Earlier this week, I took my last fight of 2014 (Thank goodness it is for fun and not work!). As that trip comes closer, a few thoughts come to mind:
I travel a lot; Maybe not as much as everyone, but if I were to guess, more than 97% of the rest of America. Delta tells me that I have done about 100,000 in this year alone. As you read that last sentence, you will most likely fall into one of two groups: “Wow, look at all of the free trips you can take” or “Bummer, you missed Diamond”. For me, it just means I get to board first, sit closer to the front and will have overhead space for my carry ons.
In reality, there really are only two groups that are happy with that number above: Delta Airlines and Hilton Hotels (my family is not even close to being in the top 10 of “happy groups”). When I travel, I am as loyal as I can be. I certainly won’t do it to my detriment or if the price is way out of whack. But, like most people, I want to get points, earn status and have the opportunity to enjoy life (with my “upgrades”) and of course, with my family. Since the first frequent flyer program was put into place in 1972, it has been a huge success to not only the travel industry, but also to the traveler. Of course, Delta and Hilton want me to use their services 100% of the time, and by offering these inceptives it sure doesn’t hurt. So I will take what I can get when I travel.
But truth be told, for me after all of these years of traveling, I just want to get home. Yes, I like the perks, I love the upgrades, but I like sleeping in my own bed next to my wife and kissing my children goodnight more.
For a number of years, I used to fly into the Rochester NY airport fairly frequently. I always caught the last flight of the day out of Atlanta so I could start my day bright and early and try to get as much in as I could. Inevitably I would land after midnight, and struggle to get out of the airport before everything closed. Each time I landed, I would pass by the same chairs above. Not once did I see anyone sitting on them; They just seemed to sit there in the distance, never being used. One day I decided to take a series of images of those chairs (and try not be arrested by TSA). The above image has become one of my favorite. I can’t tell you why, but I enjoy the solace of it. It seems to represent (to me) those dark times and loneliness of travel.
I have certainly led a fortunate life. I have had the opportunity (at last count) to travel to over 28 counties on 5 continents and seen things that most people can only imagine or at least see once in their life. Most of this has been because of my work and because many years ago I had to learn Spanish as a second language for a job I was hired to do. Truth be told, if I didn’t speak a Spanish, I don’t think I could have had the chance to do half of what I have done.
That 2nd language did not come easy. I had taken Latin, French and Spanish in school and failed them all. Truly failed them. In fact, my Spanish teach told me in my sophomore year of high school that if I got out at the semesters end, and promised never to take Spanish again for the rest of my life, she would pass me. I got out of the class (and passed) and let time pass by. Jump forward six years and (long story short) I was offered a job in Peru. I took the opportunity and moved very far south.
If I wanted to survive, or at least get around, I had to learn how to speak Spanish. For the first three months of my time there, I sat in a class, for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week learning nothing but Spanish. It didn’t happen overnight, but for the first time I started to understand how language worked. I understood verb conjugation, sentence structure and how to form a somewhat coherent conversation. Ultimately moving out of Lima to the small northern city of Chimbote made it even more important that I had the capability to speak the local language. After a long six months, I was able to become fairly fluent and get rid of most of my American accent with a lot of effort.
Little did I know it then, but that opportunity, that I thought was going to be “just a job” had taken me to places and allowed me to do things that I could never have dreamed of. Being able to think in a different way and have more of a worldly view has truly, in my opinion, allowed me to be more successful at what I do for a living. Could I have done all of that without being able to speak a 2nd language? Sure, but I don’t think it would have been as much fun.
So what do I expect in 2015? Hopefully less travel (though I’m not counting on it), more family time (I am counting on that) and more adventure. And when will that adventure start? January 1, 2015!