Saturday, February 16, 2008

Greatest Inventions Since the Wheel

Why do you suppose it took so long for suitcases and wheels to come together as a standard combination? I am glad it happened. It's one of the things that makes travel so much easier than it used to be.

I told my Irish joke this week. The one about how the early Celtic Christians wanted to suffer for Christ as the Desert Fathers had, but found that Ireland did not have any good deserts. So they chose the living martyrdom of taking to the road as explorers and missionary evangelists. I can relate, I said; I love what travel allows me to do, but the actual process of traveling I'd certainly consider a form of suffering!

Well, maybe I'm no longer the missionary who hates to travel. It has certainly become easier. In a spirit of gratitude, here's my top-ten list: things I appreciate about travel these days.

Ten Things that Make Traveling Easier

1. The ubiquitous wheeled suitcase, as mentioned. (Although it increases our tendency to lug around more stuff, so I suppose that's a down-side.)

2. Electronic ticketing. So nice not to have an almost-like-cash document to protect.

3. Online check-in and other efficiencies in the check-in process.

4. Being able to efficiently research and make travel arrangements over the web. (Though I still prefer to have someone else do this for me!)

5. Affordable shuttle services and/or airport parking lots, which increase flexibility and keep me from having to impose on friends and colleagues for rides all the time.

6. Laptop computers. They make it possible to travel without having to anticipate what information and materials I need and prepare them all in advance. I can even print out my materials when I get there, if necessary. I might be more relaxed if I had it all ready to go ahead of time, of course; and I do live in fear of computer theft/loss/failure... overall though, net gain.

7. Cell phones and email, which give me the capacity - though not the obligation, I hope - to stay in touch and keep up with things and people when I'm on the road.

8. The increasing availability of free wireless networks, which help me work, read, or play in so many places.

9. Globalization. The fact that I can go so many places in this country or around the world and find the businesses and products that I know and understand, just as I might expect to find them at home - well, it does reduce the stress of travel. I recognize the immense social and cultural cost that gets us to this point; we and the communities that host us do lose a lot in the transaction. But today, I'm grateful that I can 'speak the language' wherever I go and so easily pick up any stuff I need or forget.

10. Language. On the same principle, I'm grateful that I can fluently speak, understand, read, and write the English language, without which this part of the world would be a much harder place to navigate!

What would you add, or take issue with?

Traveling also gives me some boundaries and fairly persuasive deadlines, even though it's nice that they have some 'give.' The thoughts, 'I ought to get this done before I leave town,' 'I have to say no to that because I'll be gone,' and 'I'll deal with that when I get back' are helpful in that respect.

My Favorite Way to Travel...

The best kind of travel, for me - having not experienced much in the way of organized vacationing, which might also be enjoyable - is being a guest speaker. I love having other people take care of logistics. Life gives me plenty of opportunities for autonomy, so I don't mind dependence/pampering when I can get it. I like it. An airport pickup... people who will make sure I am fed, housed, transported, entertained, and introduced to interesting people along the way - who pick up all the expenses, and even send me home with a check in my pocket. Cool. Because I'm serving them in other ways, it's a win-win situation; nobody feels imposed on. Very nice.

It's probably good for my soul and/or character that my job in such situations is to stay positive, flexible, friendly, loving, and open - good habits - and that I am on the other side of this equation on a fairly regular basis too, offering service and hospitality to others, anticipating and trying to meet their practical needs.

1 comment:

Paul Merrill said...

I'm about to do a biz travel trip and my most treasured Christmas present will come in handy - a carry-on with wheels!