Tuesday, July 3, 2018

No Holds Barred: There’s No Place Like Home!

by Blair Sabol

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t flown the “friendly skies” in over five years.
What is really going on with travel nowadays? From the way people dress, to parts falling off airplanes, to horrific TSA stories. Imagine a man peeing on the seat next to you, or a pet snake released up the aisle, or a passenger masturbating with a sex doll and forcing a landing, or another plane forcing a landing after the passengers vomited from the “unbearable smell” of an “unwashed” man onboard!  It has become a daily disaster film.

Apparently all airlines have been affected except Alaska and Delta — but they aren’t flying direct where I’m going!  I am beginning to think that unless you absolutely have to go somewhere (weddings and funerals), you best stay home.  It’s a sad reflection of our world right now, but the global “fear factor” is a reality.  The romance of a fun vacation has to be reconsidered.
We live in a very scary environment. Stewardesses are no longer Playboy Bunnies (what are those?) Some are even regularly harassed — as are the passengers. There was a report of a rise of sexual assaults on these flights!  I am just now getting over Diana Ross’s 1999 Heathrow incident where she charged a security agent with an aggressive body search of her tight leather pants.  This from the woman who sang “Touch me in the Morning.”  Even she fled the airport with the great refrain, “I’m scared and I just wanna go home.”  Who doesn’t?!? 
I remember the days when I used to get through the airport in record time (after arriving in a clean cab) and people looked and acted respectfully.  Hotels were reasonable (AirB&B’s were never in my vocabulary) and I rarely suffered jet lag or had to use anxiety medication. 

Nowadays, most everyone has paid the extra money for the “TSA Pre” so you don’t have to remove your shoes, jacket, and scarf.  Those lines are longer than the regular check-in’s.  No relief there.
There’s also the advent of traveling “therapy dogs” or even “support dogs.”  Personally, I’d rather sit next to a pit bull than most screaming children.  But a vet recently told me that too much travel for dogs can give them anxiety, and high altitude for too long can affect blood platelet levels.  Think on that when you pay the FAA $150 to say you can’t live without your Fido! You might be affecting your pet’s health out of your own anxiety-riddled neediness.

I am all for most hotels accepting pets and the new market for upscale leashes and bowls in the hotel boutiques.  But I am not so thrilled with the “green” influence in the housekeeping.  New sheets and towels every other day, and no more tubs – too hard to clean?  I want to “get away” from political correctness and social consciousness and “guilt” when I travel.  It means more to me than the complementary champagne and chocolate upon my arrival!!
But the world (not just the Trump Administration) has changed everything. My curiosity may still be there, but I am not so sure the current threatening pace can support it.  I’m not agoraphobic, but I seem to get instantly homesick before I leave on any trip.  And I end up kissing the tarmac like a “survivor” the moment I return.

I used to travel just to stay in great hotels.  They were a “Master Class” in living the good life.  As writer Kevin Doyle related in his Wall Street Journal account of Falling in Love with Hotels — “Sometimes, but rarely, the hotel experience transcends mere hospitality and I fall in love ... the hotels we fall in love with are nothing like home really. What home delivers toast on fine linen under a silver dome? How many homes have pressed sheets or towels as soft and white.  Any hotel can make you feel cared for, but the ones we truly fall for not only create the illusion that nothing untoward — no danger, no sadness, none of the manifold fears that bedevil us daily — could ever breach their walls.”
If only! Now I find moderate priced hotels and even deluxe ones overrated (even with the Trip Advisor bathrobed owl or that metrosexual Trivago guy selling their “sexy” alternatives). I can’t help but feel Harvey Weinstein’s trolling energy in every hotel hallway or a slew of “Stormy Daniels” types checking in at every front desk.  There is no class left anywhere anymore.  No Bobby Short or Barbara Carroll playing piano in the bar.  Instead it is an American Idol “runner up” making his/her first cabaret appearance.
Not that I need to see celebrities to validate my travel.  If anything, there is no “getting away from it all.” I also don’t believe in “Bucket List” locations.  I have done Zen retreats in Japan, jumped off cliffs in Hawaii, fire-walked in Madrid, shot the rapids and wonder hiked in Montana. My mind has been expanded; my body has been “reshaped” by trainers and masseurs at every deluxe spa.  So now what?

Lately I don’t want to go anywhere, and luckily I don’t suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out).  I am just trying to stay “centered” and “present”, so escape is not what I am looking for.  I love my own 5 star hotel mattress which I bought it 3 years ago from one of my favorite hotels — the Laguna Ritz Carlton. I have even stolen a few small items off of a few room service trays to add that touch of “high end hotel” décor.  I now have the best towels, and my DirecTV offers me more channels and movies than any real hotel.

Now I watch the Travel Channel or National Geographic from the luxury of my own bed and I don’t have to get medicated, or watch a man piss on my seat tray.  I am enjoying Anthony Bourdain reruns — and I mean no disrespect when I say that perhaps even for Tony, life was no longer worth the hardship of travel.

A pal once told me that even the thought of a trip releases “the hopeful hormone” in her body and mind as she immediately becomes nicer, more available, relaxed, and game to meet people sitting on the plane or standing in line.

I have traveled for 50 years and never met serious new pals en route.  I am not a fan of Eat Travel Love Wanderlusting.  In fact, when I return from most trips I feel like tossing out the outfit I am wearing or at least cloroxing myself and the contents of my bags.

I honestly don’t see many travelers in airports smiling from the “hopeful hormone.”  For the most part, passengers appear haggard and overwrought.  Althought, I have seen more people “Tindering” a hook up right then and there.  And why not – you have 3 hours to kill (delayed flights!) before your airline announces the final cancellation.  Talk about the new “mile high” club.

And please let's not forget the real reason for a lot of people to travel today ... selfies! This is called “Narcissistic Tripping” as opposed to the original idea of exploring which is based on getting away from yourself.

Recently my AC broke and I live in a 110-degree desert. I was lucky to escape to a deluxe hotel across the street for 3 days while waiting for repairs. But I checked into a “staycation hell” of a weekend — armies of screaming kids, doggie play dates exploding at every pool bar, and the entire hotel staff overwhelmed as they robotically responded with that “It’s my pleasure” to every stupid guest request.  The lobby looked like a trashed post prom gym and I couldn’t wait to bolt.  I had travel anxiety just driving 5 minutes to my hotel room from my own home.
Now more than ever, I think we should invest in our home and STAY THERE! (But now the issue of “where to live” has become another major problem). Start appreciating a trip to your local gas station as a Great Adventure. For me, just making it to my bathroom sink in the morning is enough of a religious journey.

As my 96-year-old “well traveled” Mother reminds me “We all went when the getting was good.”  She burned her passport 20 years ago. I am next.

However, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I got the life message Loud and Clear ...

“There’s No Place Like Home!”

And I don’t need a selfie souvenir with the ruby red slippers to prove it.