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.
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.
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