Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mr. Suitcase's Travel Companion Checklist

There are lots of packing and travel checklists available. None of them seem to cover a very essential part of a perfect journey: the travel companion. 

Strange food, frustration with canceled or delayed flights, and language barriers can bring out a person's true identity. The adventure lover in My Owner doesn't mind any of that much at all. People watching being at its most interesting when things are falling apart. Travel can make us feel as if we are on unsure ground. Periodic exhaustion is a given. The old saying is that you don't know anyone until you live with them. Please. Living with them is nothing compared to flying, sailing, or taking a bus tour with them. Here are some qualities you are going to want in a travel partner.

  • A sense of humor: It's first because you are going to need it. It can salvage the most dire of situations and make a good day more hilariously fun than you can imagine. Laughter also translates well often erasing language barriers.
  • Flexibility: If they can't roll with the punches and be happy with changes in plans...leave them at home where they can be in control.
  • Promptness: A must. You not only don't want to be with the person who is holding up the tour, but you don't want to be the companion standing around making awkward apologies and assuring everyone your room mate will "be down any minute." 
  • A spirit of adventure: It is going to put a damper on your trip if your companion is always saying "Oh, I don't want to do that." You want someone who will do (most things ;)) at least once. 
  • Gracious manners and cultural sensitivity: Do I really have to explain how embarrassing it can be to travel with an example of "the ugly American?" You are looking for someone with graciousness and an appreciation of other lifestyles and cultures. 
  • Curiosity: Learning something with someone else and exploring are great fun if your companion if inquisitive. 
  • A love of knowledge: A person who is well read is practically widely traveled even if they've never been anywhere. Connections to books and information makes travel a deeper experience.
  • An interest in history: Knowing what happened in the places you are visiting is an essential step in understanding a culture. 
  • A love of food: Eating is a vital part of the travel experience. You aren't looking for a travel mate who is constantly trying to find the McDonald's.
  • Low maintenance: People who need constant reassurance and attention should be left behind.
  • A light packer: Last but not least you want someone who can travel without every piece of clothing in their wardrobe. It expedites every step along the way of a journey.
Find your travel soul mate and get busy planning a lifetime of adventures together!

Happy travels, y'all!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Where's Your Exit?

Do you yawn or check the score from last night's game during the flight attendant's safety briefing? You might want to pay closer attention next time. 

  On Madame's recent cruise she grabbed some coffee and walked out onto the deck of the cruise ship to see the BBC morning news airing the story of a sinking Italian ship. After an ugly encounter with a rocky coastline, it never actually "sank" but met its demise, nonetheless.

On a cruise leaving the States you will, immediately upon departure, have a safety drill in which you will be required to report to your muster station for roll call. This is where you will assemble to board your life boat in the worst case scenario. They are serious. Cabins are checked. Names are marked off. If people are missing the crew finds them to participate in a "make up" drill. A video about exactly what to do in an emergency is playing as you arrive in your cabin and loops constantly. Last year however Madame Owner traveled across the Ionian Sea from Italy to Greece with her daughter. There was no drill. They did locate their lifejackets in the  cabin, but no other instructions were ever given. There was no video in the cabins. Had anything gone wrong they might have been their own.

 In the case of the Costa Concordia it seems to be the captain's fault. But what, if anything, can passengers do to increase their chances of survival in what are called "low probability/ high impact (or consequence) events? 

Click here to listen to the coast guard/ Captain Schettino audio.

The short answer is: To ever think about it. At all. It turns out that you have a better chance of saving yourself, and possibly others if you have mentally prepared. Simply put this means, knowing where the exits are and imagining what you would do in an emergency.

Here's a quote from the web site of the author of The Survivor's Club:

In fact, one of the most surprising things you’ll encounter in a disaster is inaction. Believe it or not, but most people do nothing. They’re bewildered. In a stupor, they wait for instructions.

Experts say that 80 percent of us are likely to respond this way with so-called “behavioral inaction.” Only 10 percent act quickly and decisively. Fortunately, just 10 percent of us act dangerously or counterproductively.

Think back to 9-11. How many people, even when they instinctively knew they should leave the building, stayed behind because they followed instructions to do so?  If your intuition tells you things are really bad, they probably are. Every book  on the subject indicates that passivity is dangerous. Sitting quietly and believing placating explanations from those in charge wastes precious moments. But the key to survival seems to be being able to wrap your brain around the concept that something bad has happened and action must be taken. Often passengers in plane survivable plane crashes sit stoically even when clear instructions are given.

“Paralysis seems to happen on the steepest slope of the survival arc—where almost all hope is lost, when escape seems impossible, and when the situation is unfamiliar to the extreme.” ~ Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes--and Why

“Resilience is a precious skill. People who have it tend to also have three underlying advantages: a believe that they can influence life events; a tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil; and a conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences.”
–Amanda Ripley, The Unthinkable

Find your exits. Imagine the worst and take a moment to think about what you might do.

This concludes today's safety briefing.

Keep calm and carry on...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Booking Travel Plans

"I read;
I travel; 
I become."
  ~Derek Walcot

 "Books." A sign My Owner is always looking for while traveling. Usually her companions hope desperately that she doesn't come across one. It can mean a trance like break in the middle of an otherwise focused excursion. Her daughter is always especially chagrined by passing (or trying to) a bookstore with her mother. She is usually on the lookout for a sign that says "shoes."

And never the twain shall meet.

Last year while walking in Rome, MO  and her friends happened upon an outdoor book stall, on the sidewalk. Everyone agreed to give MO a few moments to shop while they sat down for a rest. The dean of admissions of a local college took a fabulous picture of her browsing the volumes wearing her trenchcoat and hat. She showed it to MO who loved it. It is still in the friend's memory card because she has never downloaded it nearly a year later, so Madame Owner cannot share it with you. 

She claims she is busy planning a wedding and working on her Ph.D. Some people have no sense of priorities.

Nothing makes MO happier than finding a book loving friend who will wander aimlessly, sit on the floor, and call out all the funniest title names in a bookshop with her.  Yes, there are OTHER people who enjoy behaving this way. Madame and her friends don't mean to be annoying, they are just uber enthusiastic bibliophiles.

This week one of Madam's friends and owner of her favorite local bookstore posted a link to the most beautiful bookstores in the world. MO began fantasizing about future trips on which she could lure her unwitting family to them.

Here is the link in case you share My Owner's love of paper and ink: 

The Twenty Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World


...and happy travels, Y'all!

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