Five Reasons Americans are the BEST Tourists!

Every six months or so I see an article about the terrible behaviors of American tourists traveling abroad. As a long-time domestic traveler, I just took those at face-value since I wasn’t able to confirm or deny any of the claims made by the authors. Now that my travels have hit the international circuit, I have to say that my perspective has changed and I’m no longer sure that those articles really carried a lot of water. low toleranceAre we really as bad as they say or do the authors just have a low tolerance level for those not from their own homeland? I suspicions are towards the latter and I’ve created this post to explain why.

Americans, like any other visitor to a foreign country, are going to be lost especially in regards to local customs and behaviors that differ from their own culture. No place is every going to be exactly like home and no tourists is ever going to be exactly like a local neighbor. Therefore, I have decided to break the mold of travel writers and provide some evidence on why American are the BEST tourist in the world. I mean, we claim to the best at everything else so why not keep it going on the world stage!

1. Respecting Space
I’ve read that the United States is the land of abundance. Huge food portions, gigantic egos and cars that are bigger than some houses are just a few examples of the American obsession with size. Although, those can be seen outright, one thing we have in great abundance is personal space. According to the World Bank, Americans enjoy 5,000 square meters of open space per resident. This means that every person in the country could spend their time doing donuts in their own personal school parking lot and never hit another car. We like space…a lot!

Many popular travel destinations can be completely opposite. Not only for the country or city itself, but also for those who travel from even more dense areas. People from these places just grow accustom to being so close to everyone else which also means they have no issue violating the personal space of others. close talkerThey’re not doing it to be rude, it’s just they’re way of life. Americans on the other hand will do just about everything we can to maintain the space around us. We also do our best to extend that courtesy to everyone else. Breathing on other people’s necks, touching while riding public transit and even kneeing people in the butt who move too slow (yes, that happened to me) is taboo. If you happen to see some Americans wondering down the streets on your hometown, you can guarantee they will keep their distance. And be thankful!

2. Money to Spend
America has a lot of space while at the same time, we also have a lot of money. We are by no means the richest country in the world (despite what many actually believe) but our personal income does rank in the top five. Add the fact that our tax rate is lower than most of the other countries on the list and you will see that, in most cases, Americans have more expendable income to burn…and we love to spend it!

In 2016, Americans spent over $123 billion on international travel. Only second in the world to China. When we come to your home, we come packing…with cash! Not only do American’s spend, we will buy all the cheap, mass-produced tourist crap you can throw at us with as much of a markup as you can handle. This along with our obsession and having an “authentic” experience is where the locals can rake in the big bucks. leaning towerOf course, by our standards, authentic refers to doing the exact same thing that thousands of other people have already done (and already posted on Instagram) yet for some reason we still think it’s special. Venice gondola drivers figured this out years ago and the price tag for them paddling you down a sulfur smelling canal with 5,000 of your closest friends has skyrocketed. Be on the lookout world, whatever experience spot your locality has to offer then Americans are your cash cow…one photo at a time!

3. We Don’t Hold Grudges
One thing America is really good at is pissing off the rest of the world (there I said it!). We come by this naturally. Our country started because a bunch of old, business men got tired of drinking tea and decided to chuck boxes of it into the ocean and start a war. peaceFrom that point on, it was just one fight after another. Great Britain, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Vietnam, Iraq…you name, we’ve fought it. Yet despite all this aggression, we for some reason have a burning desire to visit the countries we have either beaten down, or those who have handed us our own asses and told us to go packing. It seems like we have a middle school mentality when it comes to warfare; you fight, get up, shake hands and move on to get a juice box!

Out of the top international destinations for American travelers, the ones where we have fought extensive and bloody wars have steadily grown in popularity. Over the last few years, American tourism to Vietnam has increased over 30% making it one of the most popular places in Asia. And it’s not just the generations to come after the war traveling to these areas. Many veterans and even tours specifically for veterans of foreign wars are the ones heading there the most. This just shows that although we may be the world bully ever now and then, we’ll eventually let our defenses down and go enjoy the destination…maybe as a way to say, “Hey man, I’m sorry!”

4. Obsession with Sanitation
Every suitcase, carryon, backpack, purse, fanny pack or satchel either carried, dragged or worn by an American tourist contains one item in common…hand sanitizer. You will never find an American anywhere in this world without at least one tube of jellied alcohol stashed somewhere in their luggage. 457821This is just a single example of how crazy we are about sanitation and the lengths we will go to so that nothing funky from somewhere else in the world enters our bodies without at least having to wade through a sea of anti-bacterial, -viral, -parasitic concoctions.

Like Starbucks, shopping malls or commercials advertising pharmaceuticals, sanitation is just part of the American lifestyle. It’s forced-fed into our brains from the minute we pop out of the womb and continues throughout our lifetime. We take this mentality with us when we travel overseas by means of anti-bacterial products, preventative medications, water filters and even face-masks on some occasions. Of course, there are plenty of locations where precautions are needed and anyone traveling to these regions should take heed. Americans just seem to take this (like everything else) to the next level. Another tip to the locals: If you want a quick hand wash without going to the restroom, just look for the nearest Yank…we got you covered!

5. Discovering our Roots
One hot-button political issue in America over the last decade has been immigration. Depending on whichever polarizing media outlet you choose to frequent, this can either be a good or bad thing. The funny thing about U.S. immigration is that if you really stop and think about it, we’re all immigrants from somewhere (and no, that is not me taking a position…). That very fact (although, hated by one side of the aisle) makes for a great reason to travel. Americans, by and large, want to discover our heritage. And we will travel far and wide to find it.

Nothing solidifies this argument more than the impressive growth in genealogy services and products sweeping their way across the U.S. 4thCousinEvery day you see a new commercial advertising a different type of service allowing you to spread your DNA on some sort of swab or piece of paper and send it back to a lab for analysis. Of course, a red-headed mick like me doesn’t have to think too hard about where my ancestors originated but for many, this is a mystery. Once their newly found heritage is revealed, the next part of the journey is to travel to your soul’s original destination and pretend like you fit in. This American sense of discovery seems like a trivial matter, but I can’t help but think the rise in new popular tourist destinations isn’t at least somehow connected to this phenomenon.

So, there you have it. Solid and not at all sarcastically opinionated reasons why Americans are the best tourists. Although, I will concede that the occasional American jack-ass will ruin our image for some unsuspecting locals, in the grand scheme of things, we’re really not that bad. Having people visit from other parts of the world, wherever it is, is always a treat for both the tourists and the hosts. The hope is that we all continue to learn from each other and create a more unified global community. Ha, ha…yeah right. Let’s just do our best not to start another war!


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Membership has its Perks!

I know it’s a tad cliché but the phrase “Membership has its perks” is never more relevant than when travel as often as I do. Obtaining even the most minimum level of status on any airline, rental car company or hotel chain transforms your experience especially in certain situations. Most associate this to getting upgraded to something better than what you reserved. However, other times it is what you are allowed to avoid which makes these programs worth it.

This week took me to Phoenix and the self-titled “America’s Friendliest Airport “, Sky Harbor International. When I arrived at gate at quickly noticed (actually heard) two separate groups who were getting ready to board the same flight. On my right was a group of women going on girl’s trip. girls guys tripThey really didn’t even have to say it because they were all wearing matching T-shirts that read “Don’t Panic, It’s Just a Girl’s Trip.” Can’t get any more subtle than that.  Although as entertaining as they were, on my left was another group. This time it was a bunch of fashion-challenged men (see Dudes) who were off on their own adventure which we later learned (again heard loudly), it was a fishing trip to Mexico. It was 6am, the collective volume had already reached club-level and I thought to myself this was going to be a long flight…

This is where the perks come in. Given my status with the airline was able to upgrade to a premium economy seat which not only had more leg room, but was also in the very front of the plan. I smiled heavily as I watched both groups march south heading towards the rear in what I could only assume was about to be a bloody-mary fueled festival in the sky. empty sinkSources in back tell me they all talked the entire flight 3.5 hours. Any I’m being generous with the word “talked.” Apparently when you’re in an enclosed space with a couple hundred other people, yelling to the person sitting right next to you is not appropriate behavior. For a moment, I felt bad that I had a nice quiet seat with an open one between me and the window and no distracting assbags to deal with. No I’m just kidding…that’s their problem!


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Airport Judgement Calls

A lot that goes into air travel is routine. Once you get into doing it more often, everything becomes second nature. How you pack your bags, the timing you set to get to the airport and, of course, the airport itself is just one routine after another. You just really don’t have to think much about anything which makes the process much less painful and it makes you a more efficient passenger.

Although there a plenty amount of good that can come out of routines, having situations arise that break them up can cause serious anxiety. routinesThings can always go wrong; there’s no way around that. Issues with transportation, delayed flights…yada, yada, yada…all can mess with your grand plan and throw you into a spiral. But it’s the times when you, yourself, could possibly cause the routine to collapse are the ones that seem to be the worst. This is what makes me bring up the idea of judgement calls and how sometimes your routine can go to hell!

There are plenty of judgement calls an individual will have to make during air travel. Some big, some little. Do you order a salad or the colossal burger with fries? Little. Do you take the stall with the broken lock because you don’t want to wiggle you and your luggage out to find another one? Again, little. Do you inform the proper authorities that a potential terrorist attack may be about to happen? Yeah, let’s call that a big one.

As you can imagine, I’m writing about something that recently happened to me before a flight. On this particular occasion, I get to the airport like usual and go through all my, and the airport’s routines before getting to the gate. I find my usual preferred seat; always facing the gate agent and never around children (don’t you judge me!) and then go about my other routine of getting out my iPad and wasting some time on Reddit before boarding.

This day, I happened to look over by the window and I saw a piece of luggage sitting all by itself. Usually I wouldn’t notice something like this but the bag was the brightest shade of pink you could possibly imagine. You couldn’t miss it. The best way to describe it would be if Hello Kitty vomited and some genius decided that this would be the perfect color for a carryon set. hello kittyAnyway, it was sitting at the end of the aisle with no one evenly remotely nearby. Immediately my mind went into panic mode thanks to the media/politician fueled rhetoric, force feeding us the idea that another attack is imminent. That and I couldn’t help but think, if ISIS was to blow up an American airport terminal, of course they would use a pink suitcase.

So here is where the judgement call comes to in play. Do I…a responsible citizen and frequent visitor to the airport…tell someone what I’m seeing or do I ignore it and go about my own business? Now, I know what you’re thinking, “hey Dr. Dumbass…tell someone. You’ve seen the billboards (if you see something, say something), there are lots of people around and you will obviously be deemed a hero if you thwart a nuclear detonation” (not that the hero thing matters to me…). report activityBut you don’t know the whole story. I was in Indianapolis…in January. It was 12 degrees outside. If I tell someone that the suspicious looking pink bag could turn this place into an ash-filled crater, I’d probably have to go stand outside for at least an hour. You see where I’m going with this?

Therefore, my options are, A: Report the bag and freeze my ass off. Or, B: Risk being blown to smithereens and…well, I guess that is about the worst that can happen here. I mean, it couldn’t be that bad, right? Given my proximity, the percussion shock would probably kill me instantly and I really wouldn’t be facing some blazing inferno (that would’ve been Terminal A…they’d been screwed). So, am I wrong to do nothing? Well in this case, my conscience got the best of me and I set off to find the nearest whatever officer. I didn’t even have a scarf and knew this was going to suck but better to be safe than sorry.

As I made my way down the terminal I looked over and noticed a young woman, sitting by herself with a backpack the identical shade of pink as the TNT filled roll aboard near the window. I stopped and asked her if that was her bag. She looked at me as if I had told her that monkeys were crawling out of her ass and in an almost inaudible tone, responded “uh huh.” its-public-shaming-time-n00bIn my head I gave her the public berating of a lifetime and shamed her into finally turning into an active participant in this little thing we call a society…but I didn’t. Instead, I gave her the look of “alright stupid” and walked away relieved by the fact that I was neither going to freeze to death or be splattered into a million pieces across southwest Indianapolis.

The moral of the story is, my good judgement along with my heightened peripheral vision saved the day even though nothing actually needed to be saved. Plus, my overall airport routine was not disrupted too much so win, win! Let’s just hope that next time I’m faced with the possibility of being the person between mass causalities and a happy ending, that we at least have good weather!



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Techies (TEC)

Since the first commercial flight in 1914, airlines have been working feverishly to improve all areas of the flight experience including the reduction of turbulence, passenger comfort (which has regressed in the last few decades) and, of course, in-flight entertainment. in flight movieIn the early years, passengers were entertained mostly through reading, lavish meals, liquor and even reeled movies that airlines start showing as early as 1921. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that many airlines installed seat-back screens for longer flights as a way to keep passengers occupied. For the shorter hops, passengers have pretty much been responsible for their own amusement which continues even today.

Luckily for fliers, technology has been supplying us with an almost endless array of options in order to keep us distracted both before and during a flight. The first portable Walkman (believe it or not, was introduced by Sony in 1979) gave passengers their choice of their own music without having to rely on the channels broadcast by the airlines. From there we moved to CD players, handheld game consoles (a Gameboy accompanied me on my first flight), portable DVD players, laptop computers and eventually the phone/tablet based devices we know today. Cuddling with multiple devicesThere are those who carry a device or two but can easily walk away from them for a good book or a friendly conversation. Others, however, are wired in. So reliant on their technological devices that every glance down at their phone or firing up of a new app is like getting a junky’s fix where they are always reaching for that first taste. These individuals are part human, part robot, roaming around the concourse surrounded by an invisible shield of Bluetooth and wireless wavelengths and wrapped in a blanket of copper wire. These are not your normal, everyday passengers; these we simply refer to as…the Techies (TEC).

Unlike some of the groups I have wrote about in the past, Techies are quite easy to spot. They can usually be found surrounded by a self-constructed fort of laptops, smart phones, tablets, iPods (if that’s still a thing) and a sea of chargers, Bluetooth devices, speakers and other accessories. These flyers come to the airport equipped with the latest and greatest devices which enhance productivity, make the time pass quicker and limit the need for any sort of human interaction. You can usually spot them sitting on the floor huddled around outlets, making sure that every device is at optimal level before boarding. christmas vacation outletThe new outlet hubs which many updated terminals now employ brings forth a whole new level of power for the Techies as they now can charge all of their devices simultaneously and do so from the comfort of the gate seating area. This revolution also highlights one their best superpowers which is the ability to ignore the deep rage burning from the other passengers who just want to get a few minutes of juice so that they can listen to a podcast or text onboard even after it’s no longer safe to do so. The Techies can move past the eyes burning holes into the backs of their heads or the passive aggressive comments from those around them. It’s all about the electricity for the Techies…the lifeblood of their obsession.

The electrical sexcapade doesn’t end in the terminal; it continues for the duration of the flight, from the boarding process all the way to baggage claim. headphonesTechies are usually sporting large, Mickey Mouse looking headphones that are designed to keep out any distraction including in-flight instructions or crew requests. If you’re ever seated next to one them, be prepared to assist the flight attendant with a quick elbow during the beverage service. They’ve also been known to mentally miss a flight altogether as they are so engulfed in the matrix that the plane can take off and land and they never knew we ever left the ground. I’ve experienced this phenomenon personally yet not at the hands of my devices. It’s usually a few glasses of wine and a pharmaceutical that does the trick!

One good thing about the Techies is they usually keep to themselves. With the exception of the panic attack that can happen when a crucial piece of wiring goes missing, this group is one of the more pleasant to be around. The-Bing-Bang-TheoryThey can go unusually large amounts of time without needing to hit the lavatory which makes them the perfect seat mates. This of course is probably due to hours of Call of Duty or World of Warcraft in their parents’ basement which is great training ground in this domain. They’re also a helpful bunch. In our new, smartphone based world, there’s an app for everything and the Techies know them by heart. Want to find a highly rated restaurant for your layover…there’s an app for that. Need the fasted route from one gate to the next…there’s an app for that. Interested in writing a poorly written blog about the people you see in airports…yep, there’s an app for that too! Anything you need is just a download away and the Techies are a dictionary of information when it comes to this part of the travel experience.

The Techies actually represent the new normal of airport life. everyone phonesTechnology has allowed for individualism to take hold in just about every public setting that still exists. Look around the terminal and you will see it slowing taking hold of everyone in sight. Kids, parents, business people, flight crews, even the elderly, all have their necks bent downward, engulfed in their own little pixelated biosphere while the world goes on around them. Although the Techies will always be the first to have the newest technological terror to hit the market, the rest of the population will continue playing catch-up and follow suit as new innovations take us to places we never thought possible.

So play, watch, listen, work and create on my Techie friends. We’ll be right behind you…every electronic step of the way!


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Vacationers (VAC)

The days of the annual family trips are upon us and airports are filled with small platoons of sun-seeking travelers dressed in their best polyester, Hawaiian print shirts and loud, obnoxiously colored flip flops. hawaiian shirt dayThe air reeks of coconut and sunscreen and the giggles of the overly tanned moms and daughters can be heard has they sip from their virtually virgin Pina Coladas. The family vacation which is a tradition that dates back to  after WWII is as American as gun ownership and apple pie. However, for those of us who still have to use the skies as a place of business, the Vacationers (VAC) can be nothing less than wolves in khaki-colored clothing!

Although the vacationers share many similarities to other groups on this site, they have enough unique traits that make them a separate category and therefore open to analysis. Also, not all vacationers are families and can consist of couples, friends, large tour groups and even loners who choose to see the world on their own. But because of their lack of airport experience and general disregard for anyone else around them, they are open to scrutiny and ridicule alike!

There exist two types of vacationers in the airport universe: Outbound and Inbound. batman two faceBoth of them are the same people, on the same trips, with the same ugly and out-of-date luggage, but they are completely different personalities when they hit the terminals. Outbound vacationers are usually upbeat, full of hope and excited at  even in the most stressful parts of flying like security lines or baggage claim. They glow with enthusiasm as their destination is something they’ve probably been looking forward to for a long time and its finally upon them, just a few hours away. Outbound vacationers spend money like its water. Snacks for the flight, souvenirs at the airport and they even splurge on the inflight booze just to keep their heads in “vacation mode” at 30,000 feet.

Inbound vacationers…well, they’re a little different. The depression of knowing their time of leisure is over and they’re heading back to the hell that is a meaningless and mundane job casts a huge shadow on this group as they move through the airport corridors. after vacation 2The smell of desperation and aloe engulf them as they stride with a thousand-yard stare leaving a trail of sand and misery. They watch every dime and are known for violent outbursts when the slightest delay keeps them from making it home right on schedule. Any relaxation that this group accumulated on their trip immediately evaporates the minute they hit the tarmac. The only reminder of better days comes in the form of slightly out-of-focus, iPhone photos and the temporary tattoos that are slowly fading away from their sunburned skin.

Vacationers can be further divided by sheer numbers. friends 1Couples are easy and are barely noticeable outside of the obnoxious honeymoon bound, newlyweds who insist on holding hands throughout the entire flight and feverishly try to talk gate agents into an upgrade (BTW, that never happens; thanks a bunch “Friends”). Loners too can be incognito with the exception of the chatty, world traveler who insists on peppering anyone who will listen with their endless stories of being chased by a pack of Baboons in Africa or swimming naked in the Danube with some fellow hostel guests who don’t speak English (why do all their stories involve naked people?). Families have been thoroughly covered (see the Griswolds) but vacations do bring out another whole dimension of insanity. The sheer thought that packing up a herd of children or teenagers, putting them on an uncomfortable, ear-popping, recycled-air, flying minivan and thinking they will by some miracle behave, makes me want to sprint to the near Urologist.

Tour groups have emerged as the new cluster-fuck of humans to avoid if it all possible. In fact, tour agencies now make up the third largest segment in the travel industry behind air transportation and accommodations. Imagine hordes of geriatrics or foreigners, wearing matching T-Shirts and large, straw hats, strolling at a snail’s pace as you race to make a connection. walking_dead_what_lies_ahead_zombie_hordThese groups come in like clowder of cats, wandering off into oblivion, needing constant herding and all wholeheartedly unprepared for any process regarding boarding a flight. There is usually a guide of some sort trying his or her best to keep them as a cohesive unit but themselves rendered with a look that makes you believe they have just rethought every decision they’ve made since college. If you get behind these groups in the security line, then go ahead and pop open your in-flight entertainment because you’re going to be there for a while. Hopefully their disruption of the airport force means they are getting ready for an experience of a lifetime which is little solace to those left in their wake.

Vacationers do mean well and enter the airports usually in a good mood which is nice to see amongst the crowds of annoyed frequent fliers. They’re stimulating the economy (or economies of wherever their heading) and for the most part are trying to inject a little joy into the world one trip at a time. So in essence, throw on your best floral prints and Jesus sandals and go out to find your own little piece of heaven. The rest of us will watch and judge, while planning a time soon enough where we will join you for a vacation of our own.


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38 Miles, Broken French, and Beaucoup du Vin Rouge: Our Week in Paris!

The universe has a way of messing with us. Some people think it comes from a Devine source while others think it’s just purely coincidence. Either way it happens to us all eventually and we either deal with it or just give up. This was my thinking about a month before my wife and I took our first trip to Paris wondering if some force was either trying to stop us or just throw enough obstacles in our way so that we properly earn our ticket east. Whatever was going on I can now say…with all respect to everyone’s beliefs, dogmas and philosophies…EAT ME UNIVERSE, WE FUCKING MADE IT!

McDearmon-MuttA few weeks ago, I had started a post about a trip to Nashville, Tennessee which was abruptly ended with the passing of my grandfather. Stewart “Mutt” McDearmon died on April 19, 2017. Although it was an extremely hard time and difficult seeing someone larger than life as Mutt laying in a casket, we can all be thankful that he had a great life, a loving family and will leave a legacy that can never be matched.

One thing grandpa would never want us to do would be to grief to the point of missing an experience that he was never to have on his own. On top of losing a relative, we also battled bronchitis, a sick pet and my wife almost being denied entry into Canada (more on the Canada thing later). After all that, I’m happy to report that we did in fact make it to Paris and back in one piece.

My travel posts usually start at Indianapolis (IND) but for international trips it’s just as easy (and less expensive) for us to fly out of Chicago (ORD). We booked an Air Canada flight several months ago after seeing a deal via the Points Guy. BLAME_CANADAWhen trying to check in the day before the system kept asking me for our Canadian permanent residency card numbers which of course we do not have. Believing it was a glitch in the system I opted to wait until we arrived at O’Hare and deal with it there. Of course, no glitch. Somehow Air Canada decided my wife was a Canadian citizen and had her on the “no board” list until she could provide proof. The agent even called the consulate which determined this was an error and then we had to fix it with the airline. Luckily it all worked out and she was cleared but talk about an odd way to start your vacation!

The flight over was uneventful except for the unexpected complimentary wine which we eagerly took part. A few glasses down and we were out for the overnight portion of the trip. img_2389The Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport (at least the terminal we traversed) was nothing to write home about but I didn’t really care. I was just anxious about getting through customs seeing we had flown in the day after a heated Presidential election. I thought we would be there for hours but the agent gave me one look, stamped my passport and sent me on my way. Actually, I think she had to use the bathroom and she wasn’t going to let a nervous American cause her to shit her pants! After that we hopped in an Uber and headed to the city of lights (or love or whatever).

I have found that when people ask you about a trip like Paris, they always start with “did you go to ?” I’ll simplify this by listing the destinations we actually visited:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Luxembourg Palace and Gardens
  • Paris Aquarium
  • Bois du Boulogne
  • Cathedral de Notre Dame
  • Isle St. Louis
  • The Louvre Museum (although it was closed for Victory in Europe Day)
  • Does the original Chanel Store count?Snapseed

I’m sure there are many people who visit Paris for less time than we did and have a much longer list but destination sightseeing is just not our thing. One thing you may notice is that there are no museums on the list. We don’t have anything against art, and especially the quality you can find in a place like Paris, but one little detail prevented us from making them a priority. THE WEATHER WAS FLIPPING GORGEOUS! How could you go indoors knowing that it was between 65-70 degrees (fahrenheit) and sunny outside.

SnapseedWe had the most fun just exploring new neighborhoods, sitting in random cafes enjoying a nice snack or beverage and just soaking in the culture of a great city. We specifically enjoyed wondering around what seemed to be an “old money” area in the 16th arrondissement (close to Bois to Boulogne) and the college town atmosphere in the 6th near Luxembourg. These contrasting neighborhoods along with the many more we traversed brought our experience full circle and allowed us to get a small glimpse into the diverse culture of the city.

For those who may be planning their own trips or if you’re just interested in my silly interpretations of the world around us, here are a few things I learned in Paris:

Contrary to popular belief (in the U.S. at least), Parisians are not rude. SnapseedThis is just one of those cultural differences that not enough people investigate before drawing a conclusion. Take for example going to a restaurant. In America, you are constantly waited on. You’re greeted promptly, given time to look over the menu, asked if you’re doing OK multiple times and then eagerly ushered out the door. In Paris it’s not this way at all. We were always greeted but never hassled to make an order until we prompted the server we were ready. If we needed anything, we had to ask and not just wait for them to come around again. And when we were done, we could sit there for hours if we didn’t ask for the check. From what I gathered, by bothering us during our meal/snack/drinks/whatever, that would be considered rude to the French. Once you realize this you’ll see that it’s just a different perspective than you may be used to.

If you speak bad enough French, anyone will address you in English. One of the tips I heard over and over was that most Parisians speak English but are appreciative if you at least try and talk in their native tongue. Therefore, in preparation for the trip, I dusted off my college level French by signing up for Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. In my head, I was fully prepared for speaking slowly and generally being understood by most people I encountered. That wasn’t the case. My words may have been on par but my accent wasn’t even close. My attempts seemed the frustrate more than communicate so eventually, just about every server/hostess/hotel concierge would just stop me and say “what do you want?” I did feel a sense of pride when I was able to have an even elementary French conversation and hope that this effort was not in vain. Either way, communicating was not an issue and am at the same time both happy with my performance and disgusted by the U.S. educational system.

American men need to come here and learn how to dress. Do I really need to write this? AfflicitionI mean, let’s call a spade a spade! I recognize that I am not the most fashionable person but I at least try to dress presentable and in clothing that is the correct fit. Unfortunately, that is not the mindset that prevails in the American male psyche. Pants that are too long, suits that are too big, camo, plastic shoes, Affliction t-shirts…where does it end? Parisian men really hit the mark on this one without having to work too hard. Even those in casual wear were put together, simply but in a way that displayed they had put some thought into the outfit before walking out of the door. The professionally dressed men were in well-fitted suits or sport coats supporting a “third” piece like a scarf or pocket-square. All-in-all, any man could take a lesson from the fashion in Paris and up their wardrobe without having to go on a spending spree. Of course, since I was there…I went on a spending spree!

Smoking dominates the landscape. With all the good things to say about Paris, the one obvious negative is the sheer amount of smokers in the city. Mad-Men-Don-barEverybody smoked; it was unavoidable. Every café was filled with smokers wall-to-wall and to the point where you eventually got used to it. Luckily the government was smart enough to ban smoking inside (or at least I think that’s the deal) so you could escape the second-hand clouds of death by walking through a set of doors. But again, the weather was great and we wanted to be outside so it was something we just tolerated for the time being. I can only imagine their lung cancer rates must be through the roof and hopefully they have a healthcare system that can sustain this habit. But again, it’s a cultural difference and not my place to judge. Of course, by the end of the week we felt left out and were tempted to start sparking up. Luckily the feeling passed and we didn’t pick up any bad habits.

Overall, our timg_2527rip was great! On the way back we were seated near some Griswolds who’s kids (ages around 18 months to 3 years) never slept or stopped moving in general. I actually started feeling bad for them. Here we are, on a flight or almost 8 hours and these two are constantly having to shift the kids around, get up and walk them around the plane and, as best as they could, try to get them to not scream bloody murder every five seconds. They did a pretty good job but it had to be exhausting (in their honor I decided to take a nap!). We flew through Montreal in route to Chicago which was a nice airport and our welcome back to the (North) American way of life. A meal larger than a family a four could handle, constant service at the airport restaurant and English…oh sweet English!

Thank you Paris for a wonderful time and we hope to visit again soon. There is much more for us to explore so we both decided that this would not be our last trip to the area. Au Revoir my new French friends…until we meet again!

Griswolds (FAM)

In John Hughes’ 1983 hit comedy, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ellen Griswold (played by Beverly D’Angelo) tried without success to convince her naive but determined husband, Clark (played by Chevy Chase), that it would be easier if they fly to Wally World in Southern California than to make a 2,000 mile trip in the car. Clark fired back by saying “nothing worthwhile is easy” which is good advice unless of course you are planning to drive cross country with a car full of kids. Although I do not have any actual experience in this front, flying as a family has to be on the of the more stressful things to do. If only more families took Clark’s advice and opted to take their trips on the road instead of by air, we wouldn’t have the always entertaining and often irritating group of passengers now and forever known as…the Griswolds!vacation 1

Griswolds are a group that you cannot escape. They can be heard, seen, experienced, and sometimes smelled everywhere in an airport…from the parking lot, to the gate, and especially on the plane. Whether they come from the upper echelon of Santa Monica and suburban Connecticut or from the hollers of Appalachia and West Texas, Griswolds all share certain characteristics that make them a unique group within the airport population. They’re actually quite fascinating which makes this even more fun to write!

The first characteristic is chaos. Pure, unadulterated, CHAOS! They don’t try to be this way…it just comes with the territory. Imagine attempting to wrangle a herd of wild boars into a straight line on a lake of thin ice, all while trying not to fall through. This would just be just a nugget of what families have to go through in the airport. Evil_minions_by_minions_fans-d6txvphNot only do they have to get through the normal hassle of the airport routine, they also have to constantly be on the lookout for a wandering child, somehow navigate the troop through security, get to the gate all in one piece and keep the kids entertained enough to avoid a meltdown. Recently actor Ryan Reynolds stated on a Good Morning American interview, “I would rather drink a piping hot bowl of liquid rabies than get on a plane with my two children.” This probably sums up the sentiment of many parents although most will keep their frustrations to themselves and silently die a little bit inside with every trip.

Another characteristic of the Griswolds is volume. Let’s not beat around the bush, I mean high levels of volume which seems to be a necessary part of their everyday existence. Griswolds are loud in every area of an airport. Yelling to each other in the security lines is a common sight but it does not stop there. Yelling happens in the restrooms, at the dining areas, and even during the boarding procedures while others are trying to hear the flight attendant’s instructions. Loud noisesThe parents yell at the kids, the kids in turn yell back, it’s an exhausting pattern. Of course, they’re also loud on the plane. Everybody on a plane cringes at the site of a pack of Griswolds heading their direction. It brings forth imagines of a baby crying non-stop or a projectile vomiting toddler who for some reason always feels the need to kick the seat in front of them. Without knowing it, the poor Griswolds are the most feared and hated people on a plane. Even when they are cool, calm, collected and not bothering a soul.

The newest generation of Griswolds have introduced the characteristic of documentation. For some reason, they feel it necessary to document, via photographs, every part for the precious child’s flying experience. I’m writing this while watching a couple take an endless amount of photos of their son on the parking shuttle. share on FBIt’s 5:30am, cold, dark and everybody else generally has a murderous look on their face, yet these parents feel it’s a Kodak moment. I could only imagine the photo album of this trip: Here is little Johnny riding face first on the moving walk way; oh, there’s dad spilling his coffee on himself while chasing a three-year-old down the terminal; hey look, here’s mom flirting with the pilot while dad stuffs fifteen carry-ons in the overhead bin. It’s all priceless and deserves to be shared with the rest of the world. I don’t see an end to this practice so we might as well get used to it or get better at photo-bombing…either way, it’s here to stay.

Griswolds have a certain look that is unique and makes the fashionistas (a group I’ll discuss later) want to cry in agony. The male members are usually equipped with some sort of duffle bag, slung over their oversized (and usually stained) clothing and rounded out with a pair of unnecessarily large and dirty tennis shoes. The females come with whatever outfit Pinterest suggested would be best for flying that week. Most of the time this consist of black tights and a fleece jacket or the always popular mom jeans, a solid button down top and loosely threaded polyester scarf. ShoesThrow on some pleather boots and we’re ready go! The children surprisingly are usually the most fashionable of the groups. Dressing up your kids as American Girl Dolls has become a new obsession which doesn’t end in the terminal. The kids also come wearing (insert any cartoon character) backpacks filled most likely with their mom’s underwear or the dirty laundry. The still popular sneakers with wheels on the bottom are still around (I can’t believe a class action lawsuit hasn’t put an end to that yet). Nothing beats waiting to board while playing airport Frogger with a dozen children zipping from one side of the gate to the other.

Not everything about Griswolds is negative and in no way am I suggesting they’re a bad group. In many ways, they can be very entertaining which breaks up the monotony of the airport routine. If you ever catch yourself in a game of peek-a-boo with a kid a few rows ahead of you, it really makes you stop and think about the simplicity of life and that sometimes it’s fun to just stop and be silly for a while. The Griswolds are also exposing their children to a now normal part of our society. As I stated in my introductory post, airports are made up of a diverse population of virtually every racial, social, occupational, and socio-economical group. I believe this is an important thing to expose children to early on in order for them to better adapt to the world we now occupy.

Also, nine out of ten times, the Griswolds are the model passengers. I guess as a way to socialize their children, the Griswolds display a great amount of discipline. They rarely make a big fuss and mostly keep to themselves throughout the entire process. Of course, no parent can regulate or even contain the occasional temper tantrum, but that’s to be expected from anyone who enters a public domain such as an airport. putting up with shitFor those of us who are mere observes, it’s best to just keep calm, let them handle their own, and go about our business. I’ve seen too many people get upset because of a crying baby or squirmy toddler. This only adds to the stress the parents are already experiencing so if you are one of those people…get over it. Take the advice of the ancient Persians who wrote of human suffering by offering up a simple yet powerful statement, “This Too Shall Pass!”

So there you go Griswolds! Turn down the metallic pea wagon queen family truckster and head to the airport for some good old fashion family air traveling fun. Ignore the rolling eyes and avoid the business folks cursing on their phones because the airport is your oyster too. Just sit back, relax, and…“Hey we’re missing someone” “Dad where’s the charger?” “I need to go to the bathroom!” “Have you seen my shoes?”…enjoy the flight?