: It kind of made us start talking about it, because people were DMing. us and we’re like, let’s just post about it instead of answering no, and having them wait. But we also did that as well, and how those conversations are like, I think this is powerful. And this is a message that people need to hear and need to see that you can travel safely. And, you know, we can help be those Trailblazers if we want to be and I mean, even for ourselves, like when we were trying to research destinations, like, we’re going to Malaysia to a Muslim country, can I be out and about with you? Is it okay? Like what do we actually feel and we couldn’t find experiences that match to who we are. It just felt like there was a place for this, there was a need for this.

06:47

Kirstie Pike: And I kind of like you know, snowballed into everything that it is now and us being like, this is our passion. You know, we want our passion now has transformed into not only travel, but travel that matters, travel that’s actually making a difference in the world. And you know, you’re not only just from our perspective, but meeting different people from different backgrounds and walks of life, different traditions, cultures, everything and learning how we can all kind of go together as one, you know, because as much as we’re learning about different countries that we traveled to those people and those locals there also teach us so much and open our eyes. So it’s just really cool to be able to have the platform to be able to do that.

07:21

Beth Santos: Having a conversation with Christine and Kirstie is like watching two professional tennis players except rather than competing against each other. They’re seamlessly volleying back and forth, constantly enhancing or finishing each other’s concepts. 

It’s actually really amazing to witness. It’s like you want to contribute. But you also just want to let them keep going. Because they’re getting somewhere really good. But it’s not just their ideas that complement each other. It’s their skill sets as well. That’s the goal, really, for anyone looking for a co-founder. It’s like the dream we all have when we’re starting a business with someone else. But it’s a whole other thing for that business partner to be a life partner as well.

08:02

Christine Diaz: She is definitely the creative when comes to content, she has than I am, but she’s definitely downplaying it. She is an artist. 

08:11

Kirstie Pike: No, thank you, thank you, I feel like it’s I always get shy talking about it. I went to art school for a year in San Francisco. And they were still telling me what kind of art to do in school. And I felt like that was still not resonating with me. So I ended up not finishing school, but I still always had that creative drive behind me. And that’s kind of where, you know, bartending actually gave me that freedom to express myself within, you know, the cocktails, I was making, you know, 17 ingredients, things like that, but also an opportunity to talk to strangers that would come in and sit down. And within 15 minutes, we were no longer strangers, because I was like, let’s, let’s get to know each other and break that barrier. So that was always fun for me.

But I think that it was a perfect match in the sense that she did have that advertising background. And I was like, I can take a picture. But I have no idea what to do with that early on. We were like, okay, how do we create a platform, we’ve got the platform now. And we are you know, building an audience? How do we actually create longevity with this? And she goes, “well, now you need a media kit. Now you need a pitch deck, maybe.” And I was like, whoa, that’s a different language to me. And so it was amazing to see all of her knowledge come to this and create a business out of it was amazing.

Taking the jump and becoming a content creator

09:14

Beth Santos: Creators listening. How many times has someone said to you something along the lines of “when you get a real job”, like “you’ll do X, Y and Z once you get a real job”, or “you know what it’s like when you have a real job”. It’s taken a while for content creation to be viewed as a legitimate entrepreneurial venture. It looks like a fun side hustle. And for some people it is but for other people, this is their full-time career and it’s hard work. It’s not just creating beautiful Instagram images, it’s marketing, it’s sales, it’s business development and planning. Its finance, its customer relations, it’s PR. Oh, and of course also it’s creating content.

On top of that, in the beginning, many wondered how content creators would actually make money. But now we realize it’s a mix of things, sponsored content and advertising, but also creating your own products and services and subscriptions. With the right mix of focus and business savvy, you can earn a stable salary as a content creator. But the entrepreneurial path isn’t for everyone. It’s much riskier. It takes a whole other level of individual drive and initiative, and you miss out on a stable paycheck and easy benefits. It’s why as a parent, I also understand many other parent’s concerns with this type of career. And it certainly was that way with Christine’s family as well.

10:36

Christine Diaz: It didn’t take time for them to understand truly what we do or see the value even of what we’re doing. And then, you know, as soon as I’ve started showing them, like, here are some DMs, like these are people in other countries like real people and real stories, and this is their experience, and they want to find connection. And we want to be that connection as well. We love meeting people. And we love hearing other stories. I think having our platform and being able to share that, is our true passion in this. So I feel like now they’re starting to get it they’re starting to be like, “Oh, this is marketing, actually because now I do want to go to Jordan or, you know, wherever we could go”.

11:11

Kirstie Pike: Run from originally from Tennessee, when we’re I, my whole family come from like, this blue-collar, right, where it’s like police officers, military, doctors, and like that’s it trying to explain to the older generation that there is such a huge industry with marketing and creators. And you know, it’s amazing, it’s really cool to see that because that wasn’t an option for them.

Christine Diaz: Because I mean, our parent’s background the American dream was, get a house, get a stable job, retire. Now that’s changed. I feel like the American Dream has now evolved, like people want to be happy with the job that they’re doing and living life not waiting to live life.

How safe do Kristie and Christine of On Airplane Mode feel being affectionate in public overseas?

11:46

Beth Santos: There can be some fear when traveling solo even for a cis white woman like me, traveling as an interracial couple with my husband, I don’t even have to worry that much about significant backlash for walking hand in hand. I can access a lot of places without issue and rarely get questioned. For Christine and Kirstie though it’s a different story. While their social media shows very open, loving romantic images as a queer couple. I wanted to know if their travels always felt the way their images portrayed it, how safe do they feel being affectionate in public overseas, not just as lesbian travelers themselves, but as advocates and representatives in the LGBTQ travel space

12:27

Kirstie Pike: But you know, a lot of people don’t even realize that there are the countries where it’s illegal to be gay, identify as gay and LGBTQ and 11 of those it’s punishable by death, right. And then even in just the US alone, there’s been 400 bills, anti-queer bills passed in this year alone. I think that’s something that we’re continuously wanting to share that information not in a hateful way, right, because that’s never going to open up anyone’s mind opening it up and having that discussion, because a lot of people don’t even know that also to that.

12:56

Christine Diaz: Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to visit those countries, because that is not part of our agenda. I guess it’s not to boycott any countries, but queer people live there. And just because let’s say the government or politics is deciding these laws, and this legislation doesn’t mean that everyone agrees with this or that it’s a direct reflection of that destination’s people.

13:17

Kirstie Pike: Definitely an interesting conversation too, because you are spending money in those countries, you don’t want to keep funding the ideas of silencing the queer people that live there. But it’s also at the same time by not going to those countries, you yourself are also silencing the queer people that live there, because they no longer have the opportunity to show others who are in their community like, hey, they’re normal, you know, everyone’s normal. I’m normal, you know. And so either way, it’s a tough decision. 

Christine Diaz: And even outside of just being LGBTQ or lesbian travelers, we are adventure enthusiasts. Especially her, she’s an adrenaline junkie, she’s like, “what are you doing tomorrow morning, oh, we’re going to climb the volcano not only up to the top but down into it” and I’m like “girl” I suffer from FOMO. But just because we are queer travelers, it’s just a small identity of who we are, right? Like, we’d love to do these amazing things. We just came back from Jordan recently, and so many people were like, “don’t go there, don’t go there”. And at the same time, there’s, you know, Petra, one of the world’s wonders.

14:13

Kirstie Pike: And then when you do go to the destinations, your eyes are open wide, and you learn so much about their religion and their culture. I think there’s a fine balance between being respectful of the country you’re entering because it is a different country your entering someone else’s place. They have a right to have religion, and whatever it is, and just like we do, you know, I feel like also when, as a traveler, you kind of have to have that intuition. Like there are destinations that are going to be a lot easier to navigate. And then there are destinations that are going to be harder to navigate and it’s kind of up to you to want to take that chance and, you know, see and explore and I feel like open your mind to that.

14:52

Christine Diaz: But for example, Jordan, I keep coming back to that because places like we just you know, this month we went to Jordan, we went to Bora Bora, and both of those are two totally different, right Jordan’s, you know, you cannot talk about being openly queer. But it was honestly one of the most consistently, most hospitable, generous people we’ve ever met on any of our travels, everyone made us very safe, very comfortable, and it was amazing. And, and I think that to me has enough to talk and rave about right.

And I love that then we went to Bora Bora, which was another amazing fact, right, because it’s only an eight hour flight from Los Angeles. But people don’t realize that it’s such a beautiful paradise there. And they actually have three vendors in a culture, it’s very, very common to see two spirited people, and they are actually put on a pedestal in a way right there. They’re seen as child caregivers and people who take care of the sick because they’re so amazing and it’s just truly beautiful to see that and talk about that. Because even in our own communities, especially the LGBTQ community, a lot of times trans and non-binary people get left out or non-able bodied people will get left out. And I think that is something that we also love to share is there are countries out there that are accepting on different levels. 

We do a lot of research on every single place we go to. And sometimes, you know, even though it does hurt for us to not hold hands because both of us are very physical touch people like we like to hold hands like we’re close together like that. But if it means that we’re prioritizing our safety, above all else, we’ll make sure that we’re not holding hands in public, no PDA and things like that. We’re like just to make sure that we are putting priority towards safety-ness just because the country would that you do research on it says this is the most friendly place in the world, it doesn’t mean that you’re always, always guaranteed safe experiences, you could travel to any country and there be a situation.

And there’s a lot of places sometimes in the US that we have to be like “are we good here”, “can we hold hands at the pool”, “can we, you know, show that we’re a couple?”, “are we friends”, you know, like how does that that’s a conversation we have to have everywhere we go to just even just as a couple.

16:48

Kirstie Pike: Something that we talked about too, because again, these are our experiences, our personal experiences and that’s all we can really say. Like we do admit that you know, we are white passing your privileged look, cis and straight sometimes we can get away with like friends or sisters or whatever it is. And that happened a lot in Asia, where actually there’s that kind of like sisterly or womanly bond between people. So you’ll see two women holding hands and that’s okay and it passes. But again, that’s not for everyone. And that’s something that we also like to discuss and chat with people as well because not everyone has that privilege.

17:26

Christine Diaz: Of course, every now and then we do get, you know, some feedback where they’re like, that’s not.

Kirstie Pike: That’s not my experience. 

Christine Diaz: Yeah, exactly. Which is completely valid, and that’s why we find it so so important to always disclose the fact that we can have the privilege of looking like we could be straight passing sometimes, because that is not the reality of all LGBT people, and there’s so much validity in their identity. But that is something that might alter their experience and that’s something I can’t particularly speak to, but I can share our experience, you know.

So we do live in a world where boycott culture is a thing and canceled culture is a thing. And you know, as much as you want to be that person that is trailblazing you have to be careful of those things. And also, we never want to say something that is incorrect, right? Like, that’s never the intention either, of course, we’re human, and you know, sometimes that happens, but, you know, a part of learning to, you know, that’s for everyone, the viewers, or the creators or anything, it’s like, how can I learn from your experience, then better explain myself in the future. So it’s just really fun to have that connection with our audience, too, because there’s been times were they give us feedback. And I’m like, that is great for us to know so that way we can share that with future people.

18:32

Kirstie Pike: And I think ultimately we just want to uplift the community. So we want to hear from other people. I think also within our community, we all have the same feeling we want to move up, the only way we can learn is by talking to each other and sharing what we have to say, and then hearing what you have to say and taking that in. 

Christine Diaz: Yeah it’s true. In 80 years from now, we look back. And we realized that we had this beautiful platform with all these, you know, amazing listeners around the world. And we didn’t do anything with it, then what was the point? What was the reason why we’ve been given this opportunity to be the spokesperson to be the representation if it’s not to make positive change. So I feel like that that’s something that we want to do every single post, every single opportunity that we can is to try and make a difference whether it’s a small one or you know, a large impact to educate ourselves on all things, not just LGBT travel.

19:20

Kirstie Pike: On Airplane Mode is more than just a travel platform. We want to make this a diverse community where people can connect and find a place where they feel comfortable to ask these questions. Even if it’s uncomfortable questions. We want to be that safe haven for people and sometimes not everyone has that luxury to find it, you know, next door. So the fact that you can kind of find it online and we can be there. I think that that’s something that we want to continue to move forward with and maybe make it in-person.

19:47

Christine Diaz: I think even to just 10 years ago when I came out there was no representation and media to books, movies, music, like there wasn’t any right, and just in 10 years, there’s been you know, such a huge progressive, you know, movement, right? And I think that sometimes obviously, there’s so many things happening right now even in the US that we feel like, “oh, it’s like things are going backwards”.

And that there is a case that that is true. But if you do look at the larger picture, in the last 10 years, we’ve grown so much as a community to where now like, it’s gonna be impossible to go back too much, right? Because we’ve all found allies who will not let that happen. The queer community has felt so empowered, where we’re, no, it’s not going backwards. We’re all going to move forward and with love being in the forefront of that conversation, because how else can you move.

Working together as a couple with On Airplane Mode

20:34

Beth Santos: Together Kirstie and Christine are moving the needle towards acceptance and inclusion, not only in travel, but as citizens of the world, but traveling together, advocating together and working together on top of it all, that can take a toll on the best of couples. That’s why their tennis like communication style. One, that’s not just about volleying back and forth, but also about truly listening and supporting each other is absolutely essential for them to keep going.

21:02

Christine Diaz: We live together, work together, travel together, we do all things together. And like you know, making sure that we’re always first and foremost, making sure we’re taking care of ourselves and each other. And then it’s like, okay, now what can we do to create positive change? Because I think at the end of the day, if both of us are not feeling up to our best selves, then we’re not going to create that change we want in the world.

So I think that always making sure that we’re taking care of ourselves, there’s a responsibility there, right. And I think that that comes with weight to it, but in a beautiful way, right? Like because not everybody is able to have the opportunity to make a difference. I guess everybody actually could, but I think some people, especially creators, put themselves out there to, you know, offer to make that change.

21:43

Beth Santos: I meant it when I said I love that name On Airplane Mode because being on airplane mode. Well, you know how it is. It’s different. It means you’re not on your phone all the time, it’s being present and there in the moment in travel, Christine and Kirstie are actively choosing to be in that moment, with each other and their surroundings so they can fully enjoy these experiences and encouraging others to embrace that too. I can’t wait to see what Kristie and Christine create next. To find out more about On Airplane Mode check out our show notes and visit Kirstie and Christine on Instagram and TikTok at @onairplanemode__ and on YouTube at On Airplane Mode Travels. This is 85 Percent. 

About the 85 Percent Podcast

Women make 85 percent of travel decisions. So why are we not 85% of travel marketing?

85 Percent explores what it means to be a woman in travel through interviews with leading women in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.

From CEOs, to travel influencers and writers, to women who work in cleaning and maintenance, we’re cutting into the underbelly of an industry that is predominantly made of women, but still fails to include them, and is hosted by Beth Santos, founder of leading women’s travel network, Wanderful.

About the Host, Beth Santos

Beth Santos of Wanderful
Beth Santos of Wanderful

Beth Santos is a passionate entrepreneur and community builder out to disrupt travel for women worldwide. She is founder and CEO of Wanderful, an international collective of travelers and travel content creators on a mission to make travel better for all women. She is the creator of the WITS Travel Creator Summit, a leading event for women and gender diverse travel creators, the annual Bessie Awards to honor women of impact in travel, and the first major outdoor travel festival by and for women, Wanderfest. 

Beth has been named one of 17 changemakers shaping the future of the travel industry by Business Insider, one of 12 women to follow by Conde Nast Traveller, and one of 20 influential women in the travel industry by Travel Pulse. In 2022, she was named Godmother of the Azamara Onward cruise ship. 

She is the author of WANDER WOMAN: How to Reclaim Your Space, Find Your Voice, and Travel the World, Solo and works to amplify underrepresented voices in travel while challenging each of us to do better in her work as a keynote speaker, an industry consultant, and a startup and small business coach. At home she is a co-owner of Ula Cafe, an inspired cafe and community hub in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, where she lives with her husband and children.

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Season 3 of the 85 Percent Podcast will highlight the winners of the 2024 Bessie Awards and the work they’re doing to make travel better for women worldwide. Stay tuned for 9 new episodes to drop in fall 2024!