Traveling during Christmas Time

winter hindrances at the airport

winter hindrances at the airport

The nature of the holiday season always gives me an obsessive cumpolsive urge to travel, since its the time of year when everyone has time off and either goes home or to some sunny destination for Christmas time. I, of course, was resisting the other voice in my head, which said “no, dont travel now, there is so much air traffic, airports are so busy, and bad weather is all over the northern hemisphere that traveling right now would be stupid.” However, the choice was much simpler than that for me, since I am completely broke and have no way of getting anywhere right now, so I stayed put in Vancouver. This has worked out great, since all my friends who have left have vacated their place to me, asking me to house-sit, feed plants or walk dogs and having access to 3 or 4 different refuges has been kind of special. However, I am so overcome by jealousy of everyone elses travels that I’ve spent alot of time traveling through other people’s pictures, reading blogs, and planning my own future travels.

I have been hearing so many horror stories about people’s traveling times over the last few days. Average delay times in JFK New York and Newark airports were reported at above 3 hours, storms all over the east coast have grounded Chicago and Boston bound planes, and worst of all, an attempted Christmas day terrorist attack from a Delta flight east-coast bound from Amsterdam could have ended fatally for hundreds, but miraculously, passengers extinguished the chemical bomb before it detonated.

Traveling any other time of the year somehow seems more efficient and safe, not only for the above reasons but also because of airfares; I could not make it back to Iceland for the holidays since flights were out of my affordability reach, over 110.000kr, about 600 Euros, when Ive paid only 56.000kr for the same flight other times of the year. A friend of mine paid $2,700 US to go from San Francisco to Cape town (its usually around $1500), and others have had to take 3 flight connections just to get from coast to coast when one, 5 hr flight usually suffices.

Going from Iceland to Canada or vice versa always makes me lose a day in transit, and the 8 hr jet lag takes a couple more to recover, so I’m generally too confused to know what day is actually christmas.It has also been nice to not have to do anything in preparation for Christmas; no packing, shopping, wrapping gifts; I have really just been able to enjoy the free time and stay put for once. Despite all these negative reprecussions of travelling, avoiding peak season is a good enough recipe for efficient travel and successfully enjoying the holidays. I can day dream about so many places I want to go and journeys I want to take, but it has been extremeley satisfying to not travel this christmas season. But, don’t get me wrong, I still look very much forward to my next travel experience, beginning Jan 11th, just after this Christmas hustle and bustle finally slows down.

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Brushing Elbows with the Stars in NYC

me and 4 tall beaus pre-agency party

me and 3 tall beaus pre-agency party

I decided it would be a good time to go to New York to try and get some down time while working on my final essays and thesis chapters due at Berkeley. I thought it was a good idea since flights were only $179US round trip from San Francisco, and I didnt have to be here to work on my school stuff since classes have been out since Dec. 3rd. It turned out to be a pretty irresponsible trip, however, since it was all play and no work.

I got to see an amazing Russian Pianist, Valdimir Feltsman, play at Carnegie Hall the first night I was in the city. I spent one entire afternoon at the Metropolitain Museum of Art and only managed to see less than half of the displays. I went to the infamous exhibition “Bodies,” and decided I didn’t like the use of deceased persons as (expensive) entertainment for tourists. However, the highlight of my trip was definitely the last night in town, where a friend of mine from Canada invited me to his work party.

Let me begin by explaining, his ‘work’ is professional modeling, and the party host was the modeling agency Wilhelmina, one of the top agencies in New York. The party was at a super chic bar in Chelsea that didnt look like much from outisde, no line, guest-list only, and an open bar once you got inside this little brick cave. I have never seen so many beautiful people in my life. I happened to be sitting right next to Ricky Martin at one point in the night, and as we were leaving, Leonardo Dicaprio brushed past us.

If that wasnt enough of an introduction to star-glamour, our VIP night carried on with one of my friends stylists taking us to Timbeland’s CD release party at a club whose entrance was right beside the stinky alleyway where hot dog vendors store their stands overnight. Justin Timberlake was performing, and later on hanging out behind a sea of oversized black security guards. Then, an after-after party took us until the wee hours of the morning, and I could barely handle the amount of eye candy and free alcohol without sticking out like sore thumb amongst some of the most important and beautiful people in the fashion industry.

It was definitely an interesting and exciting glimpse into the life of the rich and famous, and also into the complex, underground nightlife that hides in all sorts of umassuming corners of New York City.

Tips on Traveling Light

Photo by malias

Photo by malias

By “light,” I mean two things; first, you should try and reduce your ecological footpring from travel, and second, pack lightly. Trying to get away from mass tourism, over-consumptive all-inclusive, package deal vacations is something every responsible tourist should aim for. Long-haul flights to some resort in Mexico or Spain or cruising through the carribbean from tiny island to island on a floating city are some people’s ideas of travel, but this is quickly becoming an outdated, carbon-heavy form of travel appealing to people who think of a vacation as a time to party, buy lots of things (souvenirs, food, drinks), get escorted around on an air-conditioned coach bus, and be surrounded by common, western luxuries and english speakers. This has gotten us and traditional tourist destinations used to seeing sun-burnt, sometimes over-weight white tourists (retired elderly or young party folk), speaking english to absolutely everyone no matter where they are.

I would urge us all to be more responsible, immersed tourists; do not contribute to these types of waste-ful, energy-heavy, carbon emitting forms of travel. Get off the beaten track, travel slowly, see more places than just your hotel room and the beach, and, interact with the local community by learning more about their culture, traditions, and even their language if you’re brave. wander around, never stay at the same hostel or campground, take one way trips, and remember that the travel experiences is not always in the destination, but in the journey.

Being mobile is alot easier to do if you dont bring too much stuff. Its hard to bus, ferry, or drive from place to place with a huge, rolley suitcase, so stay true to the nature of “backpacking” and only bring a backpack. And, unless you are camping or hiking and need alot of equipment, simply bring an average, regular type of back pack (not a $200, 80L heavy duty bag that screams “im a tourist!”) with the bare essentials. You do not need more than a couple changes of clothes, basic hygene supplies, a camera, a good book to read or write in, and maybe a cell phone. I always find I get frustrated with having too much “Stuff,” a load of stuff I end up carrying around with me for the sake of having it, a disconcerning realization of the material dependency alot of us have developed. Remember to leave a bit of room for souvenirs, but dont buy exotic things that you suspect may harm the local environment (turtle shell jewelery, teak wood carvings, etc) and remember the best thing to take with you from your travels are simply memories.

Succingtly put, leave nothing but your footprints, take nothing but photos.