Oh Australia, I never thought you would be so friendly. I expected many welcome western conveniences, ample toilet paper, and potable water. But the enthusiastic interest in engaging in good old fashioned, analog conversation was astounding. Some may think it is provincial, out-dated or invasive to have genuine interest in others. But, despite how trendy it has recently become to be rude, apathetic, or disinterested towards that horrible lot of undeserving cretins that dare to ask for goods or services in exchange for money, you seem to have kept that Victorian charm of politeness and conversation. I feel it necessary to add a disclaimer that on two separate occasions your countrymen have informed me that you really only clean up and act nice for guests.
Victoria was lovely and breathtaking. A landscape the impresses with the simplicity of stone, sky, and the mighty ocean. The “free koalas” were exactly where advertised, the emu’s were even more convenient. Your roadways were impressivly equipped with signage. I only regret that I didn’t know traveling by campervan was such an acceptable way to tour your vast majesty. Please continue the good work. I know you feel economically handicapped by your small population, but there are more of you than the Dutch.
Aussie James was entertaining for a bit with his “sunnies” and “chips.” Kiwi Ben bored us to tears (Sorry Ben!); but oh boy, did we have fun with “phone sex” Irish Naoimh and her breathy “hhhexits” for our SatNav system in Australia.
Lessons learned from 2-stars and Restricted Economy
1. Clean Sheets (Seat) and a Friendly Face: 19 flights (so far) and well over 30 hotels can teach you a thing or two about priorities. We’ve seen so many preference seat options from “BIG” club to “Little Wings.” Many people get into ruts with airline programs and still more with hotel chains - it’s all bunk, people. All you need is clean sheets (seat) and a friendly face. You are in a bed that is not your own. You’re on public transportation and no amount of extras can change that. The plane manufacturer matters far more than the name painted on the outside. We’ve seen a baby spew on a seat between flight legs, and stayed in a run-down old motel. In both cases it was perfectly FINE, because of a friendly face.
2. Have Responsibility for Your Body: This is another “public transportation” notification. There is no reason for “Snack” service on a 30-minute flight. You seriously need to eat before you board or pack a granola bar. The hot-meal service is always the most disruptive and offensive part of any flight. Cold Meal service is okay. An airplane is a long plastic-coated tube hurtling through the air often 12-16 hours each day. That “smell” is the zombified remains of hot meal service and it would be an easy fix. Once you land you are never more than 400m from a much better cup of coffee or meal. Instead of meal service, airlines should offer ground consumption vouchers.
3. Farts and Children: These two things are the nuclear warheads of the travel & hospitality industry. All other issues = surmountable. You could be reclining in a craft-matic bed, listening to Boston Pops Radio, sipping champagne (out of real glass!) in First class. If your neighbor is farting or under 5, it’s game-over. All efforts in the hospitality industry seem to be concerned with minimizing the effects of these two issues. [/the late Mickey Rooney impression]. Not to say children oughtn’t fly, but they offer pro-children movie times at parent-friendly discount in cinemas, and somehow that idea hasn’t even been floated at 40K feet.
4. Wake up to WiFi: We enjoyed free service (in our room) in a $20 per night accommodation in one of the bottom 10 poorest countries on earth. Any hotel built in a country with a GDP higher than the city of Cincinnati has no excuse; and any other offering will result in disappointment. Right now, there’s still some allowance for WiFi in the lobby, but that clock is ticking. Business travel is responsible for most archaic WiFi policies still in place - more on that below. (I will also qualify this one by saying I didn’t expect reliable power let alone WiFi for most of this trip. I’ve gone from being pleasantly surprised to hopelessly spoiled with frightful speed)
5. The Insanity of the Business Class Trickledown: Most things about travel that make no sense whatsoever has business to blame. Without a tax structure that somehow favors ridiculous write-offs for T&E, the travel and hospital industry would experience a Kafkaesque metamorphosis. Big chain hotels destroy wherever they lay stone. For example, look at Kuta in Bali…gross. A boutique hotel is always cheaper, better located and serviced. As for flights, there is nothing done 3m from my seat worth an additional $9,000. Elliot Spitzer knows that kind of money very well, and I promise you, none of “that” occurs in First Class. Additionally, in most non-Western countries, there’s no such thing as a jet-way. You get off the plane from both the front and rear exit and get on a short bus directly to the baggage area. 5-10minutes. With a jet-way, de-planing takes up to 45minutes, and you end up walking through “The Shining” part of the airport for up to half a mile before reaching baggage. Why? In one jetway-bearing airport, each Business+ passenger got a “guide” to walk them to the baggage area. Insanity. Instead, if businesses offered their employees, an extra night or two in town in order to show up to a meeting refreshed and prepared, it would be worth far more than $9,000 to the company. Flying is public transportation. It is never a bed in a private room (with clean sheets!) on the ground and never will be. There has to be a better way.
6. Small Print: Lastly, as much as I complain I love flying. Even economy restricted will always be better than the most luxurious ground transportation. Time is the most precious commodity, and it is always worth more money to get somewhere in 45 minutes of hard-air than in 12hrs on the ground.
Inhaling you realize that you can still breathe, and as capillary action welcomes new oxygen into your blood stream you start to move in a concentrated, slow, flawless, stressless fashion. The human body can handle imense amounts of pressure but functioning stressless in this environment is not innate. Most importantly you must always keep a slow steady breath, a skill that can take some focus. The following are a list of lessons we learned while at 3 atmospheres of pressure that could apply elsewhere.
Your body can take a lot of pressure, but not for too long or too often.
It’s possible to be under so much pressure that you become euphoric. This is the sign of serious problem and you need to lower your pressure.
Often, there is an illusion of a lack of time, but moving slowly and methodically will always bring superior results.
Most activities are more fun with a buddy. You never know when you’ll need to use someone else’s air supply.
When coming out of a pressure situation make sure you do it slowly and give yourself time to vent toxins you may have absorbed. You don’t want to hemorrhage at home.
Maritime Law applies differently to flotsam & jetsam, but both can look like a sting ray if you are not wearing your glasses.
Finding a neutral position will give you the most flexibility and ease of movement.
Stop kicking so much, it’s not helping you.
You don’t like strangers touching you, so don’t molest the wild creatures.
Pee before getting on the boat. There’s no time like the present.