It was a sign

It was clear, detailed and pointed us in the right direction. It was just a simple sign, but it did its job.

As a tourist,  looking for the historic waterfront in downtown Shelburne, Nova Scotia (pop 1800) I got the information I needed.

I took a photo of the sign to use as an example of how to be tourist-friendly.  And while I acknowledge most people will have access to GPS or a Google map, that’s not how everyone travels. GPS can often be unreliable and while it is excellent for highways and major attractions, it doesn’t understand concepts like ‘waterfront’ or ‘arts/culture.’

As host cities we would be making a grave mistake if we left it up to GPS systems to tell our potential tourists where to go. Let me be clear, like the sign, we need to help people in every way possible. It’s impossible to dazzle them with hospitality if they can’t make it to their destination.

Instantly disappointed in paradise

Hard to believe I’m even writing about this, but it’s true. The tourist beaches of Hawaii were littered with disappointed people, looking sullen and staring into their phones.

It was UNBELIEVABLE the number of people that we had to walk around, dodge, or avoid on Waikiki Beach, because they were solely engaged with their phones. These tourists were taking selfies and trying to CRAFT happy vacation photos but letting their phones get in the way of actually enjoying themselves. And they themselves were oblivious to the other tourists trying to walk around or actually enjoy the beach.

Sunset was the worst time of the day. 

These people couldn’t even be bothered to look up between taking and viewing their own snaps. This wasn’t exclusively on the beach either, it was a hazard on the street and even hiking paths too.

There were girlfriends barking at their boyfriends. “Do it again.” “Take another.” “That’s awful! Delete it.”

And girls scowling at people for walking through “their shot” on a crowded public beach or on the narrow hiking path. I saw their non-stop scowling between forced selfie smiles….I’m sure that has to be exhausting.

I saw bathing suits chosen for photos, not for swimming. Hair done for Instagram, not for a day in the water. Makeup done for a party, not a mountaintop. Posing everywhere. What I didn’t see was participation.

I’m writing this because it bothered me to see hoards of people, instantly disappointed in their photos, and thus their own vacations, when they could be having the time of their lives.

They were standing like pylons in the road, glaring into & tapping at their phones, everywhere, in paradise! They had looks of sadness, disappointment, anger and frustration on their faces. While they stood there, toes in the sand, in paradise they had….. in that very moment ….. EVERY opportunity to turn things around and be happy but instead they choose to delete & try to rewrite a perfect lie with another photo. Over and over and over.

I feel bad for them. What are they disappointed in? How they look? (That in itself is tragic) The lousy time they are having? (They have the power to change that.) Disappointing likes per minute? Are they just photo blind to the real world? Why not be happy with yourself and do things that are fulfilling! Run into the ocean. Build a sandcastle. Get your hands wet, and sandy. Splash your friend. Chase your kids. Go surfing. Enjoy Hawaii!

I’m assuming they worked hard (and paid) for their vacation. I wish they understood the value of ‘vacation’ to their mental health. Now, and into the future, memories can really keep you going when you hit the (genuinely) bad days. It’s not what someone said in the moment, right? It’s how it made you FEEL. We’re human. Feelings matter. You should really enjoy vacationing. It feels good! Photos are only good to capture that FEELING and hold on to it. Spontaneous photos that don’t stop the action, but just capture a genuine moment in time, those are great photos.

So, frankly, I think they should be disappointed not in their crafted photos but in the (lack of) participation in their own lives. There. I said it. That’s my point. I think you suck at participating in real life when you stand like a pylon in the middle of the beach making and deleting fake smiles and yelling at your loved ones for not taking good enough photos. Are you making genuine vacation memories or merely crafting photos? Do you understand the difference?

Do you know who’s NOT disappointed in paradise? Little children and old folks. The little kids are screaming, splashing, swimming, running, and giggling with not a care in the world! And seniors… whether they were walking hand in hand with a spouse, or sitting and chatting it up with friends. They are smiling, talking, looking around and taking it all in. They looked like they were genuinely enjoying their holidays.

Think I’m exaggerating? No, I’m not. Next time you are at a concert or fireworks event, look around to see who is enjoying the music or wide-eyed by the colours exploding in the sky. And then look who’s just holding up their phone, posturing for the best angle.

Little kids and old folks. Seems to me, they’re the ones winning at life right now. Why? Because they are participating in it.

Gem of a deal on Grace Bay

There’s a great site called Tripcentral.ca. They have a chart that can show you the lowest prices based on dates. Using this, I often clue into the destinations in my price range. For example:

A quick summary of destinations and their starting prices.

From this point I chose the Turks and Caicos. (For me, it would be a repeat destination.) I’ve been there twice and absolutely love it. It’s first world caribbean and very safe, casual and beautiful. I wish for the Turks when I’m exhausted and just want sunshine, in a laid back and relaxed tropical paradise.

So, once you click on the destination of your choice, you will see then next chart. I quickly spy the best price in April. I see it’s at a 4 star hotel with a great reputation. In March that same hotel package will cost you twice the price.

Clicking on the $1753 it takes you to a new chart which shows you the specific dates, plus the package carrier. I see that the deal is a Wednesday to Wednesday vacation, by Westjet.

A 7 day vacation, with an oceanview room, by Westjet at the low price of $1753

So, with three clicks, you can hone in on the best price and lowest priced dates.  At 40% less than the same hotel, same airline, in March I consider this a bargain. Thank you Trip Central.

Coast Starlight Train: Part 1

Ok, I’m giddy. No sense hiding it. I haven’t been this excited about travel in a few years

I’m on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train from Seattle to Santa Barbara. It’s November the 7th and I might be lucky enough to see 3 seasons in one day. Snow has fallen here on the Washington coast. I expect I’ll see the fall leaves and colours in just a few hours down the track. Then, it will be sunny and still above 20C in California. That’s spring-like to this Canadian.

Why the Coast Starlight trip? I’ve seen it on-line, read about it and believe it to be legendary. So I want to see it for myself. I get to see the Pacific Coast without having to drive it! I can be a rested passenger and just take in the view. OMG.

Why now? Why NOT now. Do things when the opportunity comes up. Opportunity may not knock twice. So I often ask myself…. “If not NOW, then WHEN?” The companion question to that of course, “If not ME, then WHO?” That second piece is the inner voice that encourages me to step up, speak up and act when I think something is possible.

That, in a nutshell is how I ended up on the Coast Starlight train today. And boy am I ever excited.

Wear your poppy

 

I was downtown Seattle yesterday, near the Pike Place Market. Things were starting to feel a little sketchy even though it was just mid afternoon.

I got called out for being Canadian by a couple panhandlers and a guy who wanted to sell me a CD. “Hey Canadian…. ” they said. “Give us your loonies or coloured money. I’ll take whatever.”

Later I was at the market and I was I stopped to look at some stuff and I am the guy asking what part Canada I was from.  So I asked him “what’s the dead giveaway why does everybody know I’m Canadian?” He said because that poppy you’re wearing on your jacket.”

Ah… my lapel poppy. Frankly I didn’t see it as a “Canadian thing” until that moment.  I saw it as a universal sign of respect for our veterans and soldiers.  I couldn’t imagine not wearing the poppy at the beginning of November.

I asked the friendly clerk. “Should I take it off? Does it make me stick out like a target, a tourist?”

“No! No!” He says, “we like Canadians. You all are good.”

I will admit that there were a few minutes on my walk back to the hotel where I thought about taking off the poppy because I was feeling a little uncomfortable.  But I surely didn’t take it off! War isn’t comfortable either. Our veterans and soldiers endured unspeakable horrors in defence of our country and freedoms. And therefore, I wear a poppy, because it’s November and I am Canadian. I frankly don’t see it as optional.