homo touristicus

 

The World’s Greatest Travelers™ like fun, interesting travel-related articles to read. Here's a few of our favorite articles about homo touristicus that shed some light on we the travelers! Enjoy.

Sky's the Limit
Denied Boarding
The Not So Friendly Skies
Tropical Depressions
Alone…Together: One Single Man's Take on Traveling With a Woman
Our Incredible Shrinking Vacation
The History of Travel, Part One
The History of Travel, Part Two
 
Sky's the Limit
 
by Rob Bloom
 
Show of hands, guys. How many times have you been sitting in your living room, beer in one hand, backup beer in the other, watching the game (the one where the next 2.7 seconds, give or take an hour, will single-handedly determine the fate of everything you hold most sacred), when out of the corner of your eye you notice that old bookcase of yours and suddenly realize what’s been bugging you for months, maybe even years, but have never been able to articulate in a clear, succinct statement, namely: “if only I had a gigantic wooden replica of a World War 1 propeller to prop in front of this bookcase!”
 
And ladies, I’m sure you’ve lost count of the times you’ve finished a workout at the gym only to remark, “treadmill schreadmill! What my bod really needs is the Giddyup Core Exerciser Horse Riding Simulator!”
 
Lucky for us all there’s SkyMall, the catalog of random merchandise that is to airplanes what the Bible is to hotels. Along with an already completed crossword puzzle, you'll find SkyMall in the pocket of the seat in front of you — nestled snugly among the barf bag, the crumbled pretzel package left by the passenger before you, and the safety brochure with the illustrations of people who, despite the fact their plane just made a crash landing in the ocean, are grinning like they just won the lottery. (Probably because they used SkyMall’s Escape Ladder. Pg. 59. Some assembly required.)
 
Though I'm a longtime SkyMall reader, it wasn’t until recently that I learned to fully appreciate the power of the catalog. And like most life-changing situations, my sudden appreciation came not from planning, but rather survival. You know, like when a father displays superhuman strength to lift a car off his son or when a brilliant collie rescues a dopey little boy from the bottom of a well (for the gazillionth time!) or, in my case, when you pretend to read an airline catalog to avoid even the chance of conversation with the passenger beside you who insists on taking off her shoes and socks, stuffing them (the socks, not the shoes) in the seat pocket, then demanding the flight attendant bring over a blanket because she’s “chilly” (Talk about someone who needs a pair of Herbal Booties. Pg. 106. Operators are standing by.)
 
So with the scent of feet in the air, I willingly escaped into the world of SkyMall, a glossy paradise where glossy models demonstrate this season’s must-have products. You know, the ones that help you achieve something extraordinary like a better night’s sleep, the perfect pushup, or a hunk of steak branded with your initials. Just a heads up, though. Because every product in the catalog costs roughly the same as a minor surgical procedure, be prepared to pay top dollar for your SkyMall purchases. See, a long time ago, two airline execs named Dick spent many hours huddled around a conference table trying to think of ways to capitalize on the vulnerable brains of airline passengers.
 
DICK: You really think this catalog’s a good idea?
DICK: You kidding?!? Folks’ll be cranky, cramped in a tiny chair, and light-headed from the smell of feet! They’ll buy anything!
DICK: While we’re at it, maybe we should keep planes delayed on the tarmac longer.
DICK: Have I ever told you that I love you?
 
No question, SkyMall is certainly seductive. But as I flipped through the attractive-yet-overpriced-yet-useless-yet-ridiculous products on those delightfully slick pages, I just couldn’t stop thinking about RIP, or as he’s more commonly referred to around my house, “The Skymall Disaster of ’05” (The cure? Motivational posters! See pgs. 150-151)
 
RIP was a combination Microwave/Toaster Oven I saw advertised in SkyMall. He was a “Space Saver.” He was the “answer to more convenient cooking.” He was “two hundred bucks that would’ve been better spent had I invested it in something longer-lasting such as one hand of blackjack on the High Rollers table in Vegas or, better yet, a ceremonious flush down the toilet.”
 
In all fairness however, RIP did work great at first. Of course, a week later, he decided to stop working so he could perform other helpful tasks like shooting out pretty sparks and growling like Louis Armstrong. But like any gigantic disappointment, time and a sledgehammer to the control panel heal all wounds. And actually, I’m happy to report that RIP has mellowed in his old age and is now resting quite peacefully in a storage unit. Right beside my Flying Alarm Clock, wall-sized crossword puzzle, and collection of neon flamingo and palm tree yard decorations.
 
(If you would like to publish this article, you may, but you need permission first.
Contact the author at Rob or visit Rob's site at RobBloom.com
 
Copyright 2007 Rob Bloom. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 
 
Denied Boarding
 
by William D. Chalmers
 
Your suitcases are all packed. The kids are so excited about seeing Winnie the Pooh and Shammu too. The wife is looking forward to a week of R&R away from carpooling and the kitchen. The hotel reservations are paid for and confirmed, you've passed all the airport security checks and you finally approach the gate agent with your airline tickets when you're summarily pulled aside and denied boarding the plane. Why you ask, as your family vacation hangs on for an answer?
 
Well, it's because you've been profiled by a secret Government computer system and are considered a risky passenger. You're rated red!
 
It seems, shame on you, that you've got bad credit because of that cable bill squabble and because your Wal-Mart card is over the limit. You're also considered a legal scofflaw because you haven't paid that overdue parking ticket. And to top it off, the computer thinks you might be a terrorist because you've traveled to a suspect foreign state-remember that business trip you took to Egypt last year!
 
Seem loony? Sound like the stuff of a bad Kafka novel? Or a cheap Hollywood movie? No, it's reality, and I don't mean reality-TV! This is all too real and the controversial CAPPS II is coming soon to an airport near you.
 
CAPPS II, AKA the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System Part II (like the bad sequel it is) will use massive and secret data-mining techniques to check your credit history, access your Federal legal history, check up on your previous travel itineraries, maybe even scrutinize your Amazon.com book purchases or Blockbuster movie rentals. That foreign flick you rented could get you grounded! It seems that defense contractor Lockheed-Martin has come up with a new and improved way to screw up your vacation plans. Happy trails indeed!
 
In their earnest attempt to fight off the Axis of Evil and protect travelers from terrorists, the infamous trio of Attorney General Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge and Admiral Loy of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the same folks that stripped our civil liberties to the core, brought us color coded terror alerts, duct tape and broken luggage locks, have now brought us CAPPS II to make us feel safer when we fly.
 
The problem is that civil liberties and privacy advocates not only question its effectiveness, but also the severe potential for unconstitutional invasions of privacy and wholesale data mix-ups leading to airline traveler blacklists. Could a Registered Traveler Program be far behind?
 
The troublesome computer-generated rating system will rely once again on a tiered color system (It seems that we Americans can not handle anything more sophisticated than colors?): green for go, yellow for caution, as in give them the once over twice, and red for no can fly!
 
The main drawback, aside from the obvious invasion of privacy and that your 4th Amendment rights are being thrown out the window, is that travelers will be evaluated and graded without a context (your business trip to Pakistan or vacation to Bali might as well have been trips to Taliban-infested Afghanistan!), we will all be judged without rights (like your credit rating, you'll never know how to correct it or what source it came from), and finally, you'll be sentenced (denied the pleasure of your traveling) without any recourse. Sound un-American to you? Even Orwell didn't dream of this.
 
Well, welcome to the new post 9/11 era of travel where blacklists are in vogue again in Washington D.C.
 
CAPPS I, arrived on the scene in 1996 to help the airlines screen passengers. It helped them focus on potential security issues like: passengers that only booked one-way tickets (apparently terrorists don't want to overspend by purchasing a full-fare mandatory Saturday night stay round trip ticket!), paid by cash (seems good old cash isn't good enough anymore, and besides VISA and MasterCard need their 3.5%!), and those who are or are not checking baggage (I can never figure that one out?) or purchased their tickets at the last minute. Together these may indicate a flight risk and the airlines further quiz those passengers with additional questions.
 
Add that to airport metal detectors, numerous ID checkpoints, bag searches, shoe checks and isotope identifiers, and you'd think that we pretty much have the airport security issue covered.
 
I travel a lot, some call me a road warrior, and terrorism simply doesn't scare me, neither does the threat of lightening striking me, which has a better chance of killing me! No, what really keeps me awake at night is the threat posed by underpaid disgruntled workers, Chapter 11 airlines cutting back on safety and maintenance, and the commercial cargo riding in the belly of the plane under your life-vest made in an unregulated sweatshop in some third world country.
 
So why the credit check? And what does my credit rating have to do with me flying anyway, I already paid for the ticket! If Attorney General Ashcroft doesn't care who owns guns, vetoing any and all efforts to check out the backgrounds, credit worthiness and DMV records of those wanting to buy an AK-47 assault rifle, what does my checking account balance have to do with whether or not I am deemed a risky passenger? Gawd, I'm overdrawn, I can't board that flight to Boston?
 
David Theroux, of the Independent Institute, also worries about these airport operations, "Federal agencies have repeatedly shown to engage in grotesque abuses…the power of the TSA to systematically process and maintain a central database of financial, educational, political, family and other personal info…is equally dangerous."
 
Some wonder whether this new airport computer system will even lead to arrests for tax cheats and deadbeat dads, or be used as bill collectors for outstanding student loans. Sound far-fetched? Well so we thought did Herr Ashcroft's Operation TIPS came to light that encouraged American citizens to spy on their foreign looking neighbors' by reporting what books they read and what movies they rent.
 
As we all know, bureaucracies are prone to what is called function creep, where they constantly enlarge their mission, resources and activities. Would this, "starting small" program be any different? We also know that they have a sordid history of making mistakes with data and the problem is that you won't know if an error has occurred, the wrong key's been punched or a number transposed, until your summer vacation plans have been derailed and the kids look at you teary eyed wondering why they won't get to see Mickey Mouse.
 
So you better pay off that old medical overcharge you've been disputing with Dr. Strongarm before you travel. Check out your DMV rap sheet before you even think about heading to the Grand Old Opray music festival. And as for visiting half the countries in the world, including the museums of France, forget it, or you too could get permanently blacklisted from airline travel in America.
 
Be careful flyers, be very careful, your Google search request history could be next!
 
Happy trails indeed! I long for the days of lost luggage, late flights and peanuts for dinner.
 
 
(If you would like to publish this article, you may, but you need permission first.
Contact the author at Event Director)
 
Copyright 2003 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 
 
The Not So Friendly Skies:
10 Ways for Flying Better, Now!
 
by William D. Chalmers
 
If you've been paying attention to the news, this summer travel season has been nothing but a hassle with airline quality slipping below its normal low. The system is clearly broken.
 
Consider the facts: More of us are arriving late--32% in June! Excessive delays are up 36% with passengers spending at least two hours parked on the tarmac--sometimes much longer! Planes are cramped and bumping is approaching an all-time high. Flight cancellations are increasing at alarming rates because it is cheaper for the airlines to cancel a flight--and leave you high and dry--than to be really late. Seems that fouls up their schedules! Our luggage is being lost, sorry mishandled, at a record clip-over 11,000 pieces a day enter the twilight zone! We are being nickel and dimed with fee after fee while service is generally terrible compared to international standards. Add to this the absurd security theater playing daily in the terminals and you have one nasty recurring travelers nightmare.
 
The airlines are blaming it on bad weather and corporate jets, while the FAA is blaming it on 9/11 and lack of resources. Passengers blame everybody, but aren't willing to spend a dime more on tickets.
 
So what is to be done? A combination of short and long-term changes are required and Congress must act today to stave off the inevitable virtual gridlock in the skies that will occur over the next 10 years when domestic air travel will exceed 1 billion passengers--a 33% increase from today!
 
Here are ten things that would begin the process of improving the holding pattern in our not so friendly skies:
 
1. The use of general aviation (private planes and corporate jets) is growing dramatically. They tax almost 20% of the FAA's system, yet pay only 3% of the costs. They need to pay their fair share in user fees to better maintain the system; even a little extra for the convenience of avoiding what everyone else has to deal with daily.
 
2. At any given moment over 5,000 commercial planes are flying in our airspace-without a safety net. In fact, airplane near misses are up 14% this year! Our 1960's-based ground-to-air radar and radio traffic control system is antiquated and not technologically user friendly for pilots. Some cars have better navigation systems than airplanes! Combined with the reality that air traffic controllers are retiring at a record pace, we clearly need to install NextGen, a 21st century state of the art 3D GPS satellite-based system that will allow pilots with advanced avionics to better take control of the safety of their plane, passengers and route, reduce flight times and make the skies safer.
 
3. Convenience-based user fees need to be imposed on peak time flights. If you leave JFK between 6 and 8AM or 3 and 5PM, plan to pay extra for that convenience. Also, let's auction off the rights to fly into overburdened airports. That would ease congestion, open up new airports and fund airport improvements.
 
4. Alternative transportation methods need to be built in busy commercial sectors. Euro-style high speed trains should be built between Boston-New York-Washington DC, and along the Los Angeles-Las Vegas and Los Angles-San Francisco routes. The Cleveland-Detroit-Chicago corridor along with the Dallas-Houston-San Antonio triangle also need to be examined. Any well traveled corridor where a three hour high speed train can replace an hour long flight should be encouraged
 
5. The European Union significantly strengthened passenger rights in 2005 and it's time we did too. A real flyer-oriented Air Passenger Bill of Rights needs to work its way through Congress, one that takes into account all air travel-related issues and not just runway stranded passengers. One that, unlike the industry-written voluntary code of conduct with minimum standards and no penalties that the airlines industry imposed on consumers in 2000, includes: up dating old overbooking and bumping rules including just compensations; lost luggage timelines; excessively late arrival compensations (and forget your useless airline vouchers--we want cash!); a fairer frequent flyer agreement-over 70% of miles go unused due to unreasonable usage rules; and finally, a truth in airline advertising bill needs to be implemented. If the ticket cost is $99 plus another $50 in hidden fees, state the true cost at $149. And stop with adding flight time to flights to pad your on-time performance records. If a flight takes 55 minutes, please don't tell us it takes 75 minutes.
 
6. As the rest of society begins taking global warming seriously, so should the airlines. Using a combination of methods like modernizing their fleets with more fuel efficient jets, utilizing more direct routings and fewer hubs, and implementing carbon-neutral offset fees, airlines need to begin addressing the growing pollution problem in which they are responsible.
 
7. Over the last year, TSA screeners at 15 airports missed 90 percent of the simulated weapons and explosive materials carried through by undercover Red Team agents! Obviously these logjam checkpoint systems just plainly don't work, it's a feel good fraud. Mind numbing terminal security shutdowns are growing.
 
Airport security needs to be streamlined, less foolishly consistent, and focused on real threats, not Aunt Millie's knitting needles. Does it really take 5 separate ID checks from check-in to boarding to make sure who I am? Shoes, on or off? Matches, yes or no? And what's with that fast lane for First Class passengers? I hope that they are paying extra fees to the TSA for that extra service and not just more to the airlines? How un-American is that anyway? And finally, the two frightening holes in airport security need to be plugged-the lack of adequate screening for freight and lack of daily checkpoint screening for ground personal.
 
8. Additional runways need to be built at major airports and several regional airports need to be constructed in cities where air traffic growth is already taxing the current infrastructure, including: the New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles-Orange County, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston and Las Vegas areas.
 
9. The weak-kneed FAA says that it is starved for funds because the low cost no-frills airlines selling cheaper tickets are keeping their 7.5% per ticket revenues down. Well, how about a single flat user fee per ticket, not a progressive tax based on ticket cost? It doesn't matter how long you are flying, it is the ground systems at clogged airports that you are using.
 
10. Every airline executive, after flying domestic coach across the country, should fly on an international carrier once a year, just to be reminded of what is possible when it comes to air travel.
 
On any given day over two million Americans fly somewhere on over 50,000 flights nationally. It is said that America's tab stands at almost $10 billion a year in lost economic productivity, jet fuel and wasted time due to commercial passenger delays. The question begs itself: Is any one in charge of this mess?
 
Congress needs to take urgent action to change this abysmal state of affairs. We can't afford not to fix it the system, because it is broken.
 
 
(If you would like to publish this article, you may, but you need permission first.
Contact the author at Event Director)
 
Copyright 2007 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 
 
 
Our Incredible Shrinking Vacation
 
by William D. Chalmers
 
Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off summer vacation season for most of us. The weather's nice, kids are out of school and the NBA playoffs are winding down. Yet, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), almost 70% of our vacations will last less than 3 nights! In fact, the average American vacation is just 4.3 days! How can you have a vacation in 4.3 days? Just catching a flight takes that long now days.
 
It is abundantly clear; Americans suffer from a severe case of Vacation Deficit Disorder!
 
As a people you could say we're vacation-starved. This reality was reflected in a New York Times article, which sadly stated that just 14% of all our vacations would last seven nights or more. Whatever happened to those two weeks off we all signed up for when we took our cushy high paying jobs? Over the last decade we've shaved almost a day off our already too-short vacations. Yet ironically, one recent survey indicated that we would happily trade a day's salary for an extra day off!
 
Recently, a group of slackers launched a "Work to Live" campaign that mandates 3 weeks paid vacation a year, increasing to 4 weeks a year after being on the job for three years. Yeah right! That'll fly in the family-values dominated Enron Congress! But wait a minute…didn't President Bush take the whole month of August off last year?
 
Seems our Calvinist work ethic in pursuit of that elusive American Dream is getting the better of us. Whatever happened to the great American motto -- getting away from it all? We are driven to be productive at all costs. We're actually made to feel guilty when we have the audacity to ask our bosses to take our vacation time. Not only have we blurred the lines between our workweek and weekends, we invented the ultimate leisure age oxymoron -- the working vacation!
 
Yippee …we're Number One! Or are we?
 
The World Tourism Organization tracks average paid vacation days around the world and the results are in:
 
Italians have the most days off. In fact, they average 42 days off a year! And look at them, what have they ever contributed to the world? Well, besides Da Vinci, pasta, Ferraris, Michelangelo, Venice and Chianti? Look where all that time off got them! Their biggest malefactor was Marconi who helped make our now almost instant global communications possible and enabling us to work more! Maybe it is the Italians' fault after all?
 
The Italians learned long ago that all work and no play make Marco a dull boy when fellow countryman and the father of occupational medicine, Bernardino Ramazzini, was the first to express in 1700 that "Work can make you sick!" Maybe that's where we got our workers compensation idea?
 
Next up are the French who have a real bad vacation addiction. As anyone who's ever traveled to France in August knows, no one's home -- the French are all on vacation! On top of their short 35-hour workweek, they take an average 37 days off a year! That's what I call the real Red Wine Paradox.
 
The French do indeed take their vacations seriously, take racing for example: we have the Indy 500 which takes about 3 hours to complete and they have the Paris-Dakar Race and the Tour de France that each take about a month to complete!
 
Then we have those loafers north of the border, the Canadians. They take twice as many days off as we do, and it shows. The folks in Hollywood know a good thing when they see it, that's why all those runaway production companies are heading north. It can't be the weather right? Orlando wouldn't exist without snowbirds from Canada wintering there a couple months a year.
 
And what about those seriously industrious Japanese? Even they take more time off than we do. The Japanese even have a word for working yourself to death - karoshi, so they take a lot of time off. Don't believe me, checkout Sea World, Disneyland or Beverly Hills--they're the only ones there! They invented the Walkman to make traveling easier and, as we all know, they take more travel photos per capita than any other nation.
 
So, we're not the leaders of the free world that we think we are. The average German leaves Germany (and who can blame them!) on average twice a year. Twice a year! That's international traveling, real tourism. Now compare that to us Americans where only 20% of us actually have valid passports. But then again, we do indeed travel internationally when we go shopping in Tijuana, Niagara Falls or Juarez!
 
We are leaders in our work obsession however and have the stats to prove it. We're still Number One in job-related illnesses and job turnover; calling the office while on vacation (75% of us do it!); actually doing work while taking R&R (54%); and in using technology - that time saving stuff that turns us in to virtual electronic slaves while on a holiday (40% of us do it!)! My guess is that Corporate America will soon talk us into giving up the whole idea of vacation time altogether. "Heck Bob, you already take Thanksgiving and Christmas off."
 
Sure we need to stay competitive in the fast-paced 24/7 global marketplace, but we do need a break. Literally. The typical American worker is putting in an average of 500 more hours at work last year than in 1980. That's 50 more 10-hour days a year!
 
Maybe those "Live to Work" do-gooders have the right idea here. Indeed, a recent poll among human resource managers seems to agree with 66% of them believing that Americans should get more vacation time to help alleviate the dreaded Burnout Symptoms that all too many of us suffer from. And why would they chime in? It seems it costs them too much to train new worker bees.
 
The great Capitan's of industry of the 1920's knew that happier workers are more productive workers! So go ahead, take the next 4.3 days off and recharge your batteries. And not just your cell phone batteries.
 
(If you would like to publish this article, you may, but you need permission first.
Contact the author at Event Director)
 
Copyright 2002 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 
 
 
Tropical Depressions
 
by William D. Chalmers
 
Seasoned travelers know all too well the rigors that cramped seats, free booze, bad food and flight delays cause -- Air Rage. And with other ailments like Millennium Madness mercifully behind us, and the melancholia-inducing Seasonal Disorder Syndrome beginning to take effect in many parts of the nation it's time to discuss other on-the-road psychological disorders that confront us at home and abroad. Aside from the common staples of Delhi Belly, Altitude Sickness and Jet Lag, here are a few of the more obscure travel-related conditions:
 
Adrenaline Junkies: Is what suppressed risk takers who spend 51 boring pedestrian weeks in an office cubicle become when they only have seven days for heart-thumping, high-risk adventures involving extreme heights, speeds and temperatures.
Exaggerated Pronunciation Disorder: The classic delusionary belief that a non-English speaking person will somehow understand you better if you speak abnormally loud and extra slow.
Jerusalem Syndrome: Popular at global power spots and among religious pilgrims who sometimes don hotel bed sheets and become babbling biblical figures.
Klepto-Tourists: When normally law-abiding citizens steal anything not bolted down in the tourist-class hotels from towels and Bibles to silverware.
Post-Holiday Depression: Re-immersion symptoms include trying to call room service from your own bed at 2 am, severe bouts of jet lag, memory afterglow, and repeatedly telling wholly disinterested friends and family members every boring detail of your trip. Hold the slides and videos, please!
Away from Home Syndrome (AHS): Trying to be something or somebody you're not on the road by forgetting the age old maxim: No matter where you go, there you are!
Bridge Anxiety: A panic phobia that makes people swim instead of walk, ride or motor across a perfectly safe two-hundred and fifty year old rope bridges.
Civilization Deficit: Is caused by lack of hot water pressure, ice cold drinks and naps. Common among those visiting England.
Constipated Payment Disorder: AKA The Haggling Hernia. Symptoms include balking at paying an incredibly cheap price on principle to save a few cents and thus not getting that priceless conversation piece!
Cultural Emulation Syndrome: AKA Going Native. Symptoms include wearing expensive handmade clothes that don't match and hairstyles that usually include beads that last until one hour after you return home.
Cultural Enhancement Syndrome: Where we, as a group, display all our boorish national behaviors while traveling abroad. France is a particularly good place to witness these embarrassing scenes. AKA The Ugly American Syndrome.
Travelers Diet Disorder: Usually coincides with severe bouts of either Montezuma's Revenge, the Rangoon Runs, the Green Apple Two Step or Bali Belly, whereby you are reduced to a restrictive diet of Imodium, white rice and water.
Cruise Addiction: The need to be constantly pampered day and night on the newest and biggest cruise ship ever built. Side effects include a desire to be close to a buffet table and the giddiness brought on by OD-ing on Dramamine.
Foreign Language Accent Disorder: A person suffering this disorder will return from an extended vacation with a heavy accent, usually British, and poor syntax. Effects last about one month, or a lifetime for some...
Economy Class Syndrome: A combination mental, physical and emotional affliction caused by the torture caused by dehydration, intoxication, dehumanization, insomniaization and legcrampedization that no amount of Echinacea or frequent-flyer bonus mileage will soothe. AKA Long Haul Syndrome and Cabin Fever. Warning: Potentially deadly!
Entertainment Deficit Disorder: Usually kicks in after five days on the road due to going cold turkey from our 24/7 multimedia plugged-in hyper-infotainment society. Especially acute after three nights of karaoke and luaus.
Exaggeritis: Prevalent among those who fancy themselves travelers, not tourists. Usually the byproduct of liquor induced campfire discussions. AKA The Great Fishermen's Story!
Guide Book Personality Disorder: Symptoms include an overwhelming obsession to constantly see the same people over and over again at the same tourist attractions because everyone is following the same guidebook. (Note: You know are suffering from GBPD when you're at a restaurant and everyone's speaking English.)
Vacuous Sensation Seekers: You know these braggarts, their the "Been there, done that, what's next?" syndrome thrill seekers. These folks can be seen ala Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" tune, ...always in the right place at the right time. AKA Big Event Casanova.
Grass Is Always Greener Syndrome: You think this is___! (insert any descriptive adjective), wait till we get to our next destination! Sometimes known as the Been there. Done that. What's next? Disorder.
Hyper-Empathy Syndrome: An overwhelming obsession to connect with the local natives, or at least until they get a group photo.
Calling Card Syndrome: What's the point of leaving if you stay in touch on vacation, obsessively checking your e-mail's, pages and voicemails.
Inflamed Spirituality: Prevalent among backpackers returning home from an extended world tour. Symptoms include: a fixed beatific smile, conversion to vegetarianism, wearing hair beads (See: Cultural Emulation Syndrome) and prolonged unemployment. For the afflicted, reality really is a concept!
Loving a Place to Death Syndrome: See: Bali, Monterey, Key West, Venice, Kathmandu, Prague, Inca Trail and Cabo.
Packer's Block: Inability to intelligently decide what you really need and what you don't.
Packer's Stoop: Results from carrying too much stuff. Symptoms also include marriage dissolution and extreme upper body muscle development. (See: Packer's Block)
Extremis budgetitus: Common among long-term travelers who have a competitive obsession about spending the smallest amount of money possible. Side effects: sleeping 10 to a room, begging, standby travel and smelling bad.
Polar Night Stress Disorder: A Nordic-based depression caused by long nights. Results include high suicide rates, alcoholism and safe cars; can be alleviated with saunas, smorgasbords and hot n'cold running blondes.
Obsessive Junk Food Craving: Psychotic obsession for food from home, like McDonald's fries, New York-style pizza, Starbucks coffee or Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia. Due to the homogenizing effects of globalization, this is maybe incurable.
Shangri-La Syndrome: The naive idealizing of foreign cultures as magnificently perfect in every way. Usually the result of never having left the hotel's gated compound.
Temple Burnout: A condition that occurs after visiting 30 or more temples, churches or monuments in a ten day period. Occasional hallucinations, bouts of memory loss, severe disorientation and a particularly traumatic strain of MEGO's--My Eyes Glaze Over--set in. Most likely to inflict those traveling to Italy, Thailand and Egypt. AKA Monument Burnout.
Third World Blues: Too many people. Too much congestion. Too hot and too sweaty. Too much noise. Too many smells. Too many hungry children. Too many ferry, train and bus delays. Too many open sewers... (Or, maybe it's caused by traveling with not enough luggage and too many expectations...)
Transmeridional Malaise: AKA Dateline Delirium or Jet Lag. The inability to figure out what day it is. Cures include Halicon, temazepan and melatonin.
Vocation Amnesia: A temporary condition common among solo travelers who always have glamorous careers like writers, artists, actors, musicians or day traders, when in fact they're usually either unemployed or trust fund babies.
Wanderlust Addiction: Tom Paxton sang it best: "I've got the urge for going..."
Xenochiophobia: The emotional uncertainty and misgivings about what you will find when you actually get to your destination. Cure: Be careful what you ask for!
Ex-Pat Blues: Hanging out with other people of your own nationality to talk about how much you miss home while traveling for prolonged periods.
 
(If you would like to publish this article, you may, but you need permission first.
Contact the author at Event Director)
 
Copyright 2000 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 
Alone…Together
(One Single Man's Take on Traveling With a Woman)
 
by Andy Valvur
 
The first woman I ever traveled with was my mother. We flew from New York to Japan in the days before jet airplanes, and I was airsick the entire journey. I was also learning how to walk, so the effect on my mother was not unlike having a small drunk on her hands who threw up on anything he could get to. The women I have traveled with since then have been more fortunate.
 
 
The concept of men and women taking trips together is a modern one. During the Crusades, women were left at home locked in chastity belts. As a gender they were not amused, and let their feelings be known when their husbands came back expecting a tumble. Use of the belts ceased soon afterward, and some women did accompany men on their trips. On the whole, though, men still went off into the world on their own-and for good reason. Would Columbus, Magellan, or Vasco de Gama ever have discovered new worlds if their wives had been with them? No. The ladies would have wanted to stop at every uncharted little continent to visit art museums. But the main reason wives didn't accompany them was that room service hadn't been invented yet. That and matched luggage.
 
 
What a person takes on a journey can be most illuminating. I used to be a flight attendant and learned early in my airline career to travel light. One change of clothes is sufficient. Men can wear an outfit for generations, let alone a ten-day vacation. Whereas every single girlfriend I've ever had has considered a trip a chance to wear clothes; they pack dozens of outfits. I try to explain that since we'll be on the go, no one will know they've worn the same thing twice. Their response is to gaze at me with a look usually reserved for time-share salesmen. And no matter how much stuff they bring, they still end up wearing one of my T-shirts. Suzanne, a woman with whom I once vacationed in Italy, had to have an extra bag just for her shoes-which, of course, I ended up carrying. I didn't mind (although I will never think of the Trevi Fountain without also thinking about red high heels), but try explaining to a burly U.S. Customs officer why you are carrying a bag of women's shoes. At least if it had been a fetish, I could have raised up a little righteous indignation over the public display of my particular sexual predilection.
 
 
Women get very specific when it comes time to bed down for the night. They will compromise on some things, like the type of restaurant or form of transportation, but a bed in a hotel room is not one of them. And just try getting a hotel room without a bathroom. This is good, because men left on their own are not nearly as discriminating. I have slept in quite an assortment of places, including an abandoned World War II bunker on the south coast of France, under a truck near the German-Danish border, and on more than a few barstools. I think in the final analysis, it boils down to some random DNA thing women have and men don't, which is that women know when to come in out of the rain. They are comfortable with the concept of shelter. It was women, I believe, who first moved into caves in the Stone Age.
 
 
A first hotel room together is a "first home," and like all first homes, it will not be big enough. It's also and opportunity to see what it would be like to live together. Where does she put her stuff when she undresses at night? Even more important, will it still be there tomorrow afternoon?
 
 
Something happens to the most demure women in hotel rooms. I do not know how to explain this, but I have seen it happen time and time again: latent exhibitionism. Women who at home will not open the front door unless they are fully dressed will admit room-service waiters when they are wearing little more than a hand towel they have quickly grabbed from the bathroom.
 
 
Women love bathrooms. There is no force on earth-not fire over a pool of gasoline nor locusts over a ripe wheat field-faster than a woman's instant usurpation of every available square millimeter of shelf space in a hotel bathroom. Why do you suppose men's toilet kits have a loop on them? So we can carry them. Often, you will see men wandering aimlessly in hotel hallways carrying these oblong, vaguely football-shaped leather minivalises. Why? Because somewhere, a woman is in a bathroom "getting ready."
 
 
Language is frequently the greatest cultural obstacle when traveling. No matter what country you're in, the locals will appreciate any effort on your part to at least try to communicate in the local tongue. (Everywhere except Paris, that is.) Men, particularly American men, seem to think people who speak a different language will understand them if they just speak louder. I'm always curious to see how a woman interacts with foreigners because it is a good indication of how she will deal with children who, except for size, often resemble foreigners: You can't understand them, and they're everywhere.
 
 
In some parts of the world, the man is responsible for the woman's actions. This ran through my mind when a Jewish-feminist girlfriend of mine decided, in Kuala Lumpur, that she wanted to visit the National Mosque. Any woman entering a mosque must have her arms, legs, and head covered. To this end, they have these long robes you can borrow at the entrance. My girlfriend grumbled about donning the garment but did so. I, of course, had visions of her getting inside and immediately ripping if off as a way of making a "statement," whereupon I would have a salient part of my anatomy surgically separated from me while turbaned men stood around remarking how little control I had over "my woman."
 
 
Not to be outdone, men also have an uncanny ability to get into trouble overseas. I speak from experience when I tell you that this ability is a mixture of macho ego and stubbornness. I remember being in a city that I'd visited briefly once before. Trying to impress my female traveling companion, I grandly boasted of a restaurant I knew of-and led us off in the wrong direction. After much floundering and accosting of strangers on the street, we ended up in what I thought was the same restaurant. After dinner, one of our fellow diners, a distinguished-looking Asian gentleman, came to our table and offered to buy the woman I was with. We suddenly realized that my "great little restaurant" was actually an exclusive brothel. Being the curious type and trying to retrieve my shattered aplomb, I smiled and asked, "How much?" It was a good thing my lady had insisted on getting a room with a bathroom, because I slept in the tub that night.
 
 
When it comes to shopping, men don't hold a candle to women…unless we're holding a candle in a bazaar while a woman bargains with a rug merchant. Done right, it can be a thing of beauty to watch. One of the high points of my flying career was to be approaching Hong Kong for a three-hour transit the day the Hang Seng stock market crashed, niftily doubling the value of the U.S. dollar. This information was relayed via radio to the cockpit, which then passed it on to the chief purser, who informed our passengers of the duty-free bargains awaiting us in the shopping areas of the terminal. Once the cabin had been prepared for arrival, female crew members were seen at their jump seats casually donning track shoes. Exactly one hour and fifty-seven minutes later, having maxed out their credit cards downtown, they were back in their heels, not a hair out of place, offering champagne and greeting passengers, while the other stewards and I stowed their purchases.
 
 
Some men, when confronted with women spending vast amounts of foreign currencies, acquire a condition known as "math anxiety." One of the most enduring images I have is of a woman piling items next to a cash register on the Via Veneto in Rome, while her husband stands to one side punching a handheld calculator, desperately trying to figure out how many dollars seventy-eight million lire is.
 
 
Women are also smarter shoppers than men. Men may grumble about the cost of a cup of coffee in the hotel, but they'll shell out a king's ransom for a life-size copy of the Venus de Milo painted with painstaking anatomical correctness-pubic hairs and all. When questioned as to the wisdom of this, we'll usually mutter something about how great it will look in the den.
 
 
Sometimes there are trips you just shouldn't take, but being human, you take them anyway. I call these save-the-relationship trips. Taking a trip to "save" the relationship is like having a baby to save the marriage. It never works. I once dated a remarkable woman who had done more in her twenty-six years than most women do in a lifetime. A photographer at twenty-two, manager of a rock-and-roll band at twenty-five, Michele could outtalk and outhustle any man I'd ever met, including myself. We'd been having our problems, so I thought a nice little jaunt to London might help us straighten everything out. Well, this supremely confident woman was lost in London. Lost. She was sure people were talking funny because they didn't want her to understand them. She just knew waiters were serving tea sandwiches in weird little tiered trays so she'd drop one. She even thought Big Ben was looking down on her. And she transferred all these anti-Brit hostilities to me. We cut short our stay and, to top it off, her new boyfriend picked her up at the airport when we got home. So it goes.
 
 
I'll never forget the girl I met on an airplane. One of the first things we talked about was taking a train from Bangkok to Singapore. That she thought it was a neat idea spoke volumes on her behalf. Shortly thereafter, we took that train trip. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I ate something I shouldn't have and developed a classic case of food poisoning. One minute I'd be sweating, then I'd make a desperate dash for the bathroom, only to return to bed begging her to join me for body heat. Yet despite all that, we wound up spending many great years together. By the way, if you know anyone who wants an anatomically correct Venus De Milo, I can get you a real good deal….
 
 
(If you would like to publish this article, you may, but you need permission first.
Contact the author at Event Director)
 
Copyright 2001 Andrus J. Valvur. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 
The History of Travel, Part One
 
by William D. Chalmers
 
Presenting the history of anything is daunting. Even a slightly abridged version of travel history, like this, can be an endeavor. Where does one begin? What constitutes the first incidence of travel? I think it's safe to say it was when the first caveman gave someone a piece of meat to take him across the river on a raft to avoid nasty reptiles.
 
Today the travel industry is unequivocally the world's largest business. Bigger than big oil. Bigger than the gambling, sorry, the gaming industry. It's even bigger than hockey. How big? US$4.5 trillion a year BIG!
 
So, with a keen eye on my 800-word limit, here is part one of the history of travel-from the Stone Age to the Golden Age of Travel of the 1850's:
 
1780 BCE (Before Common Era) - Hamurrabi's Code of Laws regulates the first inns and taverns, while addressing the continuing phenomena of missing towels.
 
776 BCE - The first Olympiad is held after the Greek Chamber of Commerce honors Zeus with "some activity that will attract out-of-towners."
 
465 BCE - Histories, a bestseller by Herodotus, unveils a list of must-see tourist places-aka The Seven Wonders of the World.
 
330 BCE - Alexander the Great embarks on the first extended road trip with a few pals. The local groupies are so much to his liking that the trip lasts nine years!
 
312 BCE - "All roads lead to Rome…" with the opening of the Appian Way. But after an Imperial convoy collides with a roadside farmer's market, gridlock ensues detouring all roads to Parma.
 
14 - Roman nobleman Marcus Gavius Apicius writes the first cookbook on international recipes. Curried kebobs and fish n' chips become popular Roman dishes.
 
100 - The probable first use of a magnetic compass occurs in China after several male traders refuse to ask for directions while lost along the Silk Road.
 
333 - Put together in France, the Bordeaux Pilgrimage map, also known as Itinerarium Burdigalense, points out significant Christian sites in order to lure tourists to Jerusalem's new Holy Land theme park.
 
633 - The first Hajj takes place. Today, with over 2.5 million pilgrims annually descending upon Mecca--now the world's largest annual airline charter event.
 
981 - Lost and blown off course, Viking sailor Bjarni Herjulfsson spots the New World. Seeing it's already inhabited--he leaves.
 
1130 - A French monk writes the first guidebook for pilgrims visiting Spain. The movie rights remain unsold.
 
1298 - Marco Polo writes his famous memoir Travels from a jail cell. Despite the fact that critics and historians pan the book, the travel book remains on the bestsellers list for 36,712 weeks.
 
1325 - The world's best walker, Ibn Battutah, travels over 75,000 miles in 24-years. Ibn vehemently denies his trek is a Nike-sponsored publicity stunt.
 
1375 - According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word travel derives from the French term travailler, described as putting oneself through pain and trouble. (And that was before anyone spent 12 hours sitting between a chatty salesman and a soccer hooligan on the way to Hong Kong.)
 
1472 - Portuguese fisherman Joao Vaz Corte-Real, who while chasing a school of cod northwest past the Azores discovers Terra do Bacalhau (Newfoundland). Having no publicists, he gets no credit for his find.
 
1480 - The first Frankfurt book fair is held ushering in the noble tradition of business junkets known today as conventions.
 
1492 - Hopelessly lost and blown off course, Christopher Columbus arrives in the New World. He stays, much to the chagrin of the locals who immediately mandate changes to existing immigration laws. Employing royal spinmeisters, he gets too much credit!
 
1521 - Technically speaking, Magellan's slave boy, Enrique of Malacca ("Henry the Black"), who was bought in Melaka some years earlier, was in fact the 1st person to circle the globe. He may have been from the Philippines as he spoke the local dialect in Cebu when Magellan landed there. Therefore, his return to the Philippines would have made him the first person to ever circumnavigate the globe! History is filled with these messy and inconvenient truths!
 
1531 - Francisco Pizzaro, traveling through South America discovers Montezuma's Revenge. Nuff said.
 
1591 - The first Fiestas de San Fermín (Running of the Bulls) takes place after an aspiring writer, sleeping off a nasty hangover, startles a mating bull in a nearby livery stable.
 
1608 - Thomas Coryate, a bored and down-on-his-heels English courtier, walks across Europe looking for inspiration and girls--thereby creating what is know as The Grand Tour.
 
1621 - The first Thanksgiving dinner takes place, inaugurating the busiest travel weekend in America as everyone heads off to grandmothers house…
 
1626 - The first casino opens to the public in the city-state of Venice. The all-you-can-eat pannis buffet at the Celina Diona show is a real crowd pleaser.
 
1772 - The famous Brenner Pass opens, allowing Germans and Austrians easy access across the Alps to Italy, ushering in the new Holy Trinity of Tourism--Venice, Florence and Rome. (The Italians attempt to block the pass after the first season!)
 
1786 - Horace de Saussure pays a cash prize for the first individual to successfully climb Mont Blanc, proving that the motive to climbing is because the money is there.
 
1810 - The first Oktoberfest is held in Munich, Germany. A petition to change Bavaria's national anthem to "101 bottles of beer on the wall…"
is circulated and lost after the 78th bottle of beer.
 
1815 - An ad appearing in an Edinburgh, Scotland weekly offers trips to the Faeroe Islands and Iceland. By 1995, the buzz finally spreads making Iceland THE hot new tourist destination.
 
1817 - Henri Beyle, aka Stendhal, overwhelmed after visiting a few too many Italian churches, succumbs to the dreaded Temple Burnout--known as the Stendhal Syndrome. Gelato continues to remain the only known cure.
 
1827 - The Clifton Hill Hotel opens in Niagara Falls. It is the first, to cater to honeymooners who like pink décor, odd-shaped beds and room service.
 
 
(If you would like to publish this article, you may, but you need permission first.
Contact the author at Event Director)
 
Copyright 2003 GreatEscape Adventures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 
 
 
The History of Travel, Part Two
 
by William D. Chalmers
Last time we touched on the roots of the travel industry. Here's the history of the so-called Golden Age of Travel:
 
1839 - Karl Baedeker publishes his first guidebook ushering in the so-called Golden Age of Travel.
 
1841 - Thomas Cook offers the first all-inclusive package tour offering teetotalers to a Temperance Society meeting in the countryside. In 1863, his first international tour to Switzerland introduces the English to fondue and schnapps. He makes a tidy profit after half his travelers fail to make the return trip.
 
1846 - Town & Country becomes the first magazine to offer a regular travel feature promoting the pleasures of visiting the spas of …wine…stay thin while you travel to…
 
1867 - The Roman Catholic Church suffering declining a market share open Lourdes in the Pyrenees. An instant hit, the term travel tochketes is created.
 
1870 - The first postcard is mailed in Austria depicting a hero of the Franco-German War-in a bathing suit.
 
1872 - Yellowstone becomes America's first national park…
 
1872 - Jules Vern publishes "Around The World In Eighty Days" thus setting in motion the challenge to go quicker. In 2003, a traveler flies around-the-world using scheduled commercial routes in just 44 hours. When asked why? He responded, "I needed the miles!"
 
1873 - Andrew Smith Hallidie, a mechanical genius operates San Francisco's first cable car. He dies after the inaugural ride of a heart attack, hence the song "I lost my heart, in San Francisco…"
 
1883 - The Venice Simplon-Oriental Express begins service between London and Istanbul creating plot lines for murder mystery novelists everywhere.
 
1885 - Banff National Park opens, becoming Canada's first national park.
 
1885 - The last spike is driven in the Canadian transnational rail line creating…
 
1887 - The Raffles Hotel opens creating a whole new hangover-the Singapore Sling.
 
1889 - The Eiffel Tower opens in Paris…
 
1893 - The Le Château Frontenac opens in Quebec City,
 
1898 - George Eastman begins hawking consumer cameras with the slogan "You push the button - we do the rest." Japanese tourists…?
 
1898 - Joshua Slocum, a legendary sailor born in Canada, becomes the first person to sail solo around the world in 3 years. When asked why he responded, "Have you meet my wife?"
 
1903 - The Hawaii Tourist Bureau is formed. They immediately coin the phrases "ocean view" and "based on double occupancy."
 
1908 - Gideon's International began placing bibles in hotels…
 
1909 - Richard Schirrmann, a German school teacher creates the youth hostel concept after being arrested for…no, no, I can't do it.
 
1912 - The HMS Titanic sets sail. Rent the movie, I heard it was good.
 
1913 - Dissatisfaction among Grand Tour participants (See: Part One, 1608) appears in several articles, as travelers are peeved with seeing the Smiths and Jones at the same special places they were visiting.
 
1914 - The W.J. Brown Hotel opens as the first Miami Beach hotel and is immediately overtaken by snowbirds from Toronto.
 
1914 - The first scheduled commercial airline flight takes place between St Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. After a short delay before take-off due to a mechanical problem, passengers were given free drinks on the 18-mile flight taking 30 minutes.
 
1916 - Joe Saunders, a Nebraskan, is supposedly the first person to start a rent-a-car business renting out his car to traveling salesman. There is no truth to the rumor that he had a daughter.
 
1916 - The first recreation vehicle is created when a couple put a tree house on a truck.
 
1916 - Socialite Mrs. Waldo Polk and daredevil pilot Lawrence Sperry become the first members of the Mile High Club. It is also the first a jerry-rigged autopilot was ever engaged.
 
1919 - The first commercial airline food is served.
 
1920 - America's Lost Generation of writers, artists and bohemians travel to Paris on a creative pilgrimage. The Germans rudely break up the movable feast in 1940.
 
1923 - The Bronx River Parkway opens as the world's first expressway. Smart travelers take the Triborough Bridge as the Parkway backs up immediately.
 
1924 - The Montreal Canadiens play the Boston Bruins for the first time in Boston. The Boston fans immediately exhibit their classlessness by … first road trip…
 
1930 - Ellen Church becomes the world's first Skygirl aboard a 20-hour, 13-stop United Airlines flight between San Francisco and Chicago. She is quoted as saying, "Sure, I'll be right back." 342 times.
 
1932 - Hertz car rental company opens its first airport outlet at Chicago's Midway Airport. The first customers reservation is lost.
 
1938 - The British Parliament passes the Pay Act mandating 1-week vacations for fulltime workers.
 
1946 - Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegal, opens the first major Las Vegas Strip casino hotel, the Flamingo.
 
1948 - Maurice & Dick McDonald open the first McDonald's restaurant in California. By 2002 there are over 30,000 outlets in 121 countries.
 
1951 - Diners Club becomes the first real credit card and is offered to just 200 customers for dinning at 27 of New York's finest restaurants.
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