Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How to tell a good travel story.

Jon Carroll writes a great column. I really liked today's...

Bad things happen in good travel stories. A good trip makes a bad story. "Oh, we had a wonderful time and we ate and we slept and we enjoyed the tropical breezes and saw big blue birds." Not a great tale, although the elaboration would be even worse: "We went to a luau one night that was sort of touristy, but we had a great time. They roasted a whole pig in the sand, and we met this great couple from New Jersey, Andrew and Ann, and it turned out ..."

You ought to read the rest. Bad things happened, and it's a great story.

I'm hoping not TOO many bad things happen while I'm in Sweden. This blog is partially for my benefit (being able to look back and think "wow, that was awesome") and also for the benefit of people who know me and want to know what it's like.

John Flinn, who writes a travel column in the Chronicle says, "Spare your friends the description of the Taj Mahal. Yes, it’s beautiful. And, yes, of course, the Great Barrier Reef is awesome. Everybody knows this. And we don’t need to hear about the seventh hole at Pebble Beach. What we want to hear are stories.”

Well, people who read my blog may have to put up with my occasional description of a castle or a natural Swedish wonder. I'll try to keep it brief. Or post pictures.

"Travelers should be able to tell a good bus story, bathroom story, airplane story, animal story, hotel story, food story and guide story." Got it. So the key is that travel isn't about WHERE you went as much as it is about what you EXPERIENCE along the way.

Here are some travel stories you can read, in case mine start to get uninteresting, though I hope some of my stories over the next six months will be good reads.

21 days til takeoff! Ha en trevlig resa!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The View from 40,000 Feet...

I used to love flying. Back in the day, I was a spunky little kid who flew, by myself, ALL OVER the country to visit family and friends.

I loved everything about airports:

  • the security machine (to this day, I have never set off the walk-through metal detector. This was a huge bragging point when I was 9 or 10)
  • the little airport stores where you could buy a pack of pre-flight gum to keep your ears from popping
  • the roaring rush of the jet engines on takeoff
And once you're in the air:
  • the unlimited soda and OJ
  • Super Mario Gameboy sessions
  • turbulence! woohoo!
I don’t know when I crossed over to the “I don't like flying” side of things. I started getting nervous way before Mr. Shoe Bomber and 9/11 – it has nothing to do with that. I just can’t escape the possibility of my plane plummeting out of the sky and crash landing into the ground.

Not that it's stopped me. I fly all the time. I just don't like it.

Maybe five years ago, my godfather was taking a transpacific flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Almost halfway through the flight, he heard a huge CLUNK – not really the kind of sound you want to hear while you’re cruising at 35,000 feet. He rang the call button and told the flight attendant what he’d heard. She assured him she’d let the captain know.

Meanwhile, my godfather flipped through the channels in the on flight TV system. The plane he was on had those little TV screens installed in the back of every headrest, and he ended up on the channel with the flight map: a little airplane symbol soaring over a big ‘ol blue ocean, steadily heading towards the west coast.

While he was watching, the little plane symbol starting turning, and kept turning. As the plane did a 180, the captain informed the passengers over the PA system that they had lost an engine. I’m not sure whether I would be more upset that after 10 hours of flying I’d be right back where I'd started or that my crappy plane had LOST an engine. I think I would have stayed in Asia a little while longer.

Max’s parents once recounted a miserable story about a flight to New Orleans where their plane got struck by lightning, the turbulence was out of control, and the cabin got unpressurized, so people actually had to use those masks that pop out of the ceiling! I would have fainted, I think.

Anyway, I came across an SFgate blog the other day that addresses this flying anxiety. Apparently, I’m not alone. While my main strategy is to sleep through as much of the flight as possible, here are two ideas that I really like:

"Sometimes statistics help: Your odds of being in a plane that crashes is 1 in 1.5 million. And even then, you might be one of the survivors. If you live to be 80, that's about 26,000 days. If you got on a plane every day for four thousand years, that's about 1.5 million flights. And even then, on the day of your 1.5 millionth flight in the year 6007, you know what your odds would be of getting into a crash that day? 1 in 1.5 million."

I knew your odds of surviving a plane flight were very good, but THIS good? Heck yeah.

"Sometimes ideas help. For example, stop thinking you should do it because it's safe. Tell yourself the opposite. Tell yourself you're doing it BECAUSE it's dangerous, that you're going to do something dangerous for once, that you owe it to yourself."

That’s right. Linnea the risk taker!!! Here I come, Sweden, here I come.