I have always maintained that travel can provide anyone and everyone with the best education possible. If you cross this country from end to end, the interactions with people and experiencing their lifestyles will help develop more understanding of regional differences. More importantly, you will find that people are more alike than different.
On my first visit to the Maritimes, I realized they had a vast ocean of breaking waves teeming with fish and Saskatchewan had vast fields of wheat waving in the breeze. In speaking with fishermen on the dock, their concerns sounded eerily like farmers. Fishermen talked about the price of fish the same way farmers talk about the price of wheat, the role weather plays on their industry and the seasonal nature of their business. They take as much pride in their seafood as we do in our beef.
Travelling outside the country broadens one’s perspective exponentially. Here a 100-year-old building is considered derelict and ready for destruction. In Europe, 1,000-year-old buildings are still viable. But then, they built things to last; we build for the short-term. They are far more pedestrian than we are, but they have more moderate climates. They have great public transportation, but their population base is denser, their land mass smaller and driving a private vehicle is not an option for most.
Europeans don’t buy items in bulk because their living accommodations are smaller and no one (or very few) in their cities have a basement, garage or yard. Thus, fresh markets and small groceries thrive.
In short, the geography and climate may be different, cultures and traditions may be different, but citizens of any nation are pretty much the same.
But travel education may be coming to an end for the average citizen, not just because the cost is getting prohibitive but because the wrongdoing of a few has caused inconvenience for the many.
Gone are the days when you could hustle into an airport a half hour before departure time and hop a plane to wherever you wanted to go. Now it is an exercise in patience to leave your own territory and wander into another. Add a couple of hours on to your travel schedule to account for security checks. I wasn’t overly bothered by this at first because I would rather be inconvenienced than have the plane I’m on blow up. But the inconsistent nature of security services is annoying. In some airports, you remove shoes, outerwear, jewellery, wallets, etc. In other airports, you don’t.
I have travelled through four airport security screening stations carrying a small blunt-ended pair of tweezers in my purse without a problem, only to have them confiscated at the last security check because an officious security agent decided they could be used as a weapon. A half-full 5.2-ounce bottle of hand cream will be taken because the rules only allow for 3.4 ounces. The fact that there is less than three ounces left in the bottle doesn’t matter. And don’t argue about it or you might get put on the no-fly list.
In most instances, today’s traveller will have an added expense for luggage and occasionally carry-on bags. Gone are the days when airlines offered a meal or snack during your flight. The best you can hope for is water or tepid, stale coffee along with five pretzels in a package or a biscuit (at least I think it’s a biscuit.) Yes, you can buy an over-priced snack pack on board, but you would be better off eating the carton than the food contained in it. The seats are cramped and smaller (or then again, maybe I’m larger) and getting a seat with leg room means an extra charge. In fact, the only thing that doesn’t generate an extra charge is use of the tiny toilet facilities, although that too may be coming to an end.
The most recent concern came to light when a pilot with the keys to the jet passed out in the cockpit. How in hell did this guy clear security and get on the plane in the first place? Apparently the federal government doesn’t impose any regulations on airlines to test pilots for sobriety or medication impairment before they fly because it would be a breach of a pilot’s rights. But what about the rights of paying passengers who may be cruising 35,000 feet in the air, inside a tin can, being flown by someone who has no control of his or her faculties? The government leaves it to airlines to monitor their own personnel and points to this incident as to why that works. The question is, how many other times did a pilot fly while “a little off” and get away with it?
I know people travelled in days of yore without a cellphone, but in today’s world taking a cellphone is the norm. Last year, when vacationing with the family in the United States my daughter-in-law, a customer of Rogers, periodically used her phone to check in at home at a cost of $5 a day. On the other hand, if I used my SaskTel cellphone I would be lucky to get five minutes for that price, although SaskTel has recently offered a similar package now for travel in the U.S.
This year, in checking travel costs with a friend going to Australia, she will use her Rogers’ phone for $10 a day to a maximum of $100 for the month. No such offer is available with SaskTel; however, there are minimal use plans. The joke is my friend is on a month-to-month plan with her carrier and I am bound by contract to SaskTel, and she pays significantly less monthly than I do. To add to my annoyance, I couldn’t even take an old cellphone when travelling and buy a local SIM card at point of destination unless I pay SaskTel $50 to take their lock off my old phone. But as the nice young lady at SaskTel informed me, SaskTel cannot compete with the big companies on the global market. I’ll remember that when my contract renewal comes due.
I think I just talked myself out of travelling.