Monday, September 21, 2015

Spending My Thoughts with Positive Currency

"Compassionate people are geniuses in the art of living, more necessary to the dignity, security, and joy of humanity than the discoverers of knowledge." Albert Einstein 

Sometimes you can go days upon days hearing about nothing but violence and the terrible things that are happing all over the world. Today, on September 21, it might be no different. People are fleeing Syria in search of a safe place to live only to be denied by government after government because their countries are "full." Others are being sold into slavery. Still others are ignoring it all not because they don't care, but perhaps because it is just too much to deal with. It is too much to deal with. The world can be a scary place.

But today is different. Today is the International Day of Peace. While, in many cases, it is a symbolic expression of what we wish would happen in the world, it is a call to action for ourselves. It is a way for us to remember that the world can be a good place, and we can work together to achieve positive goals. It reminds me to continue my work with children around the world even though it doesn't provide a paycheck, and most people don't understand why I do it. Most importantly, it's a way to look at ourselves and think about how we spend our days, how we spend our thoughts.

Today I will spend my thoughts with positive currency. And I'll wake up tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and try to do the same.

What can you do today for peace?
 In the words of Mother Theresa, "peace begins with a smile."
Why not start there?

Find your happy place, take a deep breath, and smile. Have a peaceful day!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Reaching Silver Status Part 2: A United Fail

When I wrote my last post about frequent flyer miles I was inches away from being awarded the illustrious silver status from United Airlines. I was so taken in with the idea of gaining more travel benefits that I even opted to pay more for my flights to reach the next level. I had visions of being upgraded on all of my flights, earning tons more miles, and easily being able to keep these benefits for a very long time.

That was about a year ago, and I have been upgraded once. And even though I was flying first class from Seattle to Washington D.C. on a red eye, I was not given a meal or provided with in flight entertainment on my cross country flight, nor did I have one of those seats that reclines into a bed. I did, however, get a drink in a real glass. Woo Hoo! I was infinitely happy that I did not pay any extra money to be sitting there. The service wasn't any better, and I have seen a sharp decline lately in United service in general. I'm hoping that the new CEO will be an improvement.

While it was a bonus to be able to choose a seat in economy plus (extra legroom) upon checkin for my other United flights, there wasn't really any additional benefit of the silver status I had worked so hard to earn. The free checked bag and early boarding were already perks with my United Mastercard.

So was it worth it? I would say no. Unless you are a business traveler or spend beaucoup bucks using your flight-linked credit card and can reach gold, average gals like me will continue to peek through the mesh curtain wishing the kid behind me would stop kicking my seat, pining for the good life in the front of the plane, and paying the lowest fares possible. Because the travel is much more important than the transit.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Travel vs. Transit

Penn Station, NYC
Travel and transit, while they may sound similar, they are, to me, polar opposites but inextricably tied together. As I write this I sit on the floor of gate C75 at Newark International Airport. There are no seats to be found because, as is always true in the summer, flights become delayed, gates change at rapid rates, and a great deal of people who never travel suddenly show up. So I sit on the floor contemplating for the millionth time why I continue to put myself through all of this. I determined that my reasons stemmed from my ever-growing love of travel and my ability to grin and bear the transit. 

Sikkal Train Station, India
It’s a delicate balance that I strike each time I throw my possessions in a suitcase and schlep through yet another crowded city. Right now, my love of travel outweighs my loathing of transit, so I press on. What’s the difference you ask? Travel is full of new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and experiences. It is discovering a place for the first time, or like visiting an old friend. Transit is moving from one place to another, switching planes, trains, buses, boats, or anything in between. Most of it, however, involves a barrage of inconveniences. One after another like whack-a-mole, the difficulties pop up: getting to the airport, checking in, making sure my bag isn't too big or too heavy. Don’t get me started on security. The gate will probably change a couple times without notification, and a sorry looking turkey sandwich is $25! It’s painful, just like sitting in economy, knees squished up to neck-level. Some flights are smooth, and some are not. As Forest Gump would say, it’s a box of chocolates. Arrival includes bloodshot eyes and a disoriented expression while faced with the task of reuniting with luggage and navigating the cacophony of taxi drivers, buses, limo drivers, and many many cars driven by people who appear to be behind the wheel for the first time. If we’re lucky, someone is there waiting, and if we're like everyone else, it may just be the beginning. 

Andes Mountains from Above
And still we soldier on through nauseating bus rides and missed train connections, cancellations and hassle. Maintaining sanity is a real challenge, but attitude is everything. So as I begin my next round of transit which will involve an overnight flight and a 5 hour stretch waiting for a Greyhound bus, I must remember that there is a new city, new friends, and new adventures ahead. For now, the transit is still worth it.