Tag Archives: Flying

The Story Continues – Drop Me Here

13 Oct Airport Line

Hello readers, both new and old. Some of you have been with me from the beginning and some are my Virtual Travel Buddies who have migrated over from www.DropMeAnywhere.com. If you’re new here, I should explain where the title of this blog came from. It was originally called My OWN Adventure and was started to promote my entry for the Win Your Own Travel Show on the new (at the time), Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Well, Oprah is like a bad boyfriend and, though I sat by the phone, she never called.

I now use this site to express my, sometimes snarky, sometimes touching, and generally quirky, observations on the world around me. Feel free to check out some of the past stories below. I love a good discussion so comments are always appreciated. Let’s get started.

I’ve gone a whole week without writing and I’m going through a bit of withdrawal. As I expressed in the last Drop Me Anywhere story, I’m a writer so, while it may not be exactly like breathing (I rarely turn blue and pass-out when I don’t write), it’s much like yoga and keeps me sane (although some might question my claim of sanity). So, after a week of not writing, what brought be back to my little iPad keyboard? Flying, of course.

Today I’m on board American Airlines flight 2020 flying from Chicago to LAX where I’ll connect to a flight to Phoenix. After relaxing on a beach in Mexico (I was actually sick much of the time so there was a lot of relaxing in bed) I flew to Chicago to visit an old friend. I’d hoped to stop by a few tour companies which are based there in order to bother them for a job. I’d also planned to visit the Hungarian consulate in order to discuss a possible resident visa so that I can open a walking tour company in Budapest. (Drop Me In Budapest – A division of Drop Me Anywhere.) I wrote the main embassy E-mail address while I was in Mexico explaining my desire and asking how the visa process might work. I was impressed when the foreign ministry responded and explained the type of visa I would need and that it wouldn’t be impossible to obtain. They recommended I speak with the consulate in Chicago or New York. When I arrived in Chicago, I made several attempts at contacting the consulate. I found a couple of different addresses, phone numbers and E-mail addresses on-line, for which the phone numbers turned out to be invalid, as did the E-mail addresses. Finally, I decided to call the Hungarian consulate in Washington DC (their location somehow made them feel more official to me).

“Hello, I’m trying to find out the address of your consulate in Chicago as there seems to be a couple of addresses listed online and the phone numbers and E-mails are invalid,” I said cheerfully.

“We do not have a consulate in Chicago,” the man on the other end said sharply.

“But I wrote your embassy ahead of time and they told me the Chicago consulate could assist me,” I questioned. “And there are a few different addresses listed online,” I added. “It’s why I flew to Chicago.”

“Did you not research before you came there?” the man said accusingly.

“Yes, I contacted your embassy and the Foreign Ministry told me there was one here.”

“Well it does not open for a few months,” he said, scolding me as you would a child who forgot to tell his mother that it was her turn to bring cupcakes to school the next day. (Yeh, I know, food allergies no longer allows for this, but use your imagination.)

Mr. Gloaty then connected me to a voicemail for someone which instructed me to leave a message which, in reality, will never be returned.

As far as the tour companies go, between the unreturned phone calls and the various people out of town, Chicago turned into a nice visit with a friend and my first yoga class in months. (Imagine Al Gore doing yoga and you’ll have some vision of what I looked like.)

So now, six-days later I’m on a flight to Phoenix, where I first began this journey. I have a job interview next week and, if I get it, I’ll settle in to write the book based on Drop Me Anywhere and figure out my next move (the job is a one-year contract). If not, hopefully the Hungarian consulate will come through.

Every country is a new experience in flying and America is no different. The difference is how I look at things now. Though I had traveled a great deal prior to Drop Me Anywhere, being outside the country for an extended period (nearly ten-months), while seeing the world as an observer, changed me. I’m now seeing my country as less of an insider and more of an outside observer.

I arrive at O’Hare over ninety-minutes early. I used to arrive at the airport as late as possible as I spent so much time in them in my job in meeting planning that any time not at the airport was appreciated. What I’m now finding is that the airport is my comfort zone. With people from all over the world following signs and attempting to get to where they need to be, airports are now where I fit in best and arriving early is a bit like coming home.

I’ve checked in online yet am still required to do so at a machine (so what’s the point of checking in online?) Though I have two flights today, the machine issues only one boarding pass. When I question the agent, she explains that my next flight is operated by U.S. Air and, though they’ve merged and are one airline, that part doesn’t go through until later this month. This brings back memories of Asia where a common expression is, Same, same, but different. She further explains that I can attempt to get a boarding pass at the gate.

Next, I head over to security screening which is has a line longer than the free-food tastings at Costco on a Saturday morning. I have serious doubts about whether I’ll make my flight, let alone get the much-needed coffee and food I’d hoped to grab before the flight.

I look past the extremely long-line for Security Gate 7 (even the desk agents are surprised by the length of the line) and see a sign for Security Gate 6 at the end of the hall. I head over to it and see that there are only about thirty-people in line. As I step in line with my freshly printed boarding pass in hand, as well as my driver’s license (I haven’t pulled this out in a while), I smile at the security lady while presenting my documentation. She looks at my carry-on bag (a roll-aboard which is the smaller, European size) and says, “I don’t know if that one might be too big.”

“Um, I’ve traveled with it around the world for the last ten-months,” I respond while looking at the people both directly in front and behind me with bags the same size or slightly larger. I wonder if she’s required to say this to every ten-people who pass in order to show that she’s doing her job. She doesn’t make much of a stink and allows me to pass.

I remove my shoes, belt, sweater and bra (wait, no, I think I imagined that last part) as well as my computer and my liquids (all nicely contained in a Ziplock bag, thank you). Once I and my things go through the machine, I’m pulled aside and patted down. (Apparently my ass contains metal.) I’m then asked to hold out my hands so the lady can swab them (hoping she’s doing free manicures) and analyze them for explosive residue. Once I clear there, I gather my things and look around for my backpack, which seems to be missing. After a brief moment of panic, the man behind the x-ray machine (no not the Wizard of Oz) instructs me to follow him over to a metal table. He rifles through my backpack and, once satisfied that I’m not carrying a gun, pair of scissors, knitting needles, corkscrew, nail-clippers, numchuks, liquids, sheep-sheers, toaster-oven or, yes, the proverbial kitchen sink, he takes out his swabby thing and checks to be sure that the explosives, which the examination of my hands showed I hadn’t touched, weren’t stored in my backpack.

Finally finished with security, I grab my much needed cup of caffeine, this time in the form a much-missed cup of bubble tea which I’ve been jonesing for since Kuala Lumpur, and a muffin and head over to my gate.

Coming next, adventures in flying.

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Overcoming My Fear of Flying

12 Jun

I have a fear of flying.

“What?” you say. “Aren’t you the one who travels the world finding adventures? Surely you cannot be afraid of flying!”

With that you would be right, and wrong. I have no issues with airplanes unless I’m assigned a middle seat as I am deathly afraid of that. The fear of flying I’m speaking of is the Flying Trapeze. So, in honor of my birthday (Monday, and yes, I’m still waiting for your present) I took a trapeze lesson.

First, let me explain why birthday adventures are so important to me. I love birthdays. It’s the one holiday that’s all my own. I don’t have to share it with anybody (it must be lousy to be a twin but I guess you’ve learned to share in the womb)! And while I may not be able to remember what I did last Thursday, I remember where I was and what I did on most of my birthdays. I spent two birthdays in Alaska with the sun setting at about 2:30am and rising at about 4:00am. I spent one in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was working but ducked into a pub for a little birthday drink. One was celebrated on a Tall Ship from the 1930’s in the middle of the Caribbean while looking at the wash of the Milky Way Galaxy and wishing on five shooting stars. I rode a bike around Berlin (with clients) on a birthday a few years ago. And last year I did my birthday trip to England (read On A Wing and a Prayer) and then flew to New York to celebrate the day with my oldest friend.

After much consideration (okay, after a fleeting thought) I had a brilliant idea. Trapeze! I did a Google search and, lo and behold, while I was out of town these last two years, Trapeze U opened up in four miles from my house. My only concern was an issue with my back as of late. Oh, and the fear. Yes, there was that. I waited until the day of my birthday (again, June 10, still waiting for your presents) to see how my back would feel that day.

I woke up with my usual run to the medicine cabinet and picked up an ice pack from the freezer. After a while, my back was feeling better and I decided to commit. I pulled up the website and booked my ticket for a “Monday Night Special.” Yikes!

I spent the day getting free food (love the local restaurants that understand the importance of your own personal holiday) and running errands. I went to the gym as I though it important to be warmed up, stretched out and as light as possible.

The lesson was scheduled for 7:30pm as, at 113 degrees, the temperature is too hot to touch your steering wheel let alone swing on a trapeze. I arrived at about 7:00pm and sat in my car staring at the empty swing while trying to imagine myself up there. It didn’t look very high. ‘Yeh, I can do this,’ I convinced myself. I entered the office and was greeted with a friendly, “Hello.” I energetically responded and made some amusing quip (it’s important that these people like you as they’re responsible for whether you live or die). They handed me an info. sheet and release to sign. All was fine until I got to the line about “Your Emergency Contact.” Crap. I wrote down my sister’s name and immediately texted her to stand by her phone “just in case.”

After various others filed in and completed their paperwork, we headed outside. They hooked us all up in safety harnesses. These were tightened so that my waist was about the size of my thigh, although with my larger thighs, this is not saying much (thanks mom!). All I can think is, “Does this safety harness make my butt look big?”). They then separated us into two groups – first timers and previous flyers. There were 6 of us first timers and 5 experienced. Of the first timers, I was the oldest. The others were teenagers. Fabulous! The experienced ones consisted of teenagers, an eight year old (Azalea, known as Z), Z’s mother, Seven (yes, that’s her name) and a 51-year-old (Linda).

They asked us first timers to line up while they instructed us on positions and listening. We then practiced how to grasp the trapeze, jump and let go of the support pole (very important it’s done in this order). The instructor told us that immediately after we started our swing they would tell us to kick up and hook our knees around the bar and let go. Uh, what? Don’t I first get a chance to just swing? You want me to immediately go upside down? You’ve got to be kidding.

The experienced people went first followed by the first timers. I’m third in line. While Katie, the 13 year-old in front of me swung, I was called to climb the ladder. It’s a very narrow, metal ladder wrapped in rope. I began climbing on the outside and when I reach the first rung painted red (where the net was at, I was told to step on the inside and climb the rest of the way. This was one of the toughest parts as the ladder not only hurts your hands and feet, but we seem to have a battle over which one of us was shaking more. The

Trapeze Ladder Climb

The Dreaded Ladder

higher I climbed, the more terrified I became. ’Why can’t I be a normal person who celebrates their birthday with cake and perhaps a cocktail?’ I thought. Finally I heard a voice behind me saying, “Two more steps.” I got to the second red ladder rung and was told to hold on with both hands and step back onto the platform. This part was less scary than I thought it would be, but that’s most likely because I just wanted to get off the ladder. I stepped onto the platform and grabbed the cable thinking good thoughts and doing some yoga breathing. I asked the guy his name and immediately forgot it (really, my mind was elsewhere). I listened closer than I have ever listened in my life. Oh, and I DID NOT LOOK DOWN!

The man whose name I cannot remember (let’s call him Voldemort) hooked my safety

Ladder to Platform

Get me off this ladder!

harness to cables and told me to spread my legs (uh, I’ll just leave this one alone) and hold onto the cable with my left hand. He held onto my safety harness while using a pole to bring the trapeze bar closer to us (breathe). He then told me to grab the bar with my right hand and push my hips forward. Done. When he said, “Hep” (circus term for go) I let go with my left hand and go. This was completely wrong order and I also didn’t jump as was supposed to. Basically, I just held on and fell. Immediately I heard, “Kick your legs up.” I kicked, but my legs didn’t quite make it under the bar to hook onto it. My hands hurt. I heard the guy on the ground tell me to kick my legs forward like I’m sitting and let go. As always, I’m good at falling. I landed in the net grateful that it didn’t hurt my back. I stood up and did the crazy chicken net walk over to the edge, grabbed onto the marked spots, laid down and flipped off the net. I stood there and yelling, “I flew!” Perhaps I didn’t accomplish the whole upside down thing, but I got off that platform without delay and I swung.

We got a couple of more turns in our rotation during which I still could not quite get my legs up there. “Damn, you’re strong girl,” was the comment from Voldemort. Apparently that was my problem. I kept bending my arms and basically doing pull-ups. Ha! I can’t do one in the gym but I did about 40 on this night.

They then lined us up again to instruct us on how to hang upside down and pass to a catcher. Yes, let go of the trapeze with our legs and be held by a guy on another trapeze. There’s just one problem here – I still hadn’t hung upside down (okay, there’s probably more than one problem but that’s the first one).

I climbed up and told Voldemort that I would not be doing the catch. He seemed disappointed. Sorry, not happening. I gave the upside down thing one more try. They showed me a different way and I gave it my best shot. The only thing I accomplished was hooking my leg around my safety harness and screaming. Aah, comedy relief. Through a variety of twisting moves I unhooked my leg and hung by my hands anxiously waiting to be told to let go. Again, I’ve got the falling thing down.

One great part of the experience was bonding with the others in my group. We traded E-mails to send photos. I headed home for a dip in the pool and in the scotch.  I have not been able to raise my arms above my head for two days now. A birthday to remember.

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.

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