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Author Archive: "Tony Wheeler"

Travel Guilt, Food Miles

Talking (and listening, watching, reading) travel non-stop for the last two weeks around the US, I've been surprised that the connecting word which seems to come up every time the word travel gets mentioned in the UK didn't get raised so often: Guilt.

Climate change, global warming and the problems that go with it are big topics almost everywhere in the western world (and not far behind in the developing world) and the finger is increasingly being pointed at travel, and air travel in particular, as a big contributor. In fact, air travel is not that serious right now, but its contribution to global carbon emissions is growing more rapidly than almost any other form of energy consumption and there's no sign of it slowing down. It's become a major factor in the UK because 'short break' vacations have had enormous growth over the past few years.

'Low Cost Carriers,' the budget priced airlines often modelled on Southwest, have popped up all over Europe, but it's the UK's EasyJet and Ireland's Ryanair which are the big players. As a result the British are increasingly zipping off to somewhere in Europe for weekend trips. Where to go ...

The View Out the Window

There are lots of ways airline travel has gone downhill post-9/11: all that extra bureaucracy, the constant demands for photo ID, the long queues at security, the orders to take your shoes off and stumble around in your socks and then, when you get off the flight, finding your checked bag has been rifled through. But for me the biggest disappointments about flying post-9/11 is that I no longer get to sample the best seat on the plane. No, I'm not talking about 1A up in first class, I'm talking about somewhere even closer to the sharp end of the plane. The jump seat on the flight deck.

Flying in America I don't think that seat was ever available to the fare payers on board, but in other countries or flying internationally if you asked politely you could often get an invitation to go up front and look over the pilot's shoulder. No, I never got up there because of who I was, I don't think anybody ever had a clue that I was involved in travel when I asked. And sometimes it was just for a brief look, but other times I've been lucky enough ...

Weird Stuff, Neat Tricks

One of the delights of travel is that things work differently, like:

Who Stole the Steering Wheel?
I'm in Denver, we're running late for a radio interview, we rush down to the basement car park, race over to our Thrifty rent-a-car, I leap in, ignition key in hand — and not only is there no place to put that damn key, somebody has stolen the steering wheel! Where is it? Well, it's on the other side of the car, of course — I'm reverting to the Australian (and British, Irish, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian, Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, Malaysian, Singapore, you name it) view that the steering wheel should be on the right hand side of the car, not the left.

The Homeless
They go under different names — in France they're the 'sans abris' — but you'll find them from New York to London, Rome to Boston, Sydney to San Francisco, Milan to Chicago — where a woman rattles a cup in front of me for loose change, while taking a call on her cell phone. Please support my phone habit? On the other hand, in London you're not really homeless unless you've got a dog to be homeless with ...

Elections, Leaders, Mistresses, Reading Lists

Bad LandsTen years ago, walking through Paris one evening, I passed a street with a surprising amount of security in evidence.

"Who lives down there?" I asked my French friend.

"Oh that's the official residence of the President's mistress," she replied.

Not only is an incoming president handed the keys to the Elysée Palace, the French equivalent of the White House, it appeared he also got the keys to the official residence for his mistress. Now wouldn't that have made things simpler for Bill and Monica?

There's worldwide interest in the departures and arrivals of our leaders at the moment. In Paris a couple of weeks ago our taxi driver pointed out the Elysée Palace as we drove by and gave us a quick run down on how he felt Sarkozy was doing after a couple of weeks in power. "Très bien" was probably the two word summary. On the other hand in London nobody had a good word to say for poor Tony Blair. From City business gentlemen to cockney taxi drivers, Blair was last week's news.

I've been keeping an eye on Australian news while I've been in the



Don't wish too hard, your wishes just might come true, someone once warned. As a travel publisher, we're used to being blamed for all sorts of things — 'that little fishing village was quiet and beautiful until you put it in your book, look at it now, it's become an over-run resort.' Well yes, but there was a new airport built right beside it and there's now a string of hotels down the beach. I don't think it all happened because we gave it a paragraph in our guidebook.

So I don't think the chaos in US passport offices, which I've been reading about every day for the last week, is because last year Lonely Planet published a book subtitled 52 Reasons to Have a Passport, our attempt to persuade more Americans to get one. One of the fundamental 'good things' about travel (I'll touch on the big bad thing about travel in a future blog) is that it's a huge motivator for understanding. When somebody visits a country, they almost always discover it's a better place than they thought it would be. Which is one reason it's a big disappointment that visitor numbers ...

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