After several years of rather aggressive travel, I often like to think of myself as a seasoned traveler. There's very little on the road that can frazzle me at this point in my life. Canceled flights? Long security lines? Pubic hair in the hotel bathtub drain? I'm unbothered! Been there, done that, dodged those bullets. I often cruise through the travel experience like a boss bitch.
Except that's not true at all. No matter how often you're on the road or how many places you've been in the world, there's so many variables that go into the travel experience that you're going to fuck it up royally from time to time. And yes, I've certainly screwed it up quite a bit over the years.
Often when I talk to people about travel and why they don't do it more often, I hear a lot about fear. Fear that they're going to make a mistake. Fear that they're going to make a poor choice or forget something. Fear that they're going to be taken advantage of or fall victim to a crime.
Ahhhh Goa. That mystical beach paradise on the shores of the Arabian Sea, calling out to travelers across the ages whether they're dusty bodies on the "Hippie Trail" (LINK) in the 60s or the planes full of Russian tourists that pack its shores today. Like Honolulu or Riviera Maya, Goa is India's version of the seashore hot spot that people love.
While the beauty of the region is legendary, others often attach some rather unflattering adjectives to Goa - touristy, overrun, overrated, over. But if you know me at all you know I'm not really one to take anyone else's word at face value, so when I found myself with a ticket to India and a week to kill in the middle of December, a warm beach sounded like just the thing to forget Chicago's snowy and cold weather. Goa was looking might good at that point.
I think we have all at one time or another had that traveler's dream of walking up to check-in for a flight and hearing those magic words - "Our flight is pretty full tonight so we're going to upgrade you." So imagine my surprise when I left the YOTEL London Heathrow (LINK) and made my way over to Terminal 5 to check-in for my flight to Mumbai (BOM) only to be greeted by a friendly agent with a massive, welcoming smile who uttered those exactly words to me!
This is British Airways (BA) ground service we're talking about here, which in my experience is best described as barely tolerating your existence. The friendly agent remained a figment of my imagination but I was indeed given a complimentary upgrade from BA's economy cabin (World Traveller) to their premium economy cabin (World Traveller Plus). No one bothered to notify me about the change though. I only learned of the upgrade when I walked away from the counter and glanced down to see that my seat assignment had been changed.
"Where are you from?" asked my driver as I hopped into the back of his car in a narrow alleyway of the Thamel district of Kathmandu.
"Chicago!" I cheerily replied. The name of my home was always sitting on the tip of my tongue when I met new people while traveling. Asking where someone is from is the most common way to break the ice, so it's not difficult to be prepared with an answer when you're on the road. As famous as I tend to think Chicago is, experience has taught me that it's not always the most recognizable American city to others. For my driver this seemed to be the case as he cocked his head to the side in thought for a moment before following up with "USA?"
"Yes, the US." I answered, pulling the seat belt across my chest and fastening the latch. He nodded his head for a second before stopping and tilting his head inquisitively to the side again. And then it came.
This little ditty was written almost two years ago, at a time when I was the holder of elite status on various airlines and enjoying the myriad benefits given to those who held little plastic cards with airline logos on them. I've left those days behind and am pursuing the joys of a different kind of travel, but I did enjoy writing this post and it's very appropriate for the holiday season. So I figured I would transfer it over to this version of my blog and share it with the world again.
I hope you enjoy it, have a bit of a laugh, and enjoy a very Merry Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Holiday for yourself and yours.
As I mentioned in my recent review of the YOTEL's premium cabin (LINK), I've spent a lot of time traveling through London's Heathrow (LHR) airport. Often with a layover. I've stayed at many airport hotel properties at LHR over the years including the Hilton and Sofitel properties that are attached to the airport. Despite the luxuries offered by those properties, especially the Sofitel, I've come to rely on the YOTEL as my first choice when staying at LHR on an overnight layover.
It's easy to see that the YOTEL doesn't really compete with the offerings of a Hilton or a Sofiten, so you may be asking yourself why this is the case. Well, it's because the YOTEL is easy to access and offers a relatively inexpensive place to rest with a very straight forward product as compared to the price and hassle of the other options.
The term “tourist trap” has plagued many famous destinations throughout the world. Often times crammed full of mediocre attractions and sly vendors at every turn looking to convince you to part with as much of your hard-earned cash as possible, a visit can be simultaneously under and overwhelming. Still, they remain tourist traps because tourists keep coming, so there has to be some appeal to the general traveling public at these spots around the globe.
Honolulu, and Waikiki Beach in particular, is often a target of this inflammatory label and it’s not difficult to see why. The sandy shores are stunning but are typically jammed full with sunbathers, swimmers, frolickers, and book readers which makes it almost impossible to enjoy at times. Strolling down the main drag of Kalakaua Avenue means dodging from left to right as swarms of people make their way up and down the street, darting in and out of various overpriced luxury stores like Ed Hardy and Coach. Restaurants in the core of the tourist area are typically too expensive for the quality of product received and in the rare moments that you find a picturesque view you’ve hardly taken your camera out before someone is standing in your way.
While I spent most of my childhood as a Navy brat in locations across Japan, my family did actually spend a little bit of time in the good ole US of A. One of the two locations I lived in the US during my childhood was Hawaii on the island of Oahu, just outside of Honolulu in a suburb filled with other Navy brats. It was, generally speaking, a great life. You're in Hawaii - even when things are bad life's pretty good!
With so many positive memories of my life in Hawaii, I make it a point to return to the islands from time to time. With it's beautiful landscapes, endless stretches of sandy beaches, and some pretty awesome food options (LINK), it's not exactly a difficult internal negotiation process. It's probably harder to talk me into walking the two blocks from my house to the neighborhood Walgreen's when I run out of toilet paper than it is to talk me into spending some time in Hawaii. But that's probably the same for all of you reading this. Because it's Hawaii.
Ask just about any traveler and they'll agree - food is an integral aspect of a trip. Whether you return time and time again to the same bakery in your favorite city or walk into an unknown restaurant at a new location on a whim, most travelers arrive back home from a trip with a lot to say about the different foods they ate while away. Some folks don't even wait till they're home - food pictures are a pretty common offering on social media for those who are currently footing in away from home!
Food is an integral part of the travel experience and it's one that ranks very high on my list of things I love about this little hobby of mine.
After a very relaxing stay at the Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya, I needed to get back to Singapore (SIN) to catch my flights home to Chicago. Four airlines offer direct flights between Phuket (HKT) and SIN and many others offering one stop connections. Flights into and out of HKT are a highly competitive leisure market, with fares on all carriers typically hovering at about the same price. I wasn't particularly interested in flying any specific carrier, so I put off the purchase of the ticket for awhile.
Once I finally got around to pulling out my credit card with the intention of buying a ticket, I saw that Malaysia Airlines (MH) was offering a business class ticket through Kuala Lumpur (KUL) for only $127 USD more than the cheapest economy class ticket on my date of travel. I'm not usually one to consider purchasing a business class fare, but for some reason I was feeling a bit frivolous that day. I mulled it around for a couple of minutes and pulled the trigger on the purchase. I'd be flying HKT - KUL - SIN on MH's regionally configured Boeing 737s the entire way, stop in at the contract lounge used by the carrier in HKT, and also use their business class lounge in KUL.