27. March 2013 00:07
“I hate it when I ask for no pickles, and they give me pickles anyway.”
Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of first-world problems; there are plenty of little annoyances and aggravations in life that get under our skin. But when you stop and think about them in the context of the wider human race, you realize that many “problems” — like unwanted pickles — happen only because of the enormous prosperity that we enjoy in the United States.
Perhaps pickles aren’t your pet peeve, but I’m sure you can think of a gripe or two of your own. Is the air conditioning in your office so cold that you have to wear a sweater? Do you hate it when your iPhone takes too long to download a video from the Internet? Have you ever grumbled when the morning line seemed too long at Starbucks?
I’m as guilty as the next guy. Many of the things I grouse about daily aren’t existential problems at all but mere inconveniences that blur the edges of my comfortable, connected and convenient life. When I travel outside the United States and see the harsh conditions many people face every day, I realize how much I take for granted and how many of my “issues” are just first-world problems.
I’ve also noticed that those of us who work in travel and tourism can develop our own brand of first-world problems. Whenever I’m around a group of tour operators, group leaders, travel agents or travel journalists, I see a creeping tendency to begin to complain to each other about the travails of our collective work.
“I had to fly 12 hours to get to China — in coach,” we say. “The hotel was out of king rooms, so I got stuck with two double beds.” “My lunch at the conference was cold.” “I had to sit in the back of the bus during our ride through Glacier National Park.”
Although everyone needs a chance to commiserate from time to time, I wonder sometimes if we’re missing the point. Sure, travel has its hassles, and the more you travel, the more vulnerable you become to them. But then I step back and think about the incredible industry we work in. We spend our lives in travel and tourism. We have jobs that our friends and neighbors dream about. We get to see some of the most amazing places on the planet, and very often, we do it at no personal expense.
The next time you feel swimming in travel stress, take a few moments and give thanks for all of the blessings that come with being able to travel.
Travelers get to see, do and experience more every year than most people do in their entire lifetimes. We are blessed indeed. Next time you get held up on the tarmac — or stuck with an unwanted pickle — thank heaven you should be so lucky.
21. February 2013 20:50
Most of us who publish this magazine and most of you who read it will travel at the drop of a hat. We live for our next adventure. And if we’re going somewhere we’ve never been before, that’s even better.
All of us have friends or family members who couldn’t care less about traveling. Their idea of a great time is staying put. They don’t like flying, or they don’t like sleeping in a strange bed, or they don’t like eating unfamiliar food. And that’s OK for them but not for us.
Last month in Hawaii, I was reminded why travel is so important to us. At the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) annual conference, association president Terry Dale showed a YouTube video to the audience.
For almost five minutes, I was spellbound.
If you want to remind yourself why you have an unrelenting case of wanderlust, just google “Matt.” When you do, you’ll find YouTube star Matt Harding under his promotional name, “Where the Hell Is Matt?”
What follows is one of the most uplifting videos about traveling the world you’ll ever watch. Matt dances with people from cultures across the globe. People young and old are having the time of their lives just sharing their homelands and their worlds.
As Harding told us, people the world over want to feel connected. And every culture wants to share its unique characteristics with travelers from other cultures.
It’s universal. And only those of us who share that itch to enjoy other cultures can relate to it. Check it out. You’ll see what I mean. It reaffirms everything about why we jump at the chance to pack a suitcase.