Tag Archives: travel

Gadgets to Go

On a business trip a few years ago, my otherwise spartan packing took up a bit more room than usual. That’s because I packed a bit more electronic gear than usual.Gadgets to Go

Packing My Gadgets

First, I had my camera and the associated paraphernalia—spare battery, charger, data cable, and extra memory card. Since I was attending as a photojournalist, my camera was a requisite tool.

Next was the computer with all its accouterments. I needed it as a functional viewing tool—it’s amazing how perfect a shot can appear on the camera’s tiny screen only to later find it is unusable. The computer also serves as a backup device. Normally, I would have my thumb drive for a third backup, but I forgot it. I’ve never lost any files going through airport security, but why take unnecessary risks?Traveling with all that electronics gear made me feel a bit like a techno geek. Click To Tweet

The third item was my digital recorder, which I used to record three podcasts. It’s a slick device, holding up to 100 hours of recordings.  When I transfer the files to my computer, they automatically convert to MP3 files, ready for playing or posting. The fourth item was my iPod, which I used to pass the time in the airport and the plane (when allowed) listening to other people’s podcasts.

Last was my cell phone. Of course, there were a myriad of associated items that accompanied each device.

Keeping Track of My Gadgets

In the end, I had more pieces of technical gear than items of clothing—seriously.

I was concerned about keeping track of them all, especially smaller items, such as the iPod. Once I was so focused caring for my digital recorder, that I left my camera on a table.  Fortunately it was still there when I returned in a panic a few minutes later.

Later, I misplaced my digital recorder, eventually discovering that the breast pocket in my sports coat had a small hole and the sly device had worked its way into the garment’s lining. It was quite a challenge to extricate it from its little burrow.

Anyway traveling with all that electronics gear made me feel a bit like a techno geek—wait a minute, I am.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Don’t Wash Your Hands at the Airport

Once, as I made my way through airport security on a trip, I was randomly selected for a chemical scan. After passing a gauze-like material over my hands, the female TSA worker popped it in a machine for analysis. To my shock and her dismay, the machine beeped and turned red.Airport Security: Don't Wash Your Hands at the Airport

This development earned me the special attention of more airport security and receiving a pat down. As she guided me past a long line of fellow travelers, I wondered if this unexpected development might actually end up saving me time going through security. I was wrong.If soap is setting off the airport sensor then either the machine is too sensitive or they need to buy different soap. Click To Tweet

While we waited for a male TSA worker to conduct the pat down, I wondered aloud how I managed to set off the sensor. “I just washed my hands,” I mused.

“That does seem to catch a lot of people,” she replied.

If soap is setting off the airport security sensor then either the machine is too sensitive or they need to buy different soap.

I was quite apprehensive about the pat down, but the male TSA agent carefully explained the process and conducted it with great gentleness. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Frankly I think it bothered him more than me.

More Airport Security

I passed the pat down and assumed I was good to go. Not so. He then did a chemical check of his gloves and the sensor again beeped and turned red. A supervisor arrived quickly, and he ushered me into a private room in airport security. I began to wonder if I was going to make it home.

The supervisor and agent both put on new gloves, and this time the supervisor gave me the pat down. If the scan of his gloves came back testing positive for chemicals, I was hosed. Fortunately it did not. I was free to go.

While the first scan may have come up positive because soap residue on my hands, that didn’t explain the positive match on the second test. Then I realized that neither the first or second scan was done by an agent wearing new gloves. They likely had chemical residual on their gloves from other passengers, fellow travelers who passed through security undetected and would be getting on a plane with the residue of potential bomb-making chemicals on them.

Although I would be boarding a plane after a rigorous airport security ordeal, I didn’t feel any safer.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Who’s in Control?

Once when my wife and I returned from a trip, we allowed plenty of time to make the trek from hotel to airport—more than three hours, in fact. However, a series of unforeseen events conspired against us, making our schedule tighter and tighter with each progressive twist.Who's in Control?

As each delay transpired, it became less likely that we would make our flight. I kept telling myself, “We will either make our flight or we will not; there’s nothing you can do about it.” Therefore, I might as well just relax and watch events unfold. We can't control the things that happen to us but we can control our reaction to them. Click To Tweet

My sage advice, however, was easier to say than to do; it is more viable in theory than in practice. As the clock ticked down, I became more unnerved and on edge.  Fortunately, airport security went smoothly and was efficient—despite me forgetting to discard the bottle of water from my carry on. (It was intended to enjoy with the breakfast that we had to skip.)

We arrived at the gate, breathless, haggard, and hungry, mere seconds before the call for final boarding.

As we settled into our seats, I tried to calm my frayed nerves. I was reminded of the fact that while we can’t control the things that happen to us, we can control our reaction to them. In fact, it is the only thing that we can control—and I have done a poor job of it.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Save Water

It seems that most hotel rooms come with a “save water” card. They request that you conserve water (and avoid other environmentally unfriendly actions) by permitting them to skip changing the bed-sheets. Placing that card on the bed signifies your acceptance of their request. Save Water

In similar manner, a notice in the bathroom suggests you indicate your willingness to reuse towels by hanging them on the shower rod.

I’m fine with both requests. After all, the sheets aren’t changed daily at home; neither are the towels. If weekly is acceptable in my domicile, it’s okay at hotels—at least from a cleanliness standpoint.

Of course that requires disregarding the high price paid for the privilege of staying there. It is arguable that at a couple hundred dollars a night, fresh linens are in order. It should be noted that my concessions save them time and money; ergo I deserve a break on the price.

In considering this, I feel compelled to point out that using water to wash a towel does not actually consume the water—the way going for a drive consumes gasoline. Once the laundry process is complete, the water still exists, albeit in a slightly less clean condition. It can be purified and used again—and again. The issue of protecting the environment is merely a ruse. Their actual desire is to save money. Click To Tweet

The issue of protecting the environment is merely a ruse. Their actual desire is to save time and money, thereby increasing profitability. I’m all for profits, but I don’t hide that reality by falsely pretending to care about water.

How do I know they’re disingenuous? Quite simply, most hotel rooms’ waste water: the faucet drips, the drain plug doesn’t work, the toilet runs continuously, and the shower has problems: either diverting only a fraction of the water to the showerhead or coming out with such force as to peel your skin off, with no way to tame the flow.

At least one of these problems is seemingly present in every hotel room. Addressing them will save water, too.  But they’re not done, because that would take time and cost money.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Making Travel Connections

You may recall that air travel is low on my “things-I-like-to-do” list (see (Road Trip and I’m Back). I view flying as something to be endured. As such, while my body is flying, my mind goes to my “happy place”—whatever that means. Therefore, I can miss opportunities around me. But sometimes I come out of my self-imposed cocoon and actually connect with my fellow travelers.Making Travel Connections

On my recent flight, I plopped down in my seat and the lady next to me blurted out, “I’m kinda nervous; this is my first time flying.” I assured her it would be fine and told her about the scheduled “1-hour” flight ( thirty minutes on the ground/thirty minutes in the air). Once in Detroit, I showed her the monitors for connection information, walked her to her gate, and pointed out the closest restroom and nearest eatery (she had over two hours to fill). She thanked me profusely and we parted company. Most people, I have found, are good talkers—if only there is someone who will listen. Click To Tweet

Over the years, I’ve helped many people navigate an airport. Interestingly, every one was female. I guess that re-enforces the stereotype that guys don’t ask for directions. (For the record, I’m not opposed to doing so but only when I’m confident that my adviser won’t make things worse.)

Later, I struck up a conversation with a guy my age. We talked about his business and then his family, which segued into personal struggles. Conversation flowed easily. He would make a statement; I would respond with a thoughtful question. He would answer and the process would repeat. I wasn’t deeply probing, but I was I was being intentional. I couldn’t believe the details he was sharing, but as long as he wanted to talk, I was willing to listen. I made some positive observations he hadn’t realized and affirmed good in areas where he saw only frustration.

Suddenly, he blurted, “I can’t believe I’m telling you all this—I just met you!” He paused and became momentarily suspicious. “You’re not like an under-cover guy, trying to find out stuff about me, are you?”

That’s one I’d never heard. I assured him that wasn’t the case. “Some people say I’m a good listener,” I said.

“And I’m a good talker,” he beamed.

Most people, I have found, are good talkers—if only there is someone who will listen.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Breakfast in Seattle

While traveling for work, on a Sunday morning I needed to leave for my convention by 7 a.m. To my dismay, the hotel’s kitchen didn’t open until 7. The front desk had no alternative options for my morning meal.Breakfast in Seattle

I recalled a McDonald’s a few blocks away. So at 6:45 I set off on a brisk walk, praying that Mickey D’s would be open. The streets in downtown Seattle were mostly quiet and the sidewalks, empty; my hope that the Golden Arches would be serving breakfast was quickly fading. I was happy for the experience, witnessing a business directly address a societal issue. Click To Tweet

I approached the restaurant and much to my glee the lights were on. Not only that, but the place was filled with a bustle of activity; they were doing a brisk business. What was unusual was that most of the patrons appeared to be homeless.

Although I was wearing a light jacket, most people had on winter coats (needed to keep warm at night); their clothes were mismatched, dated, tattered, and dirty (the homeless accept whatever clothes are offered, aren’t in a position to color coordinate, and lack access to washing machines). Many carried worn plastic grocery bags, bulging with contents (possibly their only possessions). There was a line at the bathrooms (the homeless generally don’t have access to restrooms at night). And there was a momentary outburst (perhaps alcohol related, but more likely mental illness), but it was quickly quieted by a friend.

The beautiful thing was that the McDonald’s employees weren’t a bit fazed. They treated everyone with respect and courtesy, not shooing people away or insisting that purchases be “to go.” I’m sure there were some non-paying people present too, just wanting to get warm, but that seemed okay, as well.

This is how things should be, but seldom are. Most restaurants don’t want “undesirable” people in their establishment—even if they have money. Bathrooms are off limits and such folk are often tersely asked to leave.

For my part, I was happy for the experience, witnessing a business directly address a societal issue.  In a satisfying way, that was “church” for me that day. In fact, I was so drawn that I returned Monday morning to repeat the experience. Thanks, McDonald’s for doing the right thing.

[For a compelling insight into the plight of the homeless, I highly recommend reading Under the Overpass.]

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I used to be fixated with knowing what time it was. You might say I was slave to the clock. I was compulsive about checking my wristwatch and the more concerned I became about time, the more often I looked. I think it was the dark side of time-management.What Time It Is?

As I planned my daily activities, it was under the optimistic assumption that each task would proceed ideally and without problems. I was constantly checking the time to see if I was on-track or falling behind. But since real-world realities would eventually overtake my unrealistic time projections, I often ended up feeling pressed and stressed. Why subject myself to this constant stress of worrying about the time? Click To Tweet

As a result of the time so frequently, I could generally tell someone what time it was—plus or minus a few minutes—without looking.

One day I had enough and I quit—cold turkey. I took off my watch for good. I made this decision after being on a delayed flight. I was concerned about making my connection and nervously peered at my watch every few seconds. How absurd! No matter how often I checked, I could not affect the outcome. I would either make the connection or miss it. So why subject myself to this constant stress of worrying about the time?

Yes, I still want to arrive places on time and don’t like to make others wait for me, but beyond that time isn’t nearly the stress factor in my life that it used to be.

The question, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” was posed by the rock group Chicago in 1969. In the song’s chorus they follow-up their first question with a second, “Does anybody really care?”

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

What Do You Expect?

I generally expect things to work out – except when I’m traveling. Experience has conditioned me to expect the worst when I leave home.

I expect the airplane will be overbooked, the schedule delayed, or the flight cancelled. All these things have happened to me.

At the hotel, I expect

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Make a Joyful Noise

On a recent trip I wound my way through the airport, seeking the hotel shuttle. Not transferring planes as I normally do at this hub, I navigated unfamiliar territory: traversing terminals, ascending stairs, snaking through corridors, and riding an elevator. The sign lead me outside for a moment and then back in…

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Dealing with the Daylight Savings Time and Jet Lag the Same Weekend

I’ve never been a fan of our twice-annual time change, in and out of daylight savings time. My perspective is to pick a time and stick with it. This is in part because of the hassle of resetting clocks, but also because it takes my body about a week to fully adjust.

I also struggle with jet lag after traveling. That, too, takes a few days for my body to recover.

This past weekend, I was able to experience both, the switch to daylight savings time Sunday morning and an airplane flight, spanning two time zones, Sunday afternoon.

I think that the first partially offset the second. But then there was the return trip, from which I am in recovery from the jet lag.

Even so, dealing with the adjustment to daylight savings time simultaneously with jet lag, is better than dealing with them on separate occasions.

What do you think of daylight savings time?