Tag Archives: Flights

Come Fly With Me

5 Jan

Drop Me Anywere Logo

Hello all. Yes, I know, it feels like forever since I’ve written here. I’m sure you were worried about me. I appreciate the Get Well cards, E-mails and flowers you all sent. Oh wait, yours must have been lost in the mail. What with Christmas and the UPS package delivery fiasco, I’m sure your ‘Get Well’ card will be arriving any day now.

Actually, I wasn’t sick at all (except perhaps for the traditional New Year’s Day hangover). I’ve been busy with a new project. It’s called Drop Me Anywhere! “What is it?” you ask (thanks for asking). Well, a little backstory.

You all remember I left my job at Disney Cruise Line for some very much needed R&R (you can read about it in Sabbatical). It’s been wonderful. I did a lot of yoga, drank good wine and scotch, reconnected with friends, wrote, traveled a little, had surgery (remember that? No? Read here) and generally got my body, mind and relationships healthy again. When I was ready, I began looking for jobs that I would again be passionate about. It turns out most of these jobs were overseas, with many in England, where I would like to try living. I applied for many of them. Some even contacted me to ask me to apply. And some led to interviews. It was all very promising until they found out I’m an American. When companies figured out they’d need to sponsor a visa for me, I became, well, less desirable. Yes, I’ve had relationships where I was told I was high-maintenance (which I continue to dispute), but when it comes to a job, apparently easy is more important than qualified and passionate (wondering if easy is more important than passionate in a relationship too – hoping not).

During this time, my friend April texted me with a few questions.

“What three things would your dream job entail?” was one question.

After just a minute of consideration I answered confidently, “Writing, Travel and Helping the World! I’d settle for two out of three.”

As, at this time in my life, I’m not settling, and nobody was offering me a job that I felt I would be passionate about, I’ve decided to create my own. Yup, full-time travel writing. Yikes!!

Drop Me Anywhere came about through a Twitter travel chat I was participating in. These are organized chats with 5-10 questions using hashtags (#) to delineate (big word – writer here) the specific chat.

One question was, “If you had a travel show, what would it be called and what would it be about?”

“Mine’s called ‘Drop Me Anywhere,’ I answered, “and it’s about traveling without a plan!”

The response was overwhelming, with people telling me I needed to film a pilot, get it on YouTube and make a Kickstarter campaign. Wow! Please believe me when I say I had not thought of the title or the topic until about thirty-seconds before I typed that answer.

I let the idea rest for a couple of weeks figuring out that, although I’ve done on-camera interviews, my comfort zone truly is writing. I contacted a well-known travel writer who I had an E-mail exchange with about a story he was writing a few months before.

“Is this anything?” I asked

He wrote me back telling me he loved the idea and what might be the best way to go about it. I guess it’s something! Next thing I know, Drop Me Anywhere was born.

So what makes it different? It’s the first interactive travel writing and reading site. It’s a partnership between you and me. You get to vote on where to send me without a plan. Yup, that’s right, you get to tell me where to go (insert your joke here). I’ll generally leave within 2 weeks or so without researching. I’ll write about the adventure and also provide information and links to vendors, lodging and activities. But wait, there’s more. . .

I’ll be spending a day, or part of a day volunteering for a non-profit organization I find over there. And after that, I’ll write about them on Rebel-With-A-Cause so you’ll know about them too.

One more twist to this new project – I’m calling it “Kickstarter Miles.” It has nothing to do with Kickstarter, but airfare is expensive, even when booking in advance. With just two weeks’ notice well, even a trip to Santa Monica can be expensive. So, if you have an extra few thousand frequent flyer miles that you won’t use in the foreseeable future, how about throwing them my way? Just click on the “Donate Miles” page and you can contact me to show me how generous you are. You’ll also see what great rewards you’ll receive for your donation.

Finally, you’ll be happy to know that I’ll be my usual snarky self on Drop Me Anywhere, so we all get to make fun of my life. And I’ll still be posting on My Own Adventure here and there as, when traveling or not, I still find this an amusing world and it helps those voices in my head express themselves. Rebel-With-A-Cause will remain informative and interesting, yet snark-free, as I’ll make fun of my own life, but not of someone else’s. These will be people who do good work and I hope my telling of their stories will do them justice.

So, please click on the Drop Me Anywhere link read a bit more about it. Please subscribe and vote (yes, you can vote without subscribing but this way you’ll get an E-mail when I post about the voting results).

I must go to check my mailbox now as I’m sure your Get Well card will have arrived today.

Fly by Night. . . and Day

27 Nov

At about 9:00pm I head on over to the airport. As is the norm, the hotel has arranged a complimentary car for me. The airport is very well-organized and I have no trouble finding my way around. I check-in for my flight without anyone even suggesting that I should check my completely allowable carry-on (oh, I’m not bitter). I have quite a bit of time before my flight so I wander through the shops.

I look for a Duty Free store to price some alcohol before realizing, well duh. I might as well be searching for a pork chop. I’ve already picked up some Turkish Delight and Apple Tea while at the mall. These are Turkish Delightthings I used to enjoy when I worked in Turkey. Actually, I only enjoyed the Apple Tea. I never acquired a tasted for Turkish Delight. To me, it tastes similar to the only other candy in this world that I dislike, Candy Corn. Dislike is too mild of a word. I truly hate the stuff (and can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s called corn). Anyway, the Turkish Delight is for friends, as I’m hoping they enjoy it more than me. It turns out they don’t and, when we look at the ingredients, we like it even less (what the hell is soapwood and why, of why, would it be in candy?).

For lack of anything else to do I wander over to my gate. Going through security I note the subtle differences between U.S. airport security and Kuwaiti security (and German as a matter of fact). In the U.S. you take off your shoes and leave your iPad and Kindle in your bag. In Kuwait and Germany your shoes stay on but the iPad and Kindle come out. Strange.

As I continue my people watching I note that there seem to be very few women traveling on their own. I am not judging at all, just noticing. In Kuwait (as well as many European airports) you wait outside in the main hallway until about 45 minutes before your flight when you are allowed to enter the boarding area. I strike up a nice conversation with the flight crew who think my 49 hours in Kuwait is ridiculous. Yeh, that’s right, I’m a professional. Don’t try this at home (uh, I guess that would be impossible).

Before long we board our flight to Frankfurt. I have a window seat with the two seats next to me vacant. Yes, my plan has worked. I reserved this seat online noting that, at least at that moment, those seats were not assigned. Yes, seat strategy is my specialty. I catch a little nap and awake 45 minutes before landing in Frankfurt.

I grab an incredible breakfast of fruit and yogurt (why does breakfast in Europe always Breakfasttaste so good?) and take a look around the duty-free store. I really want to by that bottle of fine Scotch but I’ve come carry-on and the U.S. airports will not appreciate my excess liquid (I consider whether I might be able to drink it before arriving in the U.S. but that would be a terrible waste of perfectly good scotch).

I head on over to my gate and board my flight. As I walk back to my seat I look ahead and see what appears to be a family taking up all of the seats in my assigned row. When I approach to claim my seat the man stands and says that the airline has seated him separate from his family and he would like my seat. Okay, here’s the deal – I try really hard to be a nice person. I really do. I tell him I would be happy to switch seats with him if one of his assigned seats includes a window (I’m a leaner and sleeper and, with 15 more hours of flying ahead of me, I have my Ambien at the ready). He looks at me and, quite rudely says, “Of course I do!” Then he turns his back on me. Hhhmmmmm, not sure what to make of this. With great attitude I sneer at him and respond, “Hey, I’m trying to help you.” Sorry sir, you have been voted out of my seat. I give him my best flared nostril, evil eye look, take my seat and start to nest. His wife and son remain seated in the middle and aisle seats. He remains standing for a while seemingly undecided about what to do next. He eventually takes his seat in a middle seat in the middle section (seriously, this is the seat he wanted to trade me for? I’m nice, just not that nice).

Kids on AirplanesThe rest of the flight is – how shall I put it – HELL! It’s like his 3-year-old son works as a hit man for his father and decided that I will pay for the injustice I delivered upon his father. Each time I get near a peaceful sleep the kid throws pretzels and matchbox cars at me. He then proceeds to kick me or simply puts his hand on my shoulder, enough to imply, “Hey lady, wake up.” At one point he is laying with his head across his mother’s lap and his feet across my lap. Fully stretched out. Please understand that I work with children and understand the difficulty of traveling with them. I am very understanding as long as I see or hear the parent making an effort to teach them good behavior. There was no effort. And oh, mom doesn’t speak English. There was no apparent effort in any language.

At some point I notice a smell that I often smell in the nursery at work. Ah, the unmistakable smell of poop. I wait for the smell to waft on over to mom. She must have an idea this would be coming as we’ve been on the plane for 5 hours and she has not checked him once. I wiggle my nose and sniff, hoping she’ll take the hint. Nothing. Are you kidding me? After a good half hour I speak up and, through sign language, I tell her she might want to check his diaper. She checks and, what do you know, Poop Central! At this point I wait for her to ask me to take him and change him as she has seemingly done nothing to take care of him the entire flight.

Eventually (and it’s a long eventually) we land in Houston. I go to take a sip of my bottled water which, due to the change in air pressure, promptly explodes in my face (again, don’t try this at home. I am a professional traveler). I never thought I’d be happy to be in Houston (sorry Texas, I’m not a Houston fan). Dad thanks me for my understanding during the flight. Uh, sorry? I believe I was trapped on an airplane and had no choice. I deplane and grab some good old American barbecue. One more flight and it’s home to my presumably dead battery and potentially flooded kitchen.

I board the plane and take my aisle seat (couldn’t snag a window for this one but, after 26 hours of travel I’ll survive 2 hours in an aisle seat). I stow my bags and before long the lady sitting at the window seat is approached by the man whose seat it really is (yup, she tried the whole seat stealing thing like the guy on the last flight). She moves over to the middle seat next to me and places one bag under the seat in front of her and puts her other (very large) bag next to that in front of her feet. This is not a purse, but a full size carry-on. I take note hoping she’ll be moving this. That’s when I notice something strange. This woman is drunk, on drugs, crazy or all three. She is talking loudly to everybody about completely random stuff. She takes out a rubber band and begins to play, what looks like a game with it. She is not simply playing with the rubber band, but seems to be putting a lot of thought into it.

Excess Baggage

Sure this will fit under the seat

As the flight attendant announces that we are ready for take-off, crazy lady makes no effort to move her bag. Being someone who travels for a living, this kind of thing bugs me. For God’s sake people, stop acting like rebellious teenagers and turn off your electronics, put your seat-backs in an upright position, store your tray table and your luggage! I politely ask her to put her bag in the overhead compartment. Her response, “Don’t mess with me!” Crap! Crazy lady, party of one! She continues, “What’s it to you?” “Nothing,” I respond, “but it may be to the man sitting in the window seat should there be an emergency and he can’t get out.” Luckily, the flight attendant passes by, overhears the conversation and insists the lady put her bag in the  overhead. Yeh, Fly Girl has my back. After 26 hours traveling I am in no mood and I turn to the lady and say simply, “Don’t mess with me.”

Two hours later I arrive in Phoenix happy to be there. Even better, I get to my car and, lo and behold, I did shut off that stupid light and my car starts up fine. Yay!!!

After sending out thank you E-mails to all who spent time with me this trip I receive word from the Operations Manager that I was apparently too impressive. The company feels that the job in question may be below my current level. He mentions that the VP of Leisure and Entertainment would like to know if I might be interested in their Moscow location which is due to open next year. My response is a resounding, “Da!” So, I will head on back to my ship soon and wait to discuss Russia. They have vodka there!!! Just saying. . .

Hello, I Must Be Going

15 Oct

Hello friends. As you know, I work on board a cruise ship and, although I am in the Entertainment Department, I don’t find it a very creative place. That, combined with the 70+ hours per week that I work and the slow and expensive internet (don’t get me started) and, well, you can usually tell when I’m on vacation because that’s when I look at the world in a more snarky way and decide to share it with you. So welcome to my vacation (hoping you’re buying the drinks).

For the past three months I pretty much lived every Phoenician’s dream. I fled the burning furnace that is Phoenix in the summer to spend time in Alaska. Most people who work on ships like to go to the Caribbean so they can use their Facebook status as a tool to make their friends at home jealous by sharing photos of themselves on a beautiful beach and bragging about the 85 degree temperature in the middle of February. I enjoy taking photos of snow-capped mountains on rainy days and bragging about the 55 degree weather. To each his own.

Tracy Arm

The adventures were also fabulous. Hiking up a mountain and running into a bear is much more exciting than walking on the beach and running into a lady who wants to braid my hair (Really? I have no desire to have a bead chip my tooth every time I turn my head too quickly). Whales? Yep, hung out with them.

What’s the difference between and Orca and a Bear? about 200 feet.

Glaciers? With all that ice falling you’d think they’d be fine with me collecting just a bit for my margarita (not so much). 

Then more bears, this time three of them crossing the road (assuming they did it for the same reason the chicken did). 

After a summer of adventure and trying to make people happy (vacationers as well as my staff and bosses), I need a bit of a rest. So, after four days of rest, I’m sitting on an airplane headed to Kuwait . . . wait what????!!! Let me explain.

After my last vacation I decided that I wanted to move to England (by the way, if you haven’t read about that adventure you can start at “On a Wing and a Prayer”). So, I began following some UK job websites on Twitter and nosing around the internet. I applied for a few jobs explaining that, while I don’t currently hold a visa to work there, I would have no trouble obtaining one due to my lack of any criminal record (I’m pretty sure that fell off by now). Still, it seems that most companies want me to get that pesky visa before they’ll hire me. I also saw an ad for a House Manager for the Queen. As I had just recently walked up her front walk and spent some time on her lawn I was sure she’d remember me. I completed the application (formality, of course she’ll want me!) and waited for her invitation to tea. Not only did I not receive an invitation to tea, but I received a rejection E-mail. Is it possible she doesn’t remember me? Or perhaps she does.

So, while I was busy working at my job cruising Alaska while looking for a job in England, others seemed have different ideas. I received an E-mail from a company based in Kuwait letting me know of their interest in me and requesting my C/V (that’s a resume for all of you Americans). I forwarded it as, you never know, they may be friends with the Queen. Next thing I know they want to talk to me on the phone. I offer up a choice of times to them as, logistically, this seems like a real challenge. Nine hours’ time difference if we do it while I’m in Seattle, 10 hours if we do it from Alaska, we’re not in port very long and it’s way too expensive calling from the ship. Logistical nightmare. With the call time agreed upon I wait for my phone to ring. Nothing. It turns out I wasn’t the only one confused. They got their time conversion wrong. Try number two resulted in a 90 minute phone call between Ketchikan, Alaska and Kuwait City.

Next thing I know I’m shortlisted and they want me to fly out. As I was in the middle of a contract and the only person on board who does my job, my current employers were not so keen on me taking a few days off to fly to Kuwait to go interview with another company. Go figure. Some people are so inflexible.

This brings me to where I sit now. Seat 23B, fighting over the armrest with the kid next to me who doesn’t understand the unwritten rule that, whoever is in the middle seat gets the armrest. The flights add up to 22 hours going there and 28 hours returning. I will be in Kuwait for exactly 49 hours. During that time I will have 4 interviews (one a cultural interview), do 1 presentation and have a tour of Kuwait City. I have come with a carry-on suitcase (which United Airlines threatened to check. Uh, I don’t think so), a Kindle, an iPad (redundant?) and some Ambien. Coming up next, the flights in I’ve Got Baggage.

On a Wing and a Prayer

1 Jun

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Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve been away (well, I hope you have). Yes I was doing that Workin’ for a Living thing. I was definitely not working 9 – 5 nor was I working on the Chain Gang. Then I started my vacation and I was workin’ out (note to self – contrary to popular belief, calories do count even while at sea). After that I was workin’ it out (and by that I mean my vacation plans). And that takes me to where I am now. Sitting in seat 10A at 33,000 feet.

Everyone asks me where I go on vacation. My usual answer is home (as now that I saved my house, I never seem to be there). Well, this time I’ve done something different. It’s time for an adventure. Today’s adventure, brought to you courtesy of my birthday, is a trip to England and New York.

It’s impossible to plan a vacation while I’m on board the ship due to the ridiculous amount of hours I work and the Internet that’s slower than dial up (and by that I mean if dial up used an old rotary dial phone – man, if somebody had a couple of 9’s in their number you just didn’t even bother calling). I had to wait until I was on vacation to plan my vacation. When I looked at the airfares I was blown away. Between business trips and using frequent flyer miles I didn’t realize that airfares cost as much as a new car. Luckily I have friends in high places. And by that I mean literally, as my friend is a pilot (can you say Guest Pass?). Here’s the adventure part. For the small price of $679 I am flying stand-by. What could go wrong?

I arrive at the airport at 7:00am, 2 hours ahead of my (hopefully) scheduled flight. My first flight of this adventure was the only one I thought might be a problem. Still with 5 available seats, I’m listed as 2nd in line on the stand-by list. That is until the airline decides to send a plane that seats 150 people instead of the scheduled one with 190 seats. They are actually looking for 27 people to volunteer to take later flights. No worries as, smart traveler that I am, I booked this flight knowing there were 2 other flights that would get me to Philly to get my connection. Unfortunately, even Steven Hawking couldn’t make the numbers work with that first flight bumping so many.

Please understand, I realize that flying stand-by is a risk. I was prepared for an adventure. When I took theatre classes in school they taught us the first rule of improvisation – say yes to everything. Improv, after all, is an adventure. I figured that whatever happened was meant to. I once read a quote that said, “Life can be as simple as falling.” I’m really good at falling so life should be a breeze.

So, with the first flight being so messed up, it’s now seemingly affected every flight of the day. I call my friend to ask her if she can pick me up from the airport if my great adventure simply ends up being an adventure going through airport security all the way to gate B15 and gate A32 (nice, but I think I overpacked). So, here I am, standing at the gate after finding out I’m 12th on the stand-by list. Hhhhmmm, not lookin” so good. I flirt with a pilot hoping he can use some pull to get me in a jump seat. No go. Must be gay. The gate agents are announcing names of people missing. I internally shush them and tell them they shouldn’t look so hard for these folks (yes, I’m going to hell).

There are 6 of us standing at the counter anxiously waiting for them to cancel the missing people’s seats. The agents say they have 3 or 4 seats depending on if the guy standing to the side gets on the flight. He says he’s deciding (what the $&@#?).

Then the most amazing thing happens – a woman approaches me and says that she is also flying stand-by and, if her name is called, I can have her seat. Wait, what? Surely I must have heard wrong. This being an adventure I have vowed not to get upset (read cry) if things don’t work out as planned. But really, what? I find myself crying. I don’t believe I’m crying because I got on the flight (shallow as I might be at times). I cry because you don’t often see kind gestures like this. I thank her and hug her. And yes, I am sitting in seat 10A and she is sitting in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

I’m not sure if I should offer her some money or if that would be insulting (maybe some lunch money would have been nice). I suddenly feel the need to justify to her that she’s done a good deed for someone who not only appreciates it immensely, but, who will pay it forward (uh oh, I think we know where this may be going). So I give her my card and direct her to the Rebel-With-A-Cause.org site. I ask her name and, although she tells me, I’m so overcome that it doesn’t register. I think she would understand, as I do, that it’s not important that people remember your name, but that they remember your deeds.

So, this is the beginning of an Adventure (yeh, with a capital “A”). I’ll put away the iPad now (uh-huh, I caved and bought one) as we’re getting ready to land and, apparently if I leave it on I will cause a blackout in Tokyo or something. Oh, I just let the girl next to me in the middle seat use my pillow (a small start on the paying it forward thing). Stay tuned.

Read on in “Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?”

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