The holidays are rolling around again, and for me, this pleasant downtime is a good opportunity to reflect on what’s been happening in my life.
Terri and I have been on the road a fair bit lately, so thoughts on travel are at the top of my list. Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and as a traveler, I have lots of things to be thankful for.
1. I’m thankful for airlines that don’t assume that the entirety of the traveling public is no taller than 5’2” (I’m 6’1”). There aren’t many out there these days, but there are a few. Airlines are in business to make a profit, and I get that. But, there has to be a limit on how many more rows of seats can be crammed onto a plane. I’m convinced that at some point in the future, plane seats will be nothing more than row after row of backless barstools.
2. I’m thankful for staff at airport security checkpoints that treat me like a compliant, security conscious traveler, rather than a potential terrorist. Unfortunately, security screenings at airports are a necessary evil, and I understand and appreciate the effort. But, procedures and laxness vary from place to place, and sometimes it’s impossible to know exactly what to do. Just tell me what to do, either with well marked signs or in a pleasant voice, and I’ll breeze right through (that’s as well as I can breeze in my socks and holding up my pants). And for goodness’ sake smile every once in a while.
3. I’m thankful for being able to drink tap water. Bottled water is a lifesaver (literally) in much of the world, but buying it and lugging it around gets tiresome. After a long trip to countries that have unsafe water, it’s always a pleasure to arrive somewhere and take a few gulps straight from the tap.
4. I’m thankful for the internet and the myriad ways it’s made travel easier and more rewarding. It’s difficult to overstate the positive impact that internet access has had on us as travelers. I can plan and arrange travel anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Bank and credit card accounts are at my fingertips, and family and friends are an email or Skype call away; the list goes on and on.
5. I’m thankful for Dropbox. Using cloud storage is a convenience for everyone, but it’s particularly helpful for travelers. Our Dropbox account has gotten to be an indispensable part of our travel life. We store copies of passports, credit cards, travel documents, tourist info, copies of our wills and other legal papers; as well as more mundane but helpful things like user’s manuals for our travel gadgets. If you can scan it, you can load it up to the cloud, and the beauty for travelers is that all this information can be accessed anywhere, anytime, and on any device with an internet connection.
6. I’m thankful for mobile computing devices. According to the MIT Technology Review: “Mobile computers are spreading faster than any other consumer technology in history.” Mobile devices are a routine part of life, and it goes without saying what an incredible convenience they are for travelers. We’ve experimented for years, and on our recent trip to Europe we honed our gear to one 11in Macbook Air, two iPad minis, and one Kindle. This was the perfect, lightweight combination for us.
I’m thankful for ebooks and ebook readers. We use Kindles and iPad minis in our travels, but any reader does the job. Having travel guides, and our favorite fiction in small, lightweight packages is the bomb.
7. I’m thankful for ATMs. Gone are the days of pockets-full of traveler’s checks and worries about carrying large amounts of cash. Instant access to local currency at favorable exchange rates makes money planning hassle-free. Any bank can provide a debit card, but we’ve had an excellent experience with our checking account at Charles Schwab. In addition to charging no foreign currency exchange fees, they will refund any ATM fees – worldwide. We’ve used our debit card all over the globe, and have had zero problems. The only hitch is that Schwab requires that you open a brokerage account as well, but there are no fees to open or maintain the account, and no minimum balance.
8. I’m thankful for online apartment rental websites like HomeAway, Vrbo, and Flipkey. When possible, we prefer to stay in apartments rather than hotels, and we’ve had good results with each of these websites. It takes a bit of research and planning, but for long-term travel having a comfortable, private space that feels like your home makes all the difference.
9. I’m thankful for rolling backpacks. Like most travelers we’re picky about our luggage. We only carry on, and whether we travel for 6 days or 6 months, all our stuff must fit in one lightweight bag. And for us, that’s a rolling backpack. Whether rolling through Dubai International to make a connection or hiking up the hill in Ella, Sri Lanka to catch the train, our bags have to be sturdy, lightweight, and functional.
10. I’m thankful for travel zoom cameras. Traveling light is the way to roll, and these small, high tech, feature-rich cameras are the perfect compromise between weight, size and function. If you take photos when you travel (and who doesn’t), a travel zoom camera is the perfect tool.
I’m also thankful for a number of other things that don’t take any explanation: public bathrooms, English-speakers, short flights, and the kindness of strangers.
Happy Trails and Happy Thanksgiving,
1. D.H. Parks via Wikimedia Commons
2. Frank C. Müller via Wikimedia Commons
3. RIA Novosti via Wikimedia Commons
4. Dori via Wikimedia Commons
5. Knight Foundation via Wikimedia Commons
6. By Irish_Eyes
9. Courtesy Homz Short Term Rentals