Category Archives: Travel

Places to See Before You Die, Or Not

BW Ice

Robert Reid has a problem with the idea of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

 

Awhile ago, I floated the question on Twitter about what it takes to say you’ve “been” to a place. Does walking across a border or an hour in an airport terminal “count”? Where’s the line?

Someone suggested using this definition: that you’ve only “been” somewhere if you had some experience there worth sharing. That, to me, seems like the ultimate point of travel. But too rarely do we hear of such experiences from bucket-listers’ jet-set cousins, what I call the country collectors.

Many of these folks wear the tally of the countries they’ve visited as badges of honor. Adding to the total in as little time as possible often means horribly ill-timed flight connections and a couple of hours spent outside the terminal, before moving on to the next destination. Guinea-Bissau? Check!

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Good Reason to Use Travel Apps

Times Square Morning
I have to be honest, I use travel apps, as you would imagine for someone who travels as much as I do, but I hadn’t considered that using apps instead of maps and guidebooks would make it harder for criminals to mark you as a gullible tourist.

When I first went to Rome a few years ago I had a bulky guide book but felt like I had an X on my back with pickpockets, especially around Trevi Fountain. After that experience, I went digital,

Good point, especially in Rome! ;-)

For myself, I use Tripit all the time, Around Me, combined with Yelp when I want to find a nearby place to eat, and of course, the apps for my airline and hotel chain of choice. (Gotta track those points!). For sightseeing, there’s always the City Maps to Go app.

So what are your favorite travel apps?

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City Maps To Go App Free Today

Theater Row

The iOS app City Maps to Go Pro is free until Sunday. I have used this app to grab a city map for walking around London and Oslo because of it’s offline map feature. That lets me download the map to my iPhone while I’m in the US, and use it in offline mode while in Europe to avoid paying data roaming fees.

I can’t say they are the world’s greatest maps, but they do pretty well, and they are free for the next day or so. If you travel anywhere that would require data roaming fees to access the online map functions of your iPhone, it might be worth checking out.

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Price Trumps All

When it comes to airline travel, we’ve been living with this reality and making compromises for a while now. While we certainly bemoan the lack of amenities, and the cattle-like approach that US airlines take toward passengers, we still demand cheap airfare.

Nowhere is that made more clear than in this article about Spirit Airlines.

Spirit is, by far, the lowest rated airline, but it’s also the fastest growing. People hate the way they charge fees for every little thing, they hate the service, and the experience of flying on Spirit, but the cheap fares keep them coming back.

Truthfully, as much as we complain about airline service, we still take too much pleasure in “getting a deal” for the airlines to have incentive to change. Unfortunately for those of us who have to travel for our jobs, we will continue to see airlines giving us what we paid for, and suffering for it.

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Do We Travel Wrong?

According to William Chalmers, yes we do.

Truthfully, as I read through his list of ways that Americans are taking vacations wrong, I found myself thinking that I’m guilty of some of them, even though I agreed with much of what he said.

His ways we travel wrong:

1. We are addicted to mini-vacations.

2. We travel at the worst times.

3. We take Groundhog Day vacations.

4. We want Champagne vacations on beer prices.

5. We vacation like we work with lists of things to do.

Again, I don’t know that I totally agree with everything he says, but there’s definitely some truth to the fact that we tend to take long weekends instead of actual vacations, only leading to more stress, and we do tend to travel at the worst times, but I also think that is a product of our workplace environment more than anything we actually choose to do.

Let’s take an example from my own life. We did take a two week vacation this year, off season, and traveled to some really cool new places. The price for that, beyond dollars and cents, was using just about all of my paid time off for the year at once. That means there was no long weekend in Ohio visiting family and friends this year, no taking some time off to recover when I got sick after a trip to Norway this Winter, and a built in excuse for every recruiter that I talked to because I couldn’t possibly switch jobs and start over accumulating paid time off! ;-)

In my case, that last reason worked out to not really be a negative, but it’s easy to see where that would be very limiting to others. We had booked this trip about a year before we took it, and that was a year of being very careful with PTO, to make sure it was still there when it came time, and now dealing with a pretty much depleted PTO account.

Luckily, I work for people who encouraged me to actually be offline and unavailable during this time. Not everyone’s workplace would be that understanding, nor would they be all that understanding about taking time in November, which is traditionally the last chance to get a lot done before the holiday season sets in.

So, to recap; we take short vacations due to very limited time off, which leaves us fewer options on location and a need to cram things in more than we would normally, during peak travel times because it’s more convenient to our employers, who expect us to still be available to them without paying us for that level of importance, which forces us to travel on the cheap.

Maybe it’s not so much that we travel wrong as we do the whole idea of employment wrong?

 

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Vacations are a Good Thing

Sunset boating

Not that anyone in the US actually takes theirs, right? After being gone from work for these last two weeks, not to mention being without any internet access for 10 days, I’m beginning to see why that is such a huge mistake. We need the break. Not only that, but I think we’d all do well to have a part of our life that has nothing at all to do with our chosen profession. Life is about more than what you do for work, and we should probably remember that occasionally. ;-)

During the break, I’ve had a few thoughts about work life balance, and what working in a service industry really means. I’m planning some blog posts along those lines in the next week or so. I will also be posting many, many photos from the trip as well, in fact you can see the first of such posts over on the photo blog, with a link to the Flickr set with the handful of photos taken from our departing port in Barcelona. Give that site a follow, either by RSS, Facebook or email if you’re interested in seeing those.

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Company Polo Shirts

When you travel for business, you tend to see them everywhere. Yes, the golf shirt with the corporate logo on them. At trade shows they are omnipresent, if you spend enough time in airports you really do see them all. I get it, they are nice little marketing pieces, and if you do enough appearances as part of your job, it’s just easier to have a bunch of those to wear than to try and coordinate your wardrobe. I have a bunch of AccessData polo’s myself. I wear them whenever I teach a class.

Which brings me to my story. Awhile back, I was traveling to do some training and I happened to be going straight from the client site, to the airport to fly home that same evening. As anyone would in that situation, I grabbed a cab, got through security and had some time to kill, so I called my wife. Naturally, I proceeded to talk to her about my long day, and my class, and the need to get home before getting ready for the next trip, etc. I also noticed that as I was talking, that there were a bunch of people seated all around me, in both earshot of my conversation, and clear view of the name on my polo shirt. So, even though I wasn’t complaining that much about my job, I stopped talking about it.

Not everyone is that self-aware. I’ve seen plenty of people having conversations on their cell phone, either in airports or while boarding a plane, with no thought as to who could be overhearing their conversation. I’ll ignore the number of people who give credit card or banking information in that situation, they really deserve their own post, but I want to focus in on the people who spend time on the phone, or sometimes even in person with coworkers, talking about how miserable their job is, or how poorly their company is doing, or how other people have screwed up, all while “advertising” the company they work for.

Some advertisement.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever overheard on a cell phone call in a public place? Have you ever learned anything that made you change your opinion of a company?

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New York City Travel Advice

Ok, it’s funny. But it’s funny because it’s true. There’s actually a lot of good advice for first time visitors to the City. Trust me, I grew up there shaking my head at tourists, and have been back as a visitor many times. I don’t disagree with any of it!

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Cognitive Dissonance and Frequency

As I was sitting in the airport yesterday, I started to notice the number of people complaining about various things about air travel, and thinking to myself that yes, there are plenty of things to complain about, but some of what was being said just really wasn’t accurate. It seems to me that there are a large number of people who seem to think that flights arrive late, baggage gets lost, flights get cancelled, etc. “all the time”. As someone who now travels quite a bit (I’ve already spent 75 nights in hotels during 2013, I think that qualifies), I’m always taken aback a bit about these claims, because while they do happen, it really isn’t that frequent. The statistics on airline travel back me up. Based on May, 2013 there’s a 1 in 10,000 chance you’ll be denied boarding, and about a 3 in 1,000 chance that your luggage will get mishandled. Both of those mean there’s less than 1% chance of it happening to you, and while there is a somewhat decent chance (Generally above 20% most months, increasing slightly in months more likely to have sever weather) that you will encounter some delays, it’s still hardly “all of the time”.

Again, as someone who travels quite a lot, I can look at the number of times I’ve been delayed, or had other problems, compared to the number of times I’ve flown without any problem, and put it in perspective. Most people, however, don’t fly that often. A more typical traveler travels maybe twice a year, once for a family vacation in the Summer time, and once for the holidays. Both peak travel times, where there’s little extra space to account for any problems, and both times when you are somewhat more likely to run into severe weather. All it takes is one delay caused by a storm, one person getting bumped from an overfull flight, one mishandled bag, and you come to think that this must happen all the time. After all, if you travel twice a year and it happens to you, it must happen all the time. Even more, when you took the internet and complained about it, your tweet, Facebook post, etc. gets commented on by every other person this has ever happened to, leading to the obvious conclusion, if you fly, the airline will delay your flight, lose your baggage, and there will be some combination of drunk adult or unruly children on your flight. And if you don’t experience those things as part of your flight, you just got lucky. The fact is, if something bad does happen, you just got unlucky.

Unfortunately, I see much of the same sort of believe system set into place over technology too. Most people do not interact with large database systems, or complex networks, on a regular basis. Their interactions mostly involve using a mobile device to access email, or Facebook, etc. or simply using a computer at work. They have infrequent interactions with their own IT departments, and almost always when something goes wrong. They don’t see the 99% of the time things are working perfectly, they see the 1% when it doesn’t and judge you based on that interaction. There’s no sense of perspective, there’s “it didn’t work when I needed it to”. Just like the airlines are always losing luggage, or always overbooking flights, because I saw it happen the one time I interacted with the airlines, the IT department is always non-responsive, always clueless, always rude, because the one time I interacted with them, the Exchange Server had crashed and they were all running around clueless as to how to fix it. It doesn’t matter that they were simply stressed, trying to get it back working again, the impression left with the users is that they were rude, or non-responsive. Of course, those users will then complain to their peers, who also never interact with tech support until something is broken and get a similar response.

On the other hand, if you can slowly explain the situation, set the expectations for how things are going to get fixed, and when, the user might still be unhappy that this happened, but they are less likely to walk away with a bad feeling about the people running the technology.

Still think working in IT is a good way to avoid having to deal with people? If you do, you should probably get out before your poor interactions add to the pile of stories that lead users to believe IT people are always rude.

Where else do you see this sort of dissonance occurring? I can think of plenty of things that people believe happen “all the time” because they know someone it did happen to, or saw it in the media, that in fact are very infrequent. (Natural disasters, crime statistics, etc.) Where do you see it? Where do you not see your own incorrect assumptions?

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