What is it that fuels our quest to go around the world? That’s what Harvard history professor Joyce Chaplin wondered one day, and the result is a new, fascinating book titled Round about the Earth.
I know you’ve heard of Ferdinand Magellan, James Cook, and Sir Francis Drake. But what about William Dampier, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville or Lady Brassey?
All wanted to circumnavigate the globe even if they died trying. And many of them did. Magellan left Spain with five ships and 270 men in 1519; only one ship and 35 men returned, and Magellan wasn’t one of the survivors. Many of those 16th and 17th and even 18th century explorers died not because their vessels sunk but because of scurvy.
If only they’d known to pack crates of lemons and limes.
It’s fairly easy to go around the world today—you can do it on a ticket costing less than $3,000 if you stitch your air tickets together right. Many of those folks, however, are in a quest for frequent flyer miles, not new continents.
Pick up Round about the Earth, published by Simon & Shuster, and have a good read.
So you’re traveling to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving. Want to be invited back next year? Here are some handy etiquette tips.
These tips come courtesy of Charles MacPherson, an occasional guest on my weekend radio show who runs a school in Toronto for butlers that want to work in hotels or private homes. I occasionally ask him to join me on the radio to talk about manners.
Charles suggests you call your host before Thanksgiving and ask what you can bring. But be specific—“dessert” doesn’t cut it–you must work with your host to figure out what will work with the rest of the menu. And if you can’t bring any foodstuffs, consider a thoughtful gift such as a book you know your friends might like. Or if they’re great gossips, pick up a couple of tabloids and gossipy magazines at an airport newsstand and bring those.
Always ask what you can do after you arrive or certainly after dinner to make your host’s job easier. That may involve helping with dishes or making coffee. If you’re staying for the long weekend, always make your bed and suggest that you make breakfast or lunch one day.
I know it’s fashionable to bash airlines. But let’s pause for a moment to praise a few things about the American aviation system.
First and most important is this impressive milestone: It’s been 44 months since the last fatal airline crash involving a US commercial carrier. This is the longest accident-free period since World War II. Four more such months, and we’ll reach a four-year period of incredibly safe skies.
Then there’s the price of a ticket. I know prices have been rising, but did ou know that a round-trip, coach ticket between New York and Paris once cost $6,000? That’s what just such a ticket cost—in today’s dollars—back in 1939. As recently as the 1970s, it cost nearly $3,000 to fly roundtrip between New York and Honolulu. In coach.
I think we’re getting the airlines we pay for. We want cheap tickets and frequent service. So it’s tough to complain if there’s not enough legroom and food service in coach is almost non-existent. As for fees, well, maybe they make sense. If I don’t check a heavy bag, why should I subsidize the cost of the fuel for someone who does?
There are lots of kinds of museums in the world–at least two of them in the US display the different kinds of barbed wire in the world. But a museum celebrating the suburbs? Really?
The Johnson County Museum in Shawnee, Kansas–a suburb of Kansas City–plans to build a National Museum of Suburbia. Now, why would anyone erect a museum to suburbia when many of us—including the residents of Shawnee—can walk out our front doors to see suburbia?
Larry Meeker, president of the Johnson County Museum Foundation Board, argues that the rise of suburbia in America is a cultural phenomenon. And a museum that displays backyard grills and other icons of suburbia will be of interest to future generations.
I think he’s right. I didn’t know, for example, that one of the hallmarks of suburbs was the introduction of free parking. And suburbs made bowling alleys legit—they used to be dark places peopled by the kind of folks your parents told you against.
So I’m rooting for Museum of Suburbia. Not all suburbs may be models of urban planning, but they’re certainly part of the fabric of our lives.
In a recent “Travel Minute,” I talked about how safe your hotel room lock is—or isn’t. Lock and hotel security expert Marc Tobias provided the information on my weekend radio show, but there’s a footnote to his advice.
OK, I know this will only apply to a sliver of my audience, but it’s an interesting factoid nonetheless.
It turns out, Marc Tobais tells me, that if you lock your hotel room anywhere in Norway and walk away, your door really remains unlocked for a minute or two. Meaning anyone can come in quietly behind you as you walk away, slip in your room, and rob you blind.
Why this delay in locking your door? It’s a requirement in Norway that grew out of a very bad hotel fire in 1986 when guests stepped out of their rooms when fire alarms went off. And, some guests having forgotten to grab their keys, found their doors locked behind them when they tried to go back into their rooms to escape the heat and flames.
So if you’re headed to Norway, linger a bit after you close your hotel room door and make sure it’s really locked.