A Small Collection of Brief Travel Rants

Eiffel Tower Paris

Maybe it’s because I’m sitting on a plane, sandwiched into a seat that was clearly designed for hobbits and not a person over the 6-foot mark that I may be a little cranky. Sure, that’s part of it, but it’s not the whole of it. I’m cranky because of a few things I’ve noticed while traveling recently and so I thought I’d blow off a little intellectual steam about them here today.

Travel and terrorism

Few things have made me as angry as learning about the tragedy in Paris last week. The loss of life and the injuries are shockingly awful, but so is the effect that terrorism has. Most of my travel friends very quickly started posting on social media how important it was to visit Paris NOW to not just show solidarity but to prove to the terrorists that they have not won. I agree, whole-heartedly, but the plain fact is that most people do not. Most people are intimidated by those attacks, they are fearful, they will change their plans and that all pisses me off. Who is it for some punk lunatics to do this to us all? I have no answers, I have no remedies and I’m not going to offer the same trite advice as everyone else is doing, even if I do agree. But this is a rant, so you really shouldn’t have expected any solutions in the first place.

What has happened to flying?

Was it ever good? Was there really some sort of mythological golden era when Don Draper wore his fedora onboard, was met with a chair that looked like a loveseat all while smoking his way across the country? I’m not sure if it was ever really great, but one thing is for certain it’s not great now, nor has it been for quite a while. Rather than bash airlines, like everyone does, I don’t think it’s entirely their fault. Sure, some are better than others and they DO carry some of the blame, but first and foremost I have to attribute a least a portion of the blame to my fellow travelers. Far too many seem to lose all self-awareness when they board a flight, turning into some of the worst people I’ve ever seen. I don’t think they’re ordinarily horrible, but in the confines of that small metal tube some switch is activated, and the worst comes out. It’s not that they’re mean, it’s that they haze zero consideration for the hundreds of other people surrounding them. I’m currently sitting next to a gentlemen who has what appears to be a 19th century steamer trunk wedged under the seat in front of him, forcing him to share my tiny allotment of foot space. The other person across the row to me thought that he could magically leave his seat without disturbing his full meal tray in front of him. He was incorrect in that assessment, as the torrent of red wine everywhere around us proved. Then there’s the lady doing yoga in the space next to the lav. Who are these people? They must otherwise be fully functioning adults; they somehow bought a plane ticket, got themselves dressed this morning and made it to the airport. They can handle themselves in real life, so why not on board a plane?

There’s a lot to blame the passengers for, but there’s also a lot to blame the airlines for as well. They’ve turned us into the monsters we’ve become. In the attempts to avoid paying bag fees, oversized valises are being wheeled onboard in numbers that seem completely out of proportion with reality. They’ve made the seats smaller, less comfortable with fewer amenities. The only way to have even a modicum of space with peace and quiet is to buy a business class ticket, and not even that guarantees anything. Flying British Airways recently, I was upgraded and shocked by what they consider to be one of their best business class products. The seats were squashed into the cabin to maximize space, but not privacy. Business class is the new economy, so much so that I see more and more families up there, avoiding whom is in all honesty a big reason why many book business class in the first place. It’s despicable, and BA should be ashamed. But they’re of course not alone. So many airlines are degrading their inflight experiences that when we do find ones we like, we gush and fawn over them. I know I have.

Viking Star Cruise Ship

The best way to travel is…

There is no shortage of annoying, pompous travel writers and bloggers and most of them espouse their philosophies on what the real way to travel is. The problem is, it varies and is reflective only of what they enjoy doing. It could mean backpacking, staying in hostels, “going local” (whatever that means) or any number of travel styles. The truth is, there is absolutely no right or wrong way to get out there and see the world. Being told otherwise is just another impediment to travel. People start to feel bad about how they want to travel and so they just don’t do it. Whether it’s a cruise, organized tour, with friends, with family, alone, independent, whatever, I don’t care, as long as you leave home then you are traveling correctly. Any sort of travel, whether it’s two towns over or around the world is an enriching experience; we always learn something whether we like it or not and that, more than perhaps anything else, is what makes travel so amazing. So ignore the “experts” (There’s actually no such thing) and just do whatever makes you happy. Problem solved.

What has you feeling a little ranty lately?

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

10 Responses

  1. Jenna

    Yes to all of these points. One thing that also really irks me lately is hearing about people getting angry when someone puts their seat back on a flight. Since when was it a question if it’s OK to put your seat back? Isn’t that what the button is there for?

    Reply
  2. Norman

    What irked me? All those packing light guides. Or wow to see {place} in 24 hours…
    It’s like wherever you look bloggers are spreading their wisdome from a few months in chaing mai and the best steripen. Oh..and since you are mentioning business class – I hate all those mileage and points guides. Like it was the sole goal of traveling to score a business class seat.

    As for fellow travelers. Guess selfie sticks and guided tours that actually think they are something special.Oh an tourists leaving their common sense and etiquette at home

    Reply
  3. norman

    hmm..somehow it says i already posted this comment. Weird!

    What irked me? All those packing light guides. Or wow to see {place} in 24 hours…
    It’s like wherever you look bloggers are spreading their wisdome from a few months in chaing mai and the best steripen. Oh..and since you are mentioning business class – I hate all those mileage and points guides. Like it was the sole goal of traveling to score a business class seat.

    As for fellow travelers. Guess selfie sticks and guided tours that actually think they are something special.Oh an tourists leaving their common sense and etiquette at home

    Reply
  4. Tracy Antonioli

    You nailed it with the ‘how did these people manage to even buy a ticket?’ question. I wonder that ALL THE TIME. It starts long before boarding. The guy in line for security with all of his toiletries scattered throughout a hulking, multi-zippered monstrosity of a bag, plus a chain wallet and an inexplicable fork in his pocket–he did KNOW he was going through an X-ray machine, right? And I’m as friendly as the next person (probably friendlier), but if I have earbuds in and my laptop out with boring-looking slides on the screen, I probably have to work and I probably don’t want to chat. And the things fellow passenger-strangers have told me on flights? I should have written them down.

    Reply
  5. Curt

    “As long as you leave home then you are traveling correctly.” A claim made in your fifth paragraph, rather convincingly disproved in your third paragraph.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      you misunderstood it

      Reply
      • Curt

        Perhaps I did. For what it’s worth, I completely agree there’s more than one “right” way to travel. However, there are definitely “wrong” ways to travel, and I think some of the characters you’ve described support that. Myself, I’ve undoubtedly been the “wrong” guy on at least a few occasions.

  6. leah, best travel gear

    Oh my god Matt! You almost made me spit tea all over my computer. Thanks for the laugh, though much of this is truth. And spot on about business class–yes, there were much better days of flying no so far behind us. It really is the new economy class, but with first class pricing. It really seems like technology should be improving this. Good rant!

    Reply
  7. Rosemary Hill

    To Jenna: Yes, that’s what the button is there for. But it seems to me that when reclining a seat can almost have it touching the face of the passenger behind it would be elementary courtesy to ask if he minds before you press it. And I would personally like to rearrange the dentures of many a passenger who’s reclined their seat with a crash while I’m trying to eat in the one behind.

    Reply

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