Oh pity the plight of the poor middle seat traveler. Sandwiched between two strangers for hours at a time, they are completely at the mercy of those around them. They can’t look out the window without causing one seatmate to think they’re being stared at. And they can’t get up and use the bathroom without making the other seatmate get up and let them out. It’s a tough lot to draw, but at least, in the middle, there’s the small consolation that you get to use both armrests, right?
Helping advance, or at the very least inspire, the travel world to do more around the world when it comes to social responsibility, Conde Nast Traveler held their second annual World Saver’s conference in New York City. Bringing together an impressive group of speakers including Jeff Sachs, Ashley Judd (pictured above) and Queen Rania of Jordan as well as several travel executives from around the globe the conference was focused around what advances various hoteliers and destinations were making toward sustainability as well as what more could be done and in fact MUST be done to preserve the places we all love so much, lest we not literally love them to death. In the next ten years travel expectations are expected to double. This year alone there will be a billion people traveling.
As Jeff Sachs said, that means we could have a billion global ambassadors around the world. This statement touched me deeply as it so closely resonates what I’ve been a part of creating at Travelocity: our change ambassador grants program. I firmly believe that travel is the bridge between cultures and can foster understanding and tolerance.
In my September 12 blog entry, I extolled the virtues of Canada’s Banff National Park, a world-renowned mecca for mountain lovers, and my ultimate road trip destination. “Banff or Bust!” This was my party’s half-mocking, half-deadly serious mantra as we whizzed past Portland, Oregon and gave Vancouver the once-over in a record-breaking two and a half hours. We zoomed toward the Canadian Rockies as if they were our salvation.
To be frank, in several ways, they were. The park’s charmingly petite Lake Louise has crystal-clear turquoise waters–yes, they’re actually turquoise–that make you wonder if somebody somehow strapped Technicolor goggles on your peepers when you weren’t looking. Cradling the Banff valley are jutting peaks and ice-blue glaciers. Find an out-of-the-way trailhead, hike an hour or two, and you’ll end up feeling like you’re the only person on the planet.
Until recently, I owned a cell phone that made and received calls and could be coaxed into taking the occasional grainy picture. When I answered it in front of friends, they would often marvel at its “Zack Morris” qualities. Then I got an iPhone 3G.
This week I’m visiting New York City, my old stomping grounds before I moved to San Francisco. I’ve been gone two and a half years, which is just long enough for me to completely forget everything. Compounding my acute amnesia is the fact that I’m crashing with various friends in neighborhoods I’m not familiar with. And so it was yesterday that I found myself utterly lost and completely unable to find Houston Street. (This is hilarious to New Yorkers. It’s a major thoroughfare and was only a few blocks north of me at the time.)
Having just returned from the ever-balmy Baltic, I was understandably pleased by the brilliance of a New York fall day on Sunday. The weather throughout my twelve days overseas was nothing if not grey (see photo of the Peterhof, above). Were I a painter, I would have relished the opportunity to try to transfer through a brush, the many and varied shades of grey, like Monet’s ecstatic revelations on fog. If I had traveled to Russia and the weather had been sparkling sunshine, I probably would have been disappointed. Russia is supposed to be cold. My preconceived notions—read “stereotypes”—of Russia are deep-rooted. Russia is cold, its people rude, its culture angry and aggressive. I loved the way my bias was busted though while traveling across Estonia and over the border at Narva. On a coach bus that probably saw the fall of the Wall and the raising of the Iron Curtain, with a driver and passengers who only spoke Russian, I was able to get to the border, through border control, into St. Petersburg, and to my hotel, without any real difficult or so much as a sidelong glance at my US passport. At every bus stop along the way, the old woman in the next seat would say something to me and smile sweetly, knowing full well that I did not speak Russian.