The new year is when we pledge to make our lives better. We promise to drink less, exercise more and make time for family. We make grand plans to "travel more."
That last resolution does not go far enough, I argue. When done right, travelling can be a life-altering experience. But the simple act of going somewhere does not necessarily improve our well-being – especially when we spend the plane ride griping about leg room and the hotel stay bemoaning the cost of WiFi. Some people spend more time telling stories about what went wrong on their trip than talking about the actual destination and what they did enjoy.
One of the primary reasons we take a vacation is to escape the stresses of life. If you replace office anxiety with pool-side whinging, you're missing the point.
So how about, in 2015, we all resolve to put the joy back into travel.
Yes, being squished sucks, $20 a day to use the Internet is a rip-off and the discomfort of economy may be part of a "calculated misery" business model, as Tim Wu described in a recent New Yorker piece. But remember: Being able to complain about those things is a privilege (business travel and family commitments excluded). If you are tweeting about terrible pizza at 30,000 feet – that means you are flying at 30,000 feet, and probably to somewhere exciting that you chose yourself. Awesome!
No one puts this better than comedian Louis C.K., in one of his classic stand-up bits. (If you've never seen it, Google it now; note it contains X-rated language.) "What happened then?" he baits fliers who rant about delays. "Did you fly through the air like a bird, incredibly? Did you soar into the clouds, impossibly? … How dare you [complain] about flying. … You're sitting in a chair in the sky. You're like a Greek myth."
I recently caught myself whining when, because of flight-credit redemption rules, I had to scrap plans to safari in Tanzania and book seats to China instead. Yes, I was complaining about getting to see Shanghai and Hong Kong and Taipei – some of the most exciting cities on the planet – all because the trip was not my first choice. That is 100-per-cent ridiculous.
In travel, many experiences and circumstances are out of our hands. Bad things happen. It's called life. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, let's focus on the good. Like the fact that more people can afford to see the world than ever before. That by choosing to spend our tourism dollars wisely, we can have a positive affect on strangers' lives. That in mere hours you can be immersed in an entirely new culture, enjoying wonders you never even dreamed existed.
We also need to take responsibility of what what we can control. It's not fair to lose it on a gate agent when your bag is 10 pounds over the weight limit and five inches too long. Or to rant online when you see an ant in your tropical hotel room. (On the flip side, rudeness is never an acceptable form of customer service.)
Over the coming months, Globe Travel will do its part to help you along the way, with stories on how to get the most from your precious vacation days – how to travel smarter. We'll share flight attendant secrets on minimizing jet lag, reveal how to pack the ultimate carry-on and more. Please tweet me topics you'd like us to cover @saradomini.
If you end up waiting on a tarmac for 12 hours, or spend $4,000 for a "poop cruise", complain all you want. Let's just keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath, then take stock of how lucky you truly are.
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