Category: Uncategorized

The trip out of blue and learning to be accepting of the journey.

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I love to travel. But….

I get up at the crack of early morning before even a hint of daylight catching a 5:30 Westjet out to Edmonton. It was not the trip I had planned this week and it left me in a crunch to get back as not to disrupt other plans. The whole mess starts with an email that gets followed up with a phone call late afternoon and the dread sets in that I will need to get my plane ticket right away. Booking almost any last minute flight in Canada and the word cost effective goes out the window. So I booked my overpriced round-trip Westjet flight and got on that early morning flight.

Here I was about to become the traveler I dislike! The flyer that just does not want to hop on that aircraft and the destination that explodes no excitement or suspense. I was as I started this trip the traveler I don’t ever want to become. Grumpy and Unhappy. The mindset of the traveler is everything!

Had I been going to close a deal or off to accomplish something that was exciting I would have been pumped and ready to go.

Unable to sleep on the trip back, I ponder how much time has been wasted due to the issues with my client and how I could avoid trips like this in the future.

As I arrive back home and I wait for the aircraft doors to open, It seems like it was longer than the flight itself. I am not the kind of person who needs to get home, but today felt like it was a waste of time itself. There are lots of days that I don’t accomplish anything, but spending money on a day like today sucks, and honestly anyone who knows me knows I don’t like spending / wasting money.

Finally, I think I understand the reasoning behind the feelings most business travelers have.

Most of us don’t take the time to enjoy the journey we are on everyday. Some people are dead set on carrying on as normal never challenging themselves to take a second thought, lugging 3 bags for a 2 day trip and checking luggage every trip frustrated with damaged, lost or late luggage. Allowing airline personnel or a TSA officer to shape their own attitude for the remainder of their journey.

Most of the things that can happen every trip we really have no control over or when we do we blame others.

My secret most important skill set of a good business traveler is to shrug off the simple stuff and always find something to look forward to and enjoy on your trips. Something I failed to do in Edmonton, really quite easily corrected with a cab ride to the amazing Muttart Conservatory and a cup of coffee from the Elm cafe Downtown.
So many of us are eager to complain about our trip and how it has drained us, how often do we actually sit and enjoy the journey. A simple mindset change could allow you to actually be recharged with the journey and not worn out.
Lets all propagate more blissful feelings than negatives ones on our journeys ahead.

###The picture was taken on a really warm day at a folk music festival this year in Winnipeg, at the entrance gate there was a guy holding a sign “free hugs”. These ingenious girls just shrugged off the sweaty hug wielding man and felt everyone needed free shrugs! Sometimes in life bad moments happen that just need to be shrugged off to open up yourself to enjoy the time that is now.

Toronto’s Airport train is here.

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This week I have been flying in and out of YYZ a few times and was super excited to see this open; sadly it’s stupid expensive, but it beats most of the other options.  I paid $27.50 for a quick easy ride to union station with fast WiFi and electrical plugs, now if you know Toronto it’s about $24.50 cheaper to take the airport rocket to kipling station vs The UP express to union. See reading this blog can really save you money!

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But if you’re like me and enjoy getting work done on your way to places then this is the only way to ride!

Go visit Greece

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I am not Greek, if I had been born in the Mediterranean paradise; the outcome would have been voting down the existing IMF austerity proposal, because no appears to be the most rational choice, both, in principle, and in practice.

There are some really solid reasons not to surrender under bullying to one’s sovereignty, and that is exactly what the Hellenic people did. Had the vote been yes to EU’s latest monetary deal it would have been a surrender to lasting economic controls of epic proportions for decades. The vote was if anything a vote of wanting change or hope to the present disastrous path.

Greece has been a punching bag for the political-economic gold fear mongers and Republican pundits ever since the beginning of the current economic crisis, what the talking heads in CNBC forget is that the great nation of the United States of America at no time chose to give up its right to print and control its currency.

The debt problem in Greece reflected negligent lending as well as socially irresponsible borrowing, kind of like the fiscal crisis in America for without tremendous flexibility; the fed would never have kept its head above water. So why do we expect a little country like Greece with a history of economic problems to handle this and in any case the Greeks have paid for their government’s sins many times over with budgetary controls over the course of the crisis.

 

The International Monetary fund had already concluded that without serious debt-relief Greece repaying its debts that it should not be loaned in the first place was nothing more than a dream. The sticking point has always been Greece asking for its debt relief to be a permanent solution not only another quick fix, so why would we expect these people to vote yes for decades of economic burden with absolutely no end in sight.

Only to put some of this into perspective the decline in value of Chinese’s equities in the past three weeks has reached almost $3 trillion, about 10 times Greece’s gross domestic product in 2014.

The monetary rescue would have entailed another round of heavy cuts to government and social services and over-the-top tax increases, with no debt restructuring leaving bankers to direct government how it should continue to manage its own country.

 

Some have suggested that the deal was engineered long-term to leave the country in even worse shape, and here’s why.

The Greek Merchant Navy is the second largest taxpayer in the nation; maritime logistics is arguably the oldest form of occupation of the Greeks and a key element of the current and ancient economy. There are at least 16% of the world’s tonnage being moved by a ship under their national flag, and the proposed taxation changes would have driven this sector full steam ahead to other countries from Cyprus to Bermuda in an effort to reduce their tax burden. However, tourism is the main non government employer and the cost of continued economic controls for years to come will do nothing to help this breadwinning sector grow.

If the nation remains part of the euro zone but starts to print and issue its own fiat currency again the opportunity for long-term investment and growth could leave the nation in a positive economic position a decade after if outside investors could be seduced with incentives and tax cuts.

There is still a chance for a worthy debt reduction deal out of the EU, but I feel the euro has more to lose long term then the people of Greece do, when setting the precedent of abandoning the euro. Once this happens, I can’t understand why some of the other countries would not follow.

So what happens long-term is anyone’s guess, but I feel watching the talking heads on CNBC makes me wonder what would they have to say if China was demanding serious economic cuts to the US government spending and banking controls. I can’t imagine Jim Cramer being willing to be supportive of such a disaster.

 

If your worried about this stop now, you really should be more worried about China’s economy.

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On a travel hacking note, I have been researching Greek based vacation providers this week. So should you, Tourism is liquidity and the nation needs that now more than ever. Aegean is a star alliance member and its running a 20% off sale on some already low fares. Greece is beautiful!

American Express Canada kills churning ability for most of their cards and it’s a total disaster.

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This week has seen some setbacks for the serious Canadian travel hackers and American Express is the worst of it. It’s been on the flyertalk forums for months and then I noticed this on the footnotes for the Amex gold rewards card on the Canadian site.

“ for current or former American Express®Gold Rewards Cardmembers, we may approve your application, but you will not be eligible for the welcome bonus. “

Over the last few months, I have noticed talk of Amex Canada ending the ability to churn their cards over short periods of time, but I was not expecting the time frame to be a lifetime. Personally, I was expecting something along the lines of a 6 or 12 month period between cards to cut down the amount of extreme gaming of the system that is taking place. I can understand that being a good business decision for American Express, but a lifetime is a bit too much really.

Churning cards is the process of applying for a credit card to get the bonus points and then cancelling them once you have earned the bonus points or welcome points.  Last year, most of the points I earned came with an annual fee waived for the first year and I would cancel that card before the end of that year.  I was not really churning cards too heavy or fast for the points but I was hopeful to get some churning done this winter.

 

If you have a churn in process with Amex, you should contact their customer service line asap.

 

Things to keep in mind are that we as Canadians could see a lull in lucrative credit card signup bonuses and patience could be a rewarding virtue here. We could see a number of signup bonus offers rise after the dust settles and positive things could change, so don’t despair.

 

I feel that American Express could have done a better job in controlling the gaming by increasing the minimum spending on these cards. That would have generated more revenue without killing the program. It would have been a better way to continue this profitable operation for both cardholders and American Express. Amex is expensive on retailers and accepted almost nowhere when it comes to local business; the additional points made the effort worth travel hackers time and energy. In general I have been less impressed with Amex when it comes down to overall point earning and customer service.

 

Some good news shop.ca has a 15x Aeroplan bonus being run for Canada day so be sure to check that out.

keep calm and carry on.

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The larger the bag the worse things get.

It was 2004 and my second trip to Toronto, I was not a first time flyer but looking back I really was inexperienced. I sat at the base of the carousel waiting like a lost puppy for my bag. My laptop and everything I needed for the week ahead was in it. As the last of my fellow passengers came and went collecting their bags as I just became dumbfounded. Feeling the confusion and dread take over; I with my puppydog face started seeking out help somewhere, finding someone to help me from Westjet was the hardest part. You should have seen me a lost puppy dog wandering around asking who I can talk to, with a little luck I found an actual airline employee. She was kind and respectful of the situation but really bloody unhelpful, contact numbers exchanged I left the airport empty handed.

The next day after going shopping for the basics and getting some clothes I got a phone call from Westjet saying they have tracked down my bag full of everything I needed and it was on its way to Toronto. She was really uncomfortable telling me that my bag was in ah kelowna…… huh?

Just before my departure at the airport I once again got my bag and checked it headed home to the prairies. Did I really need all of that shit l lived without?

Both Delta and Westjet are great airlines that happen to have one big thing in common, both lost my bags, fitting how they’re both trying to create there own little useless alliance. I have a little hatred for the Atlanta based airline even when I am not sure they deserve it even after messing with my reward miles. Westjet at least got my bag back, Delta on the other hand did a failed magic trick with mine but could not make the rabbit reappear.

I don’t agree that people should be allowed to carry on stupidly large amounts of stuff, but I am sick of hearing from bloggers and airlines that the carry-on’s should be something we start charging for because after all the experience I have had I hate checking bags. Flight crews are the first to see and complain about the issues with carry on bags, but almost all flight crews carry on their baggage!!! I can’t imagine a pilot or crew member getting a good sleep after losing his luggage and has only what he was wearing on the journey up at the start of a 5 day tour. Most of the time I do travel with just one bag, but on longer or work trips I have checked a few pelican cases of gear and never lost them. I am always thinking of ways to make my bag lighter and cringe when more than one is required but it does happen.

It was a real learning experience back then losing my stuff, now I just keep calm and carry it on when ever I can! I do expect the airline to screw stuff up.

 

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Next week I will be back in Winnipeg and then Edmonton.

The picture was taken in Toronto as I walked with my one bag to the downtown airport. Keep calm and carry-on!