Tired of Travel Blogger Positivity?

Travel bloggers often paint us pictures of amazing experiences, yet we usually find that the one thing missing is the WHOLE picture; we only see the good stuff.

Underway during a busy time, I decided to head to Germany to spend my week with family. Navigating my way through heavy city traffic, and then negotiating the busy Philadelphia highways, I arrived at the airport to find that it was surprisingly light in foot traffic, for being Thanksgiving week; I guess travelers are waiting a day or two longer. Or so I thought. Arriving at Chicago O’Hare, I quickly noticed that it held no shortage of the typical family element (two parents and two children), which added to the already high-volume business, and solo traveler numbers making their way somewhere. Working my way to the closest café to grab a coffee, I couldn’t help but stop to take notice of the high density of holiday travelers, noting the impact that it had on everything from the staff numbers at McDonald’s to the constant upkeep of restroom maintenance, to every other element that permits an airport to run efficiently. We never really stop to wonder what it takes to keep the machine running, we just expect it to do what it is designed to do (when we do our part), which is purchase the tickets and show up. We’ve paid our money, we’ve contributed to and stimulated their economy, so everything should work as it is made to. Right? Everything we read about travel puts such a positive spin on the experience, its almost unrealistic.

“Its in the moments of rest and indulgence that I get lost in thought, which is what usually brings me to something.”

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Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

As I sat in my seat and sipped my coffee, while choking down a burger which I swore I would avoid—in an effort to getting on track to becoming healthier at 40—I pondered those things. For me, its often that I can come up with ideas to write about while in motion, but almost a certainty when I am still and processing. Its in the moments of rest and indulgence that I get lost in thought, which is what usually brings me to something. Lost in thought and creating answers to my own questions, it occurred to me that one common aspect of travel blogging that always appears to be missing is the negativity. Now, here me out. While I am not one to wallow in negativity, I am realistic enough to understand that many aspects of travel are just as frustrating as they are exciting. Yeah, we can chalk them up to “experiences,” and that is usually how they are represented, but I honestly believe that there can be value in digging into the negative parts of what people experience, while they are trying to experience something different.

The more I engaged in this realization, the more I began to wonder about why it is that a positive spin is always put on everything a person experiences when they travel. Projecting a moment of negativity never killed anyone, so I do not think that there is any value lost when we examine the other side of things. For example, think about over-crowded waiting areas, long lines, diminished service due to high volume stress, and yes, delays. All these things factor into our travel, but rather than acknowledge how completely aggravating they can be, we develop the tendency to focus on other things, becoming less analytical and more complaney than anything. Although it turns out that the very attribute of being analytical is what often leads to logical rationalization, and then decompression. I find that taking the analytical route is the best way to approach things sometimes, especially when we are talking about ways to deal with the inevitable stress.

Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging, and most of what I aim to provide is a positive outlook. However, it seems to me that a more realistic approach is when we consider that it is perfectly fine to acknowledge how annoying some things can be. For example, on my way home from Germany, things appeared to be flowing smooth. I made good time driving to the airport and managed to get ahead of most of the morning rush-hour traffic by leaving early, and with ninety-minutes to spare, the rental car was turned in, my bag checked, and I breezed through security. Nürnberg to Frankfurt was a breeze. Then came the cataclysm. More than a decade ago, in order to accommodate an increase in flight traffic at the Frankfurt airport, a second runway system was built. And while the terminals were expanded, today many aircraft still park on the ramp, and buses will ferry passengers from the terminals to and from the planes. Already slightly behind, the crew managed to finally opened up the gate and began shuffling passengers through the checkpoint, at which point we would descend a flight of steps, board the bus, and after a ten-minute drive, arrive at the plane, which happened to be a Boeing 747. I boarded at the back door, quickly found my seat, and settled in while people made their way onto the plane, slowly but consistently. Not long after I was settled, a gentleman and his friend came to my seat and the first sat beside me, but then quickly pointed out that I was in his colleague’s seat. I retrieved the ticket stub from my pocket and together we examined it, only to find I was indeed in the correct seat, yet his ticket also showed 55C. He called the attendant and the only reply he received was, “it looks like that seat was double booked.” The attendant collected the stubs from each of us and said that he would return shortly.

While I waited for the return of this attendant I anticipated his request for me to find another seat. So, like any mature adult, I poised myself to appear very much settled in, even grabbing my iPad and opening it up to begin reading. After all, why should it be me that moves when I was there first? Then a funny thing happened. I over-heard another couple with the same issue, and soon after the intercom comes on and the attendant requests that all passengers double check their tickets to make sure that they are on the correct flight. In a slightly condescending tone, the German gentleman beside me asks me to confirm my destination (as if to suggest that I am mistaken), to which I replied, “Philadelphia.” I then countered his tone with my own request for information, and his reply…, “Orlando.” “Naja, dann bist du auf dem falschen Flug,” I said to him. Translation, you are on the wrong flight. It turned out that the bus driver of Orlando bound passengers delivered his passenger cargo to a Philadelphia bound airplane, and of course the people didn’t know any better, so they boarded the plane and mixed in with the Philadelphia group.

Long story short, once every Orlando bound passenger left the plane and re-boarded the bus, we Philadelphia passengers were asked to grab all of our things and get off the airplane, so that we can return to the terminal, re-check in, re-board the bus, and re-take our seats on the plane; all in all, a total time investment of nearly two hours. This was the only way that the flight crew could absolutely ensure that every passenger on that airplane was headed to the correct destination. I will admit, it was aggravating. Especially since I was already very hungry. But I had an internal conversation that went something like, “hey, you can’t change the situation, you don’t have to catch a connecting flight, and your evening was going to be free anyway, so don’t stress.” And just like that, I let it go. But what did kill me was the others who failed to have a similar internal conversation. Many passengers, if they could, vented every little bit of their frustration with anyone who would listen and indulge, and so the circle went around and around; thankfully I had my headphones to blot out the complaining. This could be the experience of any travel blogger, but perhaps the only thing you would see is a picture of something that in no way showed the bulk of that moment of reality, but rather a sliver of opportunistic time for a picture that would tell a different story.

Traveling is a great thing; I’ll never deny that statement. We learn so much when we see the way others live, and when we experience life that is vastly different than our own, it provides us with valuable perspective. But let’s be honest, while the destination has all the potential to show us an amazing time, the process of getting there can be … less than fruitful. Travel bloggers often paint us pictures of amazing experiences, yet we usually find that the one thing missing is the WHOLE picture; we only see the good stuff. Social media has that tendency to show us the good, and only the good, but rarely do we get the chance to see the frustration, the confusion, and irritability to be experienced. We go through it all, yet we hardly ever talk about what goes wrong. Well, maybe now it is time we confront both sides of the coin. More to follow…

 

Technology, or steam gauges?

“Older equipment and methods seem more reliable to many, but its not often because those things are actually more reliable.”

It’s nearly 2020, and these days the progress in technology seems to be a speeding snowball, demanding we constantly keep up or get left behind. Yet, regardless of the pressure that advancement seems to have, many are resisting it’s demand, in favor of holding on to the old ways. Planning is no different than playing with a piece of hardware, our needs have their own level of needs, and sometimes those needs just want to keep things simple. How many of us have that one grandparent or older co-worker who talks about holding on to something because it is “dependable?” Even though there are new and far more precise and better time saving alternatives. They may be correct, just because something is kept past its time does not negate its reliability. So, here are a few tips for those of you who prefer to dial it back and slow that pressure to modernize:

  1. Find the middle ground

While it’s true that you don’t always have to bend to the pressure of keeping up with the times in all aspects, you should find ways to pepper in a certain level of technological use. For example, instead of trying to spread a little bit of love everywhere, limit your uses to those things that are relevant to your lifestyle only. We don’t all need to be on the same page, and have the same new phones, the same piece of equipment, or the same apps. A person can literally customize usage to their lifestyle. No matter how laid back it is, there are options.

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

2.  Balance usage 

Perhaps the reason that you feel you need to stick to the old ways is because you are delving too fast into the new ones. Moderation is the key to many things in life, and if you get to a point where you feel overwhelmed by the pace of techno gadgets and applications, take a step back and move back into your comfort zone again. There are no rules in how fast and how aggressive you should be applying yourself here.

3. Step into the blind

Many times when a person resists change, it is because its either presented to them incorrectly, or because they fail to understand what it truly represents. Technology can be intimidating, especially to someone who thinks of themselves as being incapable of getting a handle on it. Yet as we often see, people well into their 70’s and 80’s are walking around with smart phones and navigating complex sites and apps. It really doesn’t take a genius; just a small initiative to learn something completely unfamiliar. Often when we think we are looking at a mountain, it turns out to be nothing of the sort when up close.

4. Understand that things are getting easier, not more difficult

The further one gets away from advancements, a certain level of confusion begins to cloud what things accurately represent. The goal of much of the technology world these days is to make things simpler, not the other way around. Without even trying something, a lot of times people will get a sense of it being far beyond their level of aptitude and comprehension. It happens to us all in one way or another, but its best to try to understand why we resist something and what that means to each of us individually. Chances are, like everything, the more you will come to find out about something, the smaller and more manageable it becomes.

5. Comes to terms

Technology is the way of the future, and denying its ubiquity is self-detrimental…to some extent. Rather than fighting the reality of the times, learn to embrace its ability to make life easier when and where it can. Nothing will make a person feel more left behind than being the only one in their circle not informed or taking place in something, when everyone they know is and does. And sometimes nothing will make us feel more silly than coming to the realization that we could have had it much easier long before this point.

Older equipment and methods seem more reliable to many, but its not often because those things are actually more reliable. When we trust the steam gauges (meaning dated ways and equipment) more than we do technology available to us, it can often boil down to a lack of understanding that alternative. Don’t get me wrong, even I prefer to use an older piece of equipment for some things, just because it is simple and reliable. However, in doing so I am resisting forward movement. Because the truth is, a person can depend on those simple things for some time, but eventually those same THINGS are going to get further and further away from their successors, and eventually become obsolete, and maybe even unavailable to replace.

 

Featured image by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

Circumstances get a vote

Whether it is travel, or anything that relies on external variables coming together to help one successfully achieve a desired outcome, there needs to be a certain level of expectation for those things that we ourselves cannot control.

Planning and preparing for your next trip, you think that you’ve got every angle covered. The bags are packed, you’ve double checked to ensure you have all of your documentation, the destination has been researched, online check-in initiated, cash in pocket, and the automatic cat feeder topped off. Things appear to be flowing well, at least for the moment. Three hours until takeoff and your ride should be arriving momentarily. Five minutes pass, then ten, and still no call. Chances can’t be taken, so you immediately contact the driver, who informs you that he’s just gotten a flat and should be there within twenty minutes. However, the time that you’ve already factored accounts for traffic enroute, and you know that you’ll now be cutting it close, and that is if his twenty minute estimate is even accurate; it could be later.

By the time you make it to the airport, you are now T-minus ninety-minutes and the security line is long, but not to worry, you’ve cut it close before. You pass through and casually stroll up to your gate, thinking everything is back on track now, just to see that the takeoff time for your flight was just pushed back an hour, due to weather delaying the plane you’re supposed to be on from taking off from their last location. And now your only thought is that the small window of time that you had to catch the connecting flight at your layover location is now gone, and you will have to look into a backup flight. It’s now time to get in line with the other twenty or thirty people in the same situation, just to be able to speak to the agent at the counter, who possibly won’t be able to get you a flight going into your final destination, because many other people are also delayed and being shifted around.

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Photo by Leo Cardelli on Pexels.com

This type of scenario happens daily, and so many people are affected by the constant little setbacks. It’s almost not fair for you to have to experience it, because YOUR only job was to pay for the ticket and get yourself to where you are supposed to be, on time. And as long as you are where you need to be, everything else should be doing it’s part to work for you. But that isn’t how it always goes. The problem is, when putting plans together, we never seem to consider the fact that circumstances have a vote in how things go. And that is just another way of saying that we need to expect the unexpected in planning. Whether it is travel, or anything that relies on external variables coming together to help one successfully achieve a desired outcome, there needs to be a certain level of expectation for those things that we ourselves cannot control.

So, how does one get around this issue? Well, the simple answer is that you cannot always get around it. Like anything in life, when you try to mitigate every potential avenue in something, you begin to work backwards, and the same goes for planning. When we attempt to get ahead of the potential for the unexpected, we begin to create stress in different ways. For example, you maybe plan to get to the airport four hours before the flight, instead of two, but now need to cut into preparation time in the morning. But maybe you prepared the night before, although at the cost of cutting in to work time; those adjustments come at a cost.

The answer to resolving these issues is not necessarily to defeat those variables with time and action every time. But you can minimize potentials by planning, planning, and planning. Try getting an idea and writing down the other flights that arrive at your destination, in the event your flight for any reason gets pushed. With that information, at least you know where to direct your next move, rather than being at the mercy of random selection. If you know weather is rolling in, perhaps gather an idea of hotels at your layover. Or, one can also look into travelers insurance, if they think there is a chance for setbacks. The point is, you have to forecast the obvious, but sometimes its the not so obvious that will get you. The best that you can do each time, is understand that those things that cannot be controlled will always have a vote. Take the time to plan for contingencies and have an idea of what you can resolve, should the moment come where that idea is needed.

Tips along the way:

  • Use a travel planning organizing service to assist you (www.Planiversity.com)
  • Check the weather along your route before leaving the house
  • Check in for your flight as early as you can (be proactive)
  • Have an idea of where you can go or who you need to call in the event plans begin to fall apart
  • Carry a few extra supplies in your bag, should you need them
  • Charge your phone when you have the opportunity; a dying battery is sure to add to your stress
  •  Carry cash, don’t rely on card services when things fall apart

Window or aisle seat?

“Who really knows though where the truth behind the airplane seat choice psychology lies, for all we know it’s just speculation and really has no bearing one way or another.”

It’s more than an internal conflict when coming down to the choice between taking a window seat versus an aisle, especially on a flight greater than four or five hours. The choice is a means to maintaining your control or relinquishing it for a view; possibly one that you’ve seen a hundred times before. Although, as a former aviator I can tell you, the sights from above rarely get old.

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Photo by Sourav Mishra on Pexels.com

So you’re booking your ticket and the site or the rep asks you to choose your seat, and so begins the conundrum. You can take the window seat and know that you’re likely going to have a wall to rest your pillow against and catch some Zzz’s (hopefully you brought a pillow). However, if you are anything like me, you will have to become slightly dehydrated so that you do not end up being the person who is dancing in their seat every time your eyeballs are floating. And to be honest, the way pressure affects the body, it’s anyone’s guess how often you would need to go; not all bodies respond the same. Too much hydration means more trips to the bathroom, which means more of a nuisance. But hey, the view is a good one as long as there isn’t a wing in the way.

But what about the aisle seat? Aisle seats also has their benefits. If you’re the aisle person, you are the one with less anxiety about having to come and go as you please. While you may have sacrificed a view, you don’t have to be the one feeling trapped in that situation. Although, depending on the individual in the window seat–who may or may not be a conscious thinker–you might end up being woken in the middle of your finally able to find a comfortable position nap, just to accommodate. That part sucks, that’s for sure.

“It’s a means to maintaining your control or relinquishing it for a view”

A 2017 article in the Telegraph explains that more travelers are in favor of the window seat, just slightly over fifty percent of those polled. But also that the window seat taker is also a person who likely sleep better on flights, is more seasoned and therefore has a slightly higher sense of confidence (since they don’t mind bothering their neighbor), and that they are even a bit selfish. On the contrary, those aisle seat takers sleep less and have more anxiety about feeling confined. Who really knows though where the truth behind the airplane seat choice psychology lies, for all we know it’s just speculation and really has no bearing one way or another. But one thing is true, and that is that people go one way or another when traveling alone. It’s just a decision that we all take seriously, and depending on what we choose, we could be setting ourselves up for a seriously long flight if the choice isn’t a preferred one.