Posts Tagged With: travel

United Airlines: The friendly skies??

  It’s the initial ascent. As the plane climbs higher, I cannot help but get lost in my thoughts about my present surroundings.  I look around to see who is seated immediately around me, and I am caught up in whether my seat mates are friendly and non-aggressive or not. I also wonder whether my airline is as friendly as they advertise themselves to be. 

United airlines slogan is “fly the friendly skies of United.” Just what makes an airline friendly or not?”  I chose United for this flight not because of their friendliness, but because they got me to my destination for the least expensive.  Flying “least expensive” however can be costly on United. I despise the current airline trend of charging for seats at the front of the plane and calling them “economy comfort” all the while charging  an arm and a leg for the same convenience we used to have in prior years.  Just how much did my comfort cost me? A whopping $59 one way. Friendly? I suspect not. I mean come on, at the very least you could give me priority boarding or an extra snack or something!! 

Carry on or checked? In this case, checked will cost you a minimum $25. Unless you have the United mileage plus card, then first bag is free. Carry on? Still free at this point, however I do not care for the multitude of announcements prior to boarding letting us know that there are insufficient overhead space to accommodate all bags. Another pet peave  of mine, charging for checked luggage  and now hassling us to check what we have now learned is a free inconvenience.  Friendly? Again I must give it a resounding NO!

We have reached our cruising altitude the pilot remarks.  Great! Free coffee! And out of United’s move to enhance guest experience following a profitable year, the airline now serves complimentary snacks! A delicious Stroopwaffel from Holland. In case you are not familiar with a Stroopwaffel, it is a crispy round wafer, filled with a rich, gooey caramel sauce. Tastes good with coffee or alone.  Friendly? Yes! A good choice on United.

Let’s consider the flight crew for a moment. The pilots are always “friendly” as they tell us who they are and when we will arrive. I keep waiting for the pilot to give us a good monologue or even a joke here or there! Instead I take note of the rest of the crew. There were 4 flight attendants with an average age of 50+. I cannot comment on age since I am no 20 year old, however when did “seniority” turn into seniority? Lol. I can only hope that in case of emergency they can think straight and move faster than most.  As far as the friendly meter, I would have to give them a thumbs down in that department. Lack of smile, lack of conversing or even kindness left me feeling unappreciated. 

United’s Hemisphere magazine asserts that they are working hard to improve onboard experience throughout the cabin. How concerned are they for my comfort and enhanced experience when their in flight entertainment service comes with a price tag?  Another thumbs down to friendly skies in my opinion.

If United ever wants to attain a loyal audience and enhance our experience then United has a great deal of work to do. For myself, I will continue to fly other carriers who peak my interests with little perk and great service.

#unfriendlyskies.  #epicfail

Safe journeys,

Debbie

Advertisements
Categories: airplane service, airplane snacks, flying, Travel, vacation | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Weather or not, here I come!

I live in a warm part of the U.S.  I am in Florida.  I have lived here most of my life.  I did not choose to move here, rather my parents chose it for me, back when I was a teenager.  As I grow older, I realize that I am bored by the constant,  warm climate the majority of the year.  I am tired of running my air conditioner 24/7 for 9-10 months of the year.  Further, I cannot stand sweating every time I open the door or attempt to blow dry my hair!

I long to see the trees in Autumn when they change colors.  I also dream of winter wonderlands!  And just like my thermostat on my air conditioning unit, I wish I had the ability to change outside temps by the turn of a dial!  But, the warm weather is here to stay whether I like it or not.

So whats a girl to do with all this hot air?  Travel!  Yep, I immensely enjoy my winter travels.  Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Estonia are some great winter destinations.  I get to put on my down-filled coat, strap up my boots, and cool off!  Winter travel has it pros and cons, but for me, it is all a good thing!  I have been snowed in during my travels to Iceland, and I have lost countless hours waiting for the winds to die down enough to fly.  I wear layers upon layers to stay warm, and traipse through snow, wind, and rain to explore my surroundings.   But all in all, it is worth it to me!

We have had our share of ‘cooler’ temperatures this past month in Florida.  I have loved the few drops to 50 degrees (fahrenheit) and the sweaters I have been able to wear.  But there is nothing like preparing myself for a winter trip.

In two short weeks, I will take out my wool socks, my winter boots, sweaters, hat and gloves.  I will pack my warmest and wear them all with the excitement of knowing I am traveling to far distances to explore people, places and things I have never before seen.

Has weather ever stopped you from traveling? Or are you an adventurist who travels with total disregard knowing what awaits you on your journey?

Safe journeys,

Debbie

 

Categories: adventure, iceland, Travel, travel delays, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

To Travel is to Live

world is a book I have often wondered why some individuals do not choose to travel.  I know for some, travel is expensive and thus not within the budget.  I also know that for some, routine is what makes some individuals happy, so even the thought of anything outside their ‘normal’ routine is not acceptable.  Further, I know that some have no desire to travel.  And some are fearful and do they have the courage to step outside their comfort zone into new and unexplored territory.  Of course, there are those who have never in their life set foot on an airplane nor have any inkling how to plan a trip.  Whatever, the reason behind not traveling, I find that it puts some individuals at a disadvantage in life.

 

collect memories Every human being has his or her own way of going through this journey called life.  For myself, I prefer to have experiences that influence who I am and how I relate to my world.  I cherish the times I travel with loved ones to faraway lands.  As the image states, I “collect memories” and not things.  I would rather spend my hard-earned money on feeling connected to others and sharing my experiences.  Unlike myself, many Americans spend more of their money on material things to make themselves feel good.  I make no judgement here as what works for one does not work for others.  I simply appreciate my shared experiences more than what I own or not own.  I do not care if I drive the most expensive car, nor do I care if I live in a humongous house.  I care more about feeling good from what I see and where I go.  I guess I am more of an emotional creature and moved by my emotions in life rather than caring whether I am living up to someone else’s standards or not.  I also do not care whether I have money left at the end of my life or not.  I care more about what I do with my money and who I share it with while I can still enjoy it.

I have said it before however it is worth repeating many times over, travel broadens one’s horizons and makes them a better person.  Better how?  Better in respect to being open and understanding of other’s cultures and ways of life.  Travel creates open-minded, intelligent individuals in a way that a travel book does not.  These unique life experiences in other lands opens the mind up to acceptance, and compassion for others in the world.  Those who do not travel often are narrow-minded and cannot see beyond their rose-colored glasses.  This is not to say that all individuals are narrow-minded, rather, many cannot fathom a world outside of their own spectrum.

ones destination

Travel is exciting!  Just as a kid in a candy store for the first time, travel is just as enticing and delightful!  Seeing things for the first time adds to the excitement and takes one’s senses to new heights!  Think back to childhood, every time you saw, or tasted, or smelled something for the first time, you were renewed with feelings you never before experienced.  Travel does this as well.  Travel enhances one’s emotions and feelings and brings a sense of renewed life into a boring routine.  What once may have been is now renewed and hopeful and opens new ways of looking at the world we exist in.

i travel alot  We only have one journey in life.  Why subject ourselves to the same routine day in and day out?  Why not explore this amazing world we were given and travel to new destinations beyond our present reach?  Imagine, explore and reach for new experiences!

Where would you go if there were no obstacles in life to get there?

Safe journeys,

Debbie

 

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wanderlust

According to dictionary.com, wanderlust means to have  “a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.”    In this particular instance I am sick with ‘wanderlust!’  I desire to travel when I am not traveling.  Exploration of new places and meeting new people is very enticing to me.  I never quite considered myself to be ‘adventuresome,’ however, in some sense I am adventurous to have the courage to travel to new places and explore new territory.  

What entices me to travel is not only the experience of getting to a new land, but also the idea that I get to see something I have never seen before.  Like a newborn who opens his or her eyes for the first time and sees their mother or father, travel to foreign places is a similar experience for me.  There is renewed excitement and anticipation, unforeseen thoughts pop into my head, and I become like a small child who craves the taste of chocolate over and over again.

Visiting new lands and meeting culturally different people than myself sparks my brain cells into a display of fireworks going off in my head.   The implosion of information and sights leaves me feeling as if I ran a marathon of sorts.  I am renewed with a zest for life unlike anything I have ever experienced before.

I crave travel.  I breathe, eat, smell, sleep and desire travel experiences.  I am akin to an addict who craves his or her favorite drug.  For me, travel is my drug and I choose to travel for the ‘high’ it gives me.  Nothing else can compare to this ‘high’ like travel.

Are you sick with wanderlust?  Do you crave new experiences and new journeys?  What are your favorite places that you lust for?

Safe journey,

Debbie

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

When things go wrong..really wrong: Germanwings Plane Crash

It comes with great shock today to learn that the Germanwings plane that crashed this week was an intentional act by the co-pilot.  It is hard to accept that someone so callous would do something so horrendous and take the lives of innocent people.  There is no way that one can know for sure what was going through this man’s mind at the time he made this decision to take the plane down.  And there is no way of knowing if those onboard knew what was going to be their fate, other than the screams that were recorded on the black box.  All we can know for certain is that there are a great deal of families who today are trying to come to grips with the loss of their loved ones.

How do we as travel professionals ever explain such a bad scenario as this?  How do we explain to those who choose to travel that this is a rare happening and that air travel in and of itself is safe?  How can we, move forward and get back on the travel bandwagon and presume it to be safe?

These and many more questions will arise out of this tragedy.  I do not wish to ponder the why’s and the what for at this point.  I only wish to honor those who lost their lives as well as pray for those who lost their loved ones.

I hope if nothing else, that Lufthansa (the parent company of Germanwings) as well as other European carriers implement new policies that make the pilots and passengers safer.

My condolences to those who are suffering from their loss.

Safe journey,

Debbie

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living in America: Feels good?!!

James Brown, the infamous ‘godfather of soul’ crooned about Livin’ in America.  “I feel good, eye to eye, hand in hand while living in the promised land” touted Brown in his 1986 hit song.  But does it really “feel good” to live in America in the 21st century?  For the past week, upon return from my recent travels to Denmark, Iceland, and Norway I have been contemplating this very thought in my mind.

I am an American, born and raised here my entire life.  I am however, no economic major, nor have I ever really paid attention to politics or the state of the American union.  I like to think of myself as a ‘typical’ American who goes about my day thinking only of myself and my immediate family, how hard we will have to work, how much money we will make, and how much money will be left after paying all the bills to spend on personal luxuries.  As a ‘typical’ middle class individual, I rarely spend time thinking about those less fortunate than I, nor do I think about what I could be doing to help make the world a better place.  I don’t have to, after all I am American and live in a capitalistic country where each citizen is clearly out for their own personal gain – including that of our government.  We are raised to be a hard-working, money-making society, and those who have more money are in a higher class in society than those who do not.  Money drives our daily lives and brings us happiness to those who have, and unhappiness to those who do not have.  True Capitalism at it’s best!

Each year, the Wider Opportunities for Women compiles a report on the basic economic security tables in the United States..  This report “measures basic needs and assets for workers required for economic security in American households” (www.wowonline.org).  In 2014, it was reported that 44% of Americans lacked basic economic security.  It went on to report that those households with greater education levels scored somewhat higher on meeting basic economic security than someone without an education.  This struck me as ironic since our country does not support paying for our children’s education, hence only those who can afford a college education can attend and those who don’t are obviously stuck without any means to gain economic security.

Personally, I think these capitalistic attitudes are draining, not only mentally, but economically in my pocket as well.  I may fall into that ‘middle class’ society according to my tax returns, however it seems more and more as if I am left with less in my pocket, and more stress and worry than ever.  With stress and worry comes a decrease in the happiness quotient, and an increase in dissatisfaction with my life as an American.

I have expenses, huge expenses that I feel would be taken care of in some fashion or another if I lived in an egalitarian country.  Out of our monthly income comes  expenses such as: food, gasoline for the cars (3 of them), household living expenses (such as electricity, water, sewer, etc), education (currently paying $2400 for tuition and $3000 for dorm fees, plus food per semester, approximately 4 months, for my son in college), insurance (car insurance for 3 vehicles is $6000 per year, health insurance is $14,400 in annual premiums plus $7,500 out-of-pocket before the health insurance pays a penny, homeowners insurance $2000 per year, disability insurance, flood insurance, etc). and if anything is left at the end we are advised to invest money into a retirement account.

Speaking of retirement account, “they” say social security benefits which I have been paying into throughout my adult life may or may not be available when I retire in the future.  Americans are told we should not count on it as our only means of retirement income.  Thus, 401-K came into being and now we must take what little disposable income we may have and invest it ourselves (and sometimes with the aid of an employer) with the hope that when we retire we can afford it.  Based on the figures I demonstrated earlier you can see that I have little to any disposable income left, thus I worry about what will happen when I eventually retire. Worry and stress, stress and worry, it takes up a great deal of my life and leaves me with less and less quality of life and time to spend with family and friends as I am always worried about having enough money.

After returning home from Norway I began to look at and wonder how different my life would be if I were to live in an ‘egalitarian’ system such as in Scandinavia.  From what I gather, egalitarianism focuses on low social inequality.   There are no divisions between low class, middle class and upper class. One is not looked down upon for making less money than another.  All citizens are treated same and/or similar in respect to what they have or don’t have.  In egalitarian countries one works for the good of all.  With this type of system, those individuals who work are taxed heavily and the government is responsible for giving out funds to help those in need.  With this system comes health care and an education at no expense to any citizen.  Norway in fact has a great deal of highly educated people for this very reason.

Because all medical expenses are paid for, as well as a full education, no one has to stop and think where this money will come from.  Hence, the people who live in an egalitarian system have less stress, less worry, and have a higher happiness quotient.  In fact, in Denmark I spoke to a gentleman in a coffee shop who said to me “I gladly give my money to the government because I don’t have to worry about anything.”  With little to no stress or worry, Scandinavians work a moderate amount of hours per week, have something like up to 6 weeks paid vacation per year, have one year of maternity leave paid for, and have time left over to enjoy spending time with friends and family.  I was amazed to see a great deal of people having a leisurely lunch with friends and I watched intensely at how much enjoyment they had on their faces.  This would never be the case in the States as we are lucky to have a one hour break where we scarf down our food, pay the bill, and race back to work!

In my opinion, the United States capitalistic mind-set has created a huge disparity among its citizens whereby the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  Self-satisfaction and personal gain are prominent features in our country.  The leaders of our country abide by these principles and make decisions on our behalf with the underlying premise being what is politically best at the time these principles go into effect.  I have never heard a political leader premise his/her actions by doing what is best for the citizens of our country, rather they act based upon once again – personal gain and how much influence their political power ensues.

On the other side, Egalitarianism means that all of one’s basic needs are met without question of who you are or where you fall in society.  This type of government does not base their decisions upon who deserves what over another, rather it treats its citizens with respect and believes in honoring the basic needs of all individuals and not just the chosen few.  If I lived in such a place, I would no longer have to pay out of my pocket for health expenses, nor would I have to worry about my retirement.  My kids would have an excellent education and future.  I would be living ‘the high life’ with an abundance of happiness and increased quality of life.

I am ashamed at my country for treating me and all other citizens with such disdain for human life and sustenance.  I feel there is a better way for us all to live and it does not include the American way.  I want my children to grow up in a land where all are treated the same – as human beings with basic needs.  I do not wish my children to look down upon another simply because they have less than we do.  It’s time our country steps up and takes care of the basic needs of its citizens!  And I think it should begin with free education for all!

If only the United States would see to the betterment of its citizens, then and only then would James Brown’s song ring true!  “Eye to eye, hand in hand, promised land!”

Safe journeys,

Debbie

P.S. I would like to say that this was written from my personal perspective only and not necessarily the views of all Americans or of the United States.  I am simply stating my thoughts and have no intention of offending anyone.

Categories: America, American, capitalism, economic security, egalitarian, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planes, trains, and cars,oh my! Oslo to Voss Norway

Early settlers may have considered themselves lucky to get from one location to another by horse and buggy or other means of transport.  What might have taken days or even weeks in the past takes only hours in the present.  For many, myself included, transportation is a necessity as well as a nuisance that is often taken for granted.

I have traveled many  milesimage this week to get to my present destination in Norway.  Four days ago I flew from Tampa to Washington Dulles airport, followed by a flight through Iceland to end in Oslo.  That’s a total of 10.5 hours of flying to travel thousands of miles!!!

imageAfter a good nights sleep in Oslo, I boarded the morning train for  4.5 hour ride from Oslo to Myrdal. I was amazed by the beauty of Norway from her pristine greens to her whitest whites of the countryside. One minute it was grey skies followed by blue, then blizzard like conditions s the elevation climbed and the temperatures dropped.

In Myrdal I climbed aboard the Flam railway for a short 30 minute ride to Flam where the boat was waiting to sail through the Fjords.  This voyage was surreal. It felt as if time stood still as we cruised to Gudvangen in 2 hours. Along the way I saw quaint homes on hilltops in the middle of nowhere. Further along, the captain spotted a few reindeer staring at us as we stared at them.  I was mesmerized by the bigger than life fjords. I kept repeating “wow” like a child who sees something for the first time. My senses were on overwhelm as I took it all in.

From Gudvangen I caught a bus for the one hour ride to Voss. In Voss I grabbed a taxi for a 30 minute drive to Myrkdalen. The snow was piled nearly six feet! Coming from Florida this was quite exciting to see such a sight. Finally, my travels were over for the night as I took a room at the beautiful Myrkdalen hotel. My balcony opened over the ski hill and I could barely contain myself at the sight of the cabins up and down the hill with snow piled half way to the roof!

The next day I boarded the ski bus back to Voss for another 1.5 hour train to Bergen.  I walked along the streets with the young skiers as they returned home. I felt as if I were accompanying future Olympic skiers!

Tomorrow I have my final train back to Oslo in 6.5 hours. I cannot even imagine the miles I have covered on this trip. I have learned that transportation is not only a means for getting from one place to another, but it is also a unique way to see the world.  I still have many more miles to go to return back to the states. With the aid of transportation I was able to explore the beauty of this great country and appreciate the journey.

Safe journeys, Debbie

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I learned in Denmark and Iceland

True to my blog’s name, travel really does enrich your life and make you a better person or in some cases, a more aware person.

I had a great deal of personal enrichments on my last trip that I will share with you today.

My pre-trip goal was to have fun, learn about the Danish culture, find my own “hygge,” and to step outside my comfort zone.  I have not only accomplished what I set out to do, but much more!

First, I found my true “hygge.”  Hygge for me was experiencing the entire Danish lifestyle and embracing what was in front of me daily.  That goes for everything from the local coffee shops, the conversations with locals, and even to the slip and fall in the middle of the street in Copenhagen (I definitely learned I need to look more where I am walking and not assume the curbs are all even as they are in the states!).

When you travel, it is best to expect the unexpected.  By expecting things to not go perfectly one is better equipped to go with the flow.  I had never expected the Danish ground crew to go on strike and delay my plane.  I also did not expect the gate the change and be on the other side of the airport!  By not being upset, and calmly dealing with these travel snafus, I was less stressed and a much better traveler than I would have been had I taken everything so seriously.  Let’s face it, things happen.  Accept it and move on!

I also learned that the Danes are well taken care of by their government and have little to worry about.  This gives them a sense of security that we Americans do not have.  I understand why they live the way they do and how less pressure they live under.  This affords them the opportunity to enjoy family and friends as well as leisure time.  As Americans, I do not think we will ever have this.  At best, all I can learn from this is to want less, and to appreciate what I have and not to yearn for more and more.  If I have less, it follows that I would be able to work less if I am spending less.  It would all even out.  I know this sounds kind of far-fetched, however, I think some of this is possible in our country (America) of excess and materialism.  As I have been saying, less is more.  I intend to make changes in my life such that I am less and less of a materialistic girl and more of a  connoisseur of what I already have.

This trip also taught me that it is ok not to straighten my hair to perfection daily – my hair straightener would not fit in the adapter plug so I had to do without!  I learned that I can survive and go out in public with my hair just the way it is!  Further, it is ok, not to have to put on makeup to go out.  I am who I am and those who pass judgment or do not approve can take a hike!

In addition, I learned what it is like to truly be myself, not caring what others think.  By being myself I experienced spontaneity and freedom.  I played in the snow like a 12-year-old, and I had so much fun!  True, we don’t have snow here in Florida to play with, however, it felt darn good to run in it, throw snow, and make a snow fairy just like I did up north as a child!!  I intend to work on this aspect of being myself while at home so others too can experience the “real” me!

Finally, I have all the experiences and memories in my head that will be with me forever.  I will never forget waking up in my Danish apartment (thanks to airbnb!), or tasting Swedish meatballs in Malmo.  I will always have a sense of peace and rejuvenation every time I re-visit the Blue Lagoon in my mind and in my pictures.  And I will always savor that first bite of Icelandic cod I had in Reykjavik.  These moments will never be forgotten and I will cherish them always.

I am as always thankful for being able to experience my journeys and to come home safely.

What have you learned from your latest travels?

Safe journey,

Debbie

image

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thanks for the pat down TSA!

Traveling can be very stressful.  But I often ask myself what is more stressful than going through security at the airport?

If you are observant as I am, I find that there are no standards in each airport in each country.  Some say remove your shoes, some don’t.  Some say take our your laptop, but not your i-pad, while others want both the i-pad and laptop removed.

Some, make you go through the machine where you “put your hands up” like a police would ask if you are in trouble with the law.  And at other times, you simply walk through and look at the TSA rep in a manner such as to say, “did I pass?”

Some TSA representatives are serious as heck, while others are light-hearted and jovial.  In Iceland, I had a TSA agent ask me quite seriously if I had security clearance for my bags (prior to going through the line)?  I was alarmed!  I panicked!  I had no clue what he was referring to when it finally clicked – he was joking with me and no such thing existed!  Grrr – don’t play with me TSA agent as I am already stressed enough going through security!

On my way home from this last trip, I was stopped by TSA and asked to stand aside.  What?  I already removed my shoes, my belt, emptied my pockets, and taken off everything I could think of (except my clothes).  I was chosen for the lucky pat-down.  Stick your arms out, separate your legs and let the agent do her thing.  When she was done I actually heard myself thank her!  I thanked a lady for patting me down – how ridiculous that sounded!!!

This is the world we now live in.  Pat downs, liquids in a baggie, and enhanced security.  I miss the old days when getting there was half the fun.  Now I simply put up with the annoyances of travel to get to my destination safely.

Safe journey,

Debbie

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

‘Twas the Day Before Travel

‘Twas the day before travel and I awoke with a clatter – or was it my cat’s patter?!

For me, the day before I travel is often filled with great excitement and anticipation for the journey I am about to embark on.  My brain is overflowing with what tasks I must finish before the day is over as well as what I need  to prepare for tomorrow’s flight.  Are the kids going to have enough food?  Are the cats going to be fed?  Who will take out the trash and get the mail while I am gone?  Oh, and a big one around here -who will do the laundry while I am away?  Ha!

The reality of all this is that no matter how much I pre-plan or how much I worry about what will or will not get done – in the end, it is all insignificant as I am about to be rewarded with a wonderful journey.

I must constantly remind myself to be mindful of this moment, and as distracted as I may be, I must remain cognizant of the fact that all this pre-planning is a part of my journey and I must not ignore it.  I tell myself to take the good with the bad, enjoy the moment as it is what it is.

When I board my flight tomorrow, all this brain-flutter will be behind me and I will be able to concentrate on what is before me.  I consider myself fortunate to be able to visit new lands, experience the culture, people, and places I will visit.

I look forward with anticipation when I step off the plane in Iceland on Friday morning.  And I am even more excited over seeing my new digs I got from Airbnb in Copenhagen!

Any ideas or suggestions of what I might see or do in Copenhagen or Reykjavik?  Can a Floridian (such as myself) be brave enough to dip into the waters at the Blue Lagoon in freezing weather?

Safe journeys,

Debbie

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.