What would Don Draper say about this?

I saw this sign at a general store in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Now, I know that Europe has heightened its efforts in dissuading people from purchasing tobacco products.  They put giant-sized warnings on cigarette boxes, and if memory serves me, they sometimes include hideous pictures of lifelong smokers’ lungs.  But Iceland, at least let a guy get in the store before telling him not to buy something.

I’m not a smoker myself, but I do recognize the odd place in society smokers now dwell.  They want to smoke, and tobacco companies want to sell them cigarettes, but now in order to do so legally, companies need to say how unhealthy their product is.  It’s like that waiter at a restaurant who, after you order the brownie sundae for dessert, condescendingly asks, “You’re actually going to order the brownie sundae?  Do you know how many calories are in that?”  No, waiter, I don’t know how many calories are in the brownie sundae.  But you’re selling it.  It’s on the menu.  So why don’t you just tell the chef and brace yourself for a crappy tip?

I don’t know how this turned into me defending cigarette companies.  That wasn’t my intention.  Tobacco products cause harm to millions of people a year.  And people should be aware of the dangers of smoking.  But if governments are so concerned about people’s health, why not just make smoking illegal?  It’s already banned from bars and restaurants.  Just stop producing and selling tobacco products.  But that’s never going to happen, because this vice is more acceptable than other vices.  Or, at least the money’s better.  But now Europe (and the World) face a bigger problem than smoking: obesity.  I wonder if one day will come when, on every dessert menu, we’ll see a picture of a morbidly obese person in a much-too-small jumpsuit with a written warning that “eating highly caloric desserts can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and rolls of fat.”

Oh, and I think I finally understand why an Icelandic store might put up a sign like this.  They’ve had enough ash in the air from all the volcanoes erupting.

Sep 2011
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Lessons While Traveling

I have safely returned to my home of LA after a month of traveling.  It was one heck of a trip, with stops in Ireland, Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels, New Orleans, Orlando, and Washington D.C.  An eclectic trip, yes, but each leg rewarding in its own way.  Like all good trips, I learned a lot during my travels.  Here are some highlights of my schooling:

-Two weeks before a vacation is not enough time to break in new shoes.
-Few cities can be experienced in just one day.
-Buy flexible schedule airfare and train tickets.
-Don’t book early morning flights in rural towns.
-Almost every travel problem can be solved by spending a lot of money.
-A picture of a still camera with an “X” through it also means no video recording.
-Irish print models look like normal women (they have wrinkles).
-A swear doesn’t sound offensive when it’s said in an Irish accent.
-Volcanic eruptions, though rare, can seriously affect one’s travel plans.
-The world contains wonderful people willing to help during times of crises.
-The Black Eyes Peas song “I Gotta Feeling” is an international sensation.
-Six year olds playing recess are cute in any country.
-Whiny kids sound the same in every language.
-Falafel and kebabs are the cheapest meal in any European country.
-Belgian french fries really taste as good as they say.
-Free wifi hasn’t caught on in Europe.
-New Orleans’ French Quarter gets really creepy at night.
-A taxi driver can both be extremely racist and extremely good at driving.
-Disney World remains enjoyable even as an adult.
-The Washington Mall stretches much longer than a map would make it seem.
-K-12 teachers love taking their students on trips to D.C. museums.
-Traveling provides lessons and experiences to grow from, but after a while, it feels great being home.

May 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Cork Airport! I’m finally here with a ticket for a flight that’s not cancelled!

It’s 4am right now, and I am sitting at Cork airport.  It is starting to look more like a reality that my 6am flight to Amsterdam is going to take off.  After six days of unscheduled travels, it doesn’t feel right that I’m about to travel to the place I was planning on visiting.  I hate to say it, but I’m almost a little disappointed.  Who knows what adventures I would have had if I took the ferry?  And now, whenever I tell this story–which I think will be often–I’ll come to Thursday and say, “And that’s the day I got on the plane and flew to Amsterdam.”  Then people will ask, “So you didn’t get on the 18 hour ferry?  You actually got to your final destination without spending a stolen afternoon in Paris?”  I will hang my head and nod.  “Yes, by Thursday, air travel was operating at 90% in Europe, so I never got that chance.”

I suppose I still could get on the ferry, but if I don’t have to go on it, it feels like I would just be doing it on some masochistic principle.  A three hour flight compared to 25 hours of transportation is a little easier to take.  And now I’ll have just about the same amount of time to see what I wanted to see (I changed my flight to leave next Thursday).

The check in desk is about to open.  There’s already a line.  I better get in it.

Apr 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Ponderings on an Ash Cloud

[The main reason for me visiting Europe was to see some friends of mine who are currently living in Europe.  Another reason was to shoot some new travel videos for a website called Tripfilms.  As I’ve been using my printed itinerary as scratch paper these days, Tripfilms asked me to blog about my current experience for their site.  I figured I’d post it here, too.  So here goes:]

When I got on a flight from Los Angeles to Dublin April 12th, I wasn’t thinking I’d get stranded in Ireland because of an Icelandic volcano.  I was thinking about how I didn’t have enough legroom and how the lady next to me was hogging the armrest.  The last time I even thought of the word “volcano” was probably three years ago when I watched the Pierce Brosnan film Dante’s Peak.  Volcanoes were not a top priority for me last Monday.  Now my entire future rests in the hands of a volatile, geothermal pimple on the surface of the earth.

What are the odds? What are the odds 97,000 flights would be cancelled because of a volcano erupting?  The last time this volcano erupted was in 1821.  I’m no statistics major, but I think the odds weren’t great.

For me, this situation means more time in Ireland.  Not the worst problem to have.  I’ve seen more of Cork, the seaside town of Kinsale, and the western town of Galway.  I was intending to travel around Europe for a while.  What’s another six days in Ireland?  For tens of thousands of others, though, this means they’re missing work in foreign countries, they can’t deliver their perishible products, and they can’t attend important celebrations.

We may never fully understand the ripples caused by this volcano.  For every wedding missed, two strangers stuck in an airport might meet and get married.  For every rotting shipment of lamb, a delivery supervisor might smell the meat and follow his true calling as a vegan restauranteur.  I’ve met new friends during my delay that I will correspond with the rest of my life.  If I flew out as planned last Friday, I would never have had a wonderful afternoon with Pilar in Galway and learned about cutting edge Spanish film directors.

Humanity’s history has been one of technological innovations, of harnessing earth’s powers for human’s wants and needs.  But still, even in 2010, all of our advancements can’t battle something from prehistoric times.  Thoreau said something once about how we don’t ride the railroad, that the railroad rides us.  Now instead of trains riding us, it’s airplanes.  How far we have come.

So what does the world do now?  How can we prepare for another ash cloud?  It’s not like volcanoes fit through an airport X-Ray machine.  We can prevent guns from getting on a plane, but we can’t prevent ash from entering the atmosphere.  Does this mean we return to the days of sea travel?  More ferries departing from ports?  Do we build long bridges?  More chunnels?  With billions of dollars already lost by this ash cloud, how many billions more will governments be willing to spend to prevent more billions lost?  Or will they just play the odds?  The world was safe from this volcano for 189 years.  What are the chances it will happen again?

I don’t have any of the answers.  As a normal civilian, I don’t have much say in those decisions, especially since I don’t even live in Europe.  I do know I will continue to travel the world despite this volcano.  Like the threat of terrorism, I won’t let the threat of a volcanic eruption prevent me from experiencing the joys of traveling.  That’s not the way I want to live, voluntarily stranded in America.  I will approach my journeys a bit differently in the future, though.  On my next trip, I’m buying travel insurance.

Apr 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

TBR Special Report: Stuck in Ireland

So to catch you up, if you haven’t been reading my blog or opened a newspaper or turned on the news, one of Iceland’s volcanoes–the one with the really long name–started erupting.  Now, if we were living in the middle ages, that’d be fine.  We probably wouldn’t even know about it, until our crop fields got covered in ash.  But now that we have modern air travel, that volcanic ash in the air has prevented all European airline travel from happening.  Every flight has been cancelled, including mine.  Actually, to be perfectly fair, multiple flights of mine have been cancelled, since I’ve continuously tried to get on flights that departed later in the week.

And the funny thing is, Ireland is pretty close geographically to Iceland, so I’m really in the heart of the ash.  Come to think of it, that’s not really funny at all.  I’m trying to look on the bright side of the whole situation, and I’ve been able to visit friends in Galway that I wouldn’t have had time to see had I got on my flight days ago like I planned.

But enough writing.  Here’s a video update that explains my situation.

Apr 2010
POSTED BY travelbugrobert