When Did I Become The Ugly American?

by Ellen Barone

I sit tightly wedged into an economy class airline seat, braced for the long haul — a pashmina hanging from the seat back, a water bottle in the magazine flap, ear pods in the iPhone jack—when a handsome Air France steward stops to stand beside my aisle seat. 

“Excuse me, madam,” he says, leaning into my view. “These two are mother and daughter,” he continues, gesturing to an elegant middle-aged woman in the row in front of me and the twenty-something blonde seated beside me. “Would you please exchange seats so that they can sit together?”

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FORBIDDEN: My Not So Excellent Adventure

by Susan Mckee


After flying into Tel Aviv, Israel, from Amman, Jordan, I went to the transit area of the airport (since I was changing from a Royal Jordanian flight to the El Al flight to Newark).

There was no one in the area, so I picked up the phone and asked for instructions. I was told to wait. Three more passengers from my same Royal Jordanian flight then arrived, plus two airport workers, one in a suit and both with mobile phones. The workers told us to sit and wait for our luggage. One kept repeating the numbers from our baggage tags into his mobile phone. 

After more than a half hour, the bags for the three other passengers arrived, but mine did not. The workers said that my bag was not on the baggage carousel with the other luggage from the flight. I asked to leave and go through passport control to check with the Royal Jordanian staff about my luggage. I was told to sit down and wait where I was.

More people arrived (no one was introduced), including a series of security officials who questioned me about my travel. Why was I in Israel? (The Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers was invited to come.) If I was a guest of the Israeli tourism officials, with whom had I met? (The names were all on the papers in my missing suitcase.) Why would Israeli tourism host me? (You’d have to ask them.) What people had I met in Jordan? (The usual tourism industry folks.) Did I have any relatives there (no), and on and on and on. 

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Airport Therapy: Overcoming Shyness in Buenos Aires

I am a shy person. I spend most of my days alone. Although it was daunting to figure out how to pack my 21-inch carry on with clothes for hot weather in Rapa Nui and Buenos Aires and freezing weather in Patagonia, dealing with more than a dozen strangers for three weeks was even more of a challenge. During the first few days of the trip I quietly mingled and occasionally exchanged stories, but it wasn’t until the group and I were in the Buenos Aires airport that I discovered there were limits to my shyness.

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The Things You Need And The Thing You Don’t

by Jules Older

I'm a travel writer and videographer. I fly to New Zealand, drive to San Jose, train to Banff, ferry San Francisco Bay. I've come to know what travelers need and what they're better off without.

So here's my list: what to buy and one thing to avoid. Here we go…

Clic reading glasses. They've gone up in price from about $30 to just under $80 (or $24.99 at The Trip Shop), but they're still savers of time and space. One pair of Clics replaces, in my case, a dozen reading glasses, one in every room of the house, one in the car and one in the place I put them where I'd never forget them and then forgot them. Clics, which you can buy online, just hang around your neck waiting to be magnetically clicked into action. I never travel without ‘em. And I no longer use strong language when searching for my accursed glasses. www.clicgoggles.com


High Sierra luggage. First rule of suitcase: It’s gotta have sturdy wheels. Second: Must be as light as possible. Third: Has to hold everything you need. If, like me, you're a skier, that means a lot of holding. Between boots, helmet, gloves, parka and ski pants, we don’t travel light.

One bag that meets all these requirements is the High Sierra 32” A.T.GO expandable, wheeled duffel. It’s big enough to hold everything, thus avoiding airline extra-bag charges. It’s light enough to save your back and avoid airline extra-weight charges. Sturdy zipper, strong wheels, good balance. If you pack big, you'll be glad you got it. And though it retails for $340, The Trip Shop (powered by Amazon) has it at $126. www.highsierrasport.com 



Salomon shoes. Start with this: For any footwear — hiking boots, running shoes, ski boots, sandals — fit is 10 times more important than brand. If they don’t fit in the store, when you get to the trail, the track, the mountain or the beach, expect a world of pain.

That said, if they do fit (and they fit me better than any other brand) Salomon athletic shoes are your best bet. That’s because Salomon came up with QUICKLACE — where one pull replaces tying and retying laces. It’s Lacing for the Lazy. Like me.

Ah, but which model: the XA Comp 3 or Wings? The XA Comp 3 is a bit lighter, 350 grams, and somewhat cheaper, about $100. Wings has more padding, which means more protection from pavement. It also means more weight, 390 grams, and more moolah, $130-160. www.salomon.com/us 


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Ask The Captain: Is My Pilot Flying Drunk?


Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

"It feels like you can't turn on the news these days without hearing about a drunk pilot showing up for work ready to fly under the influence. Is this just media hype, or should I really be worried?"  - Kathryn


I hear ya, Kathryn. "THAR she  B L O W S" could be the lead-in line to the almost-monthly apprehension of professional pilots caught while flying legally drunk. But the fact remains that of the 11,000 commercial pilots tested annually, only 12 on average fail to pass. Now, that's not the zero percent we'd like to see, but it does mean that chances are good that your pilot is NOT flying drunk. 

Now, for the rest of the story, which takes us to Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam is known for it's tolerance and quirkiness

Tolerance for cafe drug purchases and prostitution in it's Red Light District.

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Ask the Captain: An open note to JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater


Steven Slater , “What Color is Your Parachute, dude?”  Enquiring minds want to know. Exit, stage left………or was that Emergency Exit, stage left?

Hand me that other cold one , will you?

It was another one of those days, wasn’t it?

Your high speed, French, aluminum-tubed cattle car was just yards away….no, feet away,  no, no, just inches away for home plate and…and …… game over.

Brakes set, seat belt light off and you’re out of this pig pen……YES ! 

Your last syllable of “Home again, Home again, and I’m out of here” had not made it past your whispering lips.

THEN,  it happened……… like clockwork. Those important people get out of their rented seats to retrieve their overhead luggage. This is before the aircraft is stopped and the seat belt light is extinguished.

OMG, here we go AGAIN…..for the millionth time.

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Leonardo's Vision

by Pete Thompson


The richness of human imagination has rarely been more realized than in the day/night dreams of Leonardo da Vinci which have deeply impacted modern humankind. Although his fantasy images were limited to the available technologies of the day, he nonetheless, envisioned each as real and probable in time. His fifteenth century vision of a machine capable of leaping into the air under the control of humans in flight has come to pass in the helicopter. I can imagine him watching birds doing these things and actually, in his mind, performing them, himself.  When I was a child, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. As serious as a monk in prayer, I answered, "A bird!" I have experienced, in every human sense possible, the thrill of flight that Leonardo envisioned as the nearest humans could initiate actual bird flight. 

I AM a helicopter pilot therefore I AM a helicopter.  The integration between a human and a machine is complete when the former is strapped into the latter becoming one and the same. Every human sense becomes ten-fold more sensitive to the machine, and each vibration, sound, smell, sight, and touch becomes acute. When you break friction with the earth, you are no longer in the human world but in the world where the inhabitants are naturally equipped to fly.  You may dance upon the air through every landscape that exists. Leonardo's vision inhabited many inventors, but one, in the twentieth century, made it real….Igor Sikorsky.  Others followed in his footsteps, making the machine better and more friendly to those who have the lust to be a bird. One of those who believed in the machine enough to make it better and safer, my hero, Howard Hughes.

Through odd circumstances, I became a helicopter pilot, and no matter how odd, I have benefited beyond my wildest dreams. It is my goal to share the most wondrous of human experiences by leaping into the air and flying like a bird.

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Under the Volcanic Ash

by Rachel Dickinson

I was offered a sweet little gig to come to Ireland for two weeks and blog about my travels. I was set up with fabulous rooms in fabulous hotels across the country and then my job was to wander about, find a story, take some photos, then come back and post once or twice a day.

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Step Back from the Baggage Claim

Change the World, Start at the Airport

by Jason Barger


It’s funny what a glass of wine can lead to. My wife and I had just put our two young boys to bed when the words “I think I may write a book” leaped from my mouth. The words almost surprised me and my wife had no idea where this was leading. The next thing I knew, the traveling adventure had begun.

My family dropped me off at the airport in our hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Over the next seven days I traveled from Columbus to Boston to Miami to Chicago to Minneapolis to Seattle to San Diego - 7 cities in 7 days without leaving the airport the entire time. I was sleeping on floors, eating rubbery chicken nuggets, and yes, watching people. I soaked in nearly 10,000 minutes of observations of humanity at all four corners of the United States. Yes, I’m strange - but, Life is a trip!

With over 87,000 planes in the skies over the United States on any given day, airports are one of the most unique spaces in our mobile world today. So many different people going different directions with different agendas. The airports are a place filled with great excitement, frustration, sadness and anxiety. In order for us to get from point A to point B, we must navigate our way through the obstacles, delays and cancellations that show up along our path. As a metaphor for the rest of our lives away from the airport, how do we choose to travel through daily life in our world? So, I needed to go and see what I would observe.

Oddly, the baggage claim was calling me.

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Fear not, travel more

by Eric Lucas

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

I was thinking about FDR’s famous axiom during my adventures on a particularly gruesome golf hole in Arizona over the New Year holiday. Afraid of slicing my drive right I hooked it left into the desert. Afraid of overshooting the hole, I hit a weak chip into a sand trap. Afraid of not reaching the green, I blasted out of the sand completely over the hole. Afraid of a knee-shaking downhill putt, I came up 3 feet short of the hole. Next putt—right by it, like a locomotive, afraid of coming up short again.

© Orlando Florin Rosu | Dreamstime.com

Despite those travails, it was a beautiful day in the Arizona sun.

I flew there from my home in Seattle. Not afraid.

That makes me different from the most important air travelers in our world today, the government officials who set transportation security policy. They are all scared to death—not of terrorism, so much, but of being blamed for it. FDR was right about fear when he prefaced his response to the Great Depression. We need to remember his thought before we wind up flying around the world buck naked, handcuffed and, as LA Times commentator David Steinberg puts it, wearing padded headgear so we can’t use our skulls to bash open a window to bring a plane down.

Wow—could a terrorist really do that?


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ASK THE CAPTAIN: Frightened by turbulence

Plane Talk: Got a question? Ask the Captain!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.

by W. M. Wiggins

"I fly a lot and love to travel.  In spite of this, I have never gotten over my fear of turbulence.  I have what may be called "anticipatory anxiety".  The minute I step on the plane I worry over the "anticipated" turbulence.  I know in my mind that turbulence isn't dangerous, but I guess in the deep corners of my mind, I feel that the plane may go out of control, or fall, or ????   How can I get over this fear?  I've tried therapy, biofeedback and relaxation techniques.  They work to a certain extent."  - Margo


Hi Margo,

I certainly understand your anxiety and you are definitely not the "Lone Ranger" out there. A medical doctor, I am not. Nor am I a doctor of any sorts, I am a pilot. What I share with you is knowledge from this perspective. I hope what I say is of some help. I can explain to you the "why" and "how" an aircraft flies, but here, I will briefly go over some flight conditions.......just for you.

Hummmmmm ................turbulence, the "rock and roll" of flying.

First let me say......

Aircraft are actually "airships" riding on and in rivers of air instead of water. They ( the airships...a.k.a. airplanes ) are designed and manufactured to a much higher standard than almost any other type of construction. This is so airplanes can bend by design and yet, stay strong. These are both good things.

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Ask The Captain: What Was Going On With Those Northwest Airlines Pilots?

Plane Talk: Got a question? Ask the Captain!

Do you have a question about airline safety, flight etiquette, jet lag, or air travel in general? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column. Answering your questions in our NEW ASK THE CAPTAIN column is, Michael Wiggins, a retired airline pilot who has spent the better part of his life shuttling passengers around the globe.

We'd been planning to launch this column ever since a chance meeting brought Michael onto our radar screen. We KNEW we wanted him to bring his expertise and humor to our YourLifeIsATrip family, but who knew we'd start the dialogue with the question on everyone's lips these days...

by W. M. Wiggins

What was really going on with those Northwest Airline pilots in the cockpit?


About those NWA pilots over flying ( MSP ) Minneapolis/ St. Paul Airport by 150 miles. Jeeeez. It's a reasonable question. How CAN that happen?

The lack of attention to detail is obvious. Someone has to be driving that big ol’ Bus (AIRBUS) and somebody has to be monitoring the radios. And as they say in California, that’s a definite “for sure, for sure” dude.

It sounds to me like a couple of guys had their radio volumes turned down …. way,     w a y,       w   a   y        down. This is an especially bad thing when you are traveling at 500 miles per hour……hummmmmmmmm, divide that (500 mph) by 60 minutes ( 60 minutes is an hour….I think? )…….and you can see that  this “winged” aluminum beast is smokin’ right along at about 8.4 miles per minute.

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