A Note on Traveling

Traveling is great — seeing new places, meeting new people, experiencing new things…it’s all pretty much grand. The exception? Getting where ever it is you want to go. There is no “best way” of travel, just one that is least frustrating. And depending on many factors, it can be anything.

Driving is mind-numbingly boring — particularly if you get stuck in traffic. And, if you’re an antsy passenger like me (my boyfriend has said numerous times that he likes me better asleep in the car than awake), you’re also constantly reminding yourself (and perhaps those around you) that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for your age group (I can’t help it, I panic). But it’s great for short distances or when traveling with multiple people.

Train travel can be nice — you don’t have to worry about being behind the wheel (stick? throttle? I’m not sure how trains are maneuvered), so you’re relatively free to move about as you please. Trains that go longer distances also have the added benefit of a food and beverage car. The downside, though, is their availability. While train travel in Europe is relatively easy to find, it’s virtually nonexistent as an option in the USA. Also, the distances are far, travel time is long, and prices get expensive. With the rise of low-cost airlines and the decrease in the number of night trains, train travel definitely isn’t my first option when planning cross-country trips.

Also, on trains you can only bring as much luggage as you can reasonably control on your own. After landing in Brussels, I had to wait for Joery to meet me at the airport so we can take the train together, since there was no way I would have been able to carry both my suitcases, my backpack, and my carry-on alone.

And then there’s flying. Time-wise, it is definitely the fastest option when going far distances. But once you add the hassles of security, luggage limitations, extra fees, limited flexibility (or flexibility at a price), and all that jazz, the pleasantness of flight begins to fade.

Joery with his confiscated snowglobe.

While Joery and I were in NYC, we spent about 20 minutes in a souvenir shop looking for the perfect snow globe to get his friend. After finally settling on one, he wrapped it and gingerly placed it in his carry-on to prevent it from being tossed around in his suitcase just to get to security and be told that it was a “security risk” and must be confiscated. Who knew?

I also had a ton of luggage that I wanted to bring back to Belgium (too much shopping at home). I finally caved and decided to just pay for an extra bag (the first is still free on intercontinental flights), but then I had to pack and re-pack my suitcases three times before I got the weight right (and, I should add, both bags were either spot-on 23kg — the maximum weight allowance — or slightly over. The satisfaction was almost worth the many times I had to balance on my parent’s bathroom scale while dangling an overweight suitcase from my hands before getting it, apparently, perfect).

Once on the plane, things aren’t so bad. I mean, occasional crying baby aside, I’ve never experienced an awful flight. Even the food isn’t so bad (British Airways has a decent chicken curry, and I loved Lufthansa’s cheese cake dessert). And now that most planes come equipped with personal entertainment options, the flight itself can go by quite quickly. The only thing that really irks me has to do with luggage (again). Since they board the back of the plane first, I’ve noticed that some people, on entry, shove their carry-on into the first overhead compartment they see before proceeding to the back of the plane. Not only is this inconsiderate to the person who now is stuck sitting in the front of the plane but whose luggage is all the way in the back (meaning they have to wait for everyone to disembark before they are able to retrieve it), it’s just lazy. If you can carry it into the plane, you certainly can haul it the extra steps to your seat.

Luckily I never had really awful experiences on any form of travel. I mean, minor car accidents, train delays, a missed flight and lost luggage (which eventually was found) aside, I’ve been pretty fortunate. When I missed my flight, though, I did break down crying in front of the poor attendant when he told me the next flight wasn’t until the next day. But I checked myself into a hotel, ordered a steak dinner, took a bubble bath and arrived at the airport about 6 hours early the next day for my new flight. And because of my breakdown, the attendant (same guy) didn’t charge me for my overweight luggage.

But I’m still looking forward to the day when teleportation is actually a possibility. Although, it’s likely that even then there will be things to complain about.

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