Facebook Timeline For Travel Industry

Facebook timeline of the travel industryThe World Travel and Tourism Council has introduced a fun element to their Facebook page: rather than a timeline of their own milestones, they’ve designed a timeline highlighting all of the events in the travel industry. Starting in 1400 with the first passport, and ending with the 1,000,000,000 international tourist arrival in December 2012, it puts the whole development of tourism in context. The first airport dates to 1909 in College Park, Maryland, and there are now over 44,000 airfields and airports all over the world. Hilton pioneered the hotel chain concept in 1943, and now has properties in 78 countries on six continents. Expedia has been around for 17 years, and TripAdvisor just celebrated their 13th anniversary.

Check out all the travel industry milestones on WTTC’s Timeline, and be sure to click through all the years.

[Photo credit: WTTC Facebook]

4 Big Travel Fears And How To Overcome Them

When I meet people who tell me they’ve never flown on an airplane or stepped foot outside their home state, I’m always a little taken aback. In this day and age when travel is so accessible, affordable and commonplace, it’s amazing that there are still so many travel virgins out there.

Now, of course, if these folks didn’t want to travel, or were unable to afford it, that would be understandable. But it’s not lack of desire or means that seems to hold so many people back. Instead, it’s fear – fear of heading out into the great unknown and fear of what will go wrong when they get there. And this fear is crippling enough to stop them from living out their travel dreams.

But the good news for travel newbies is that fears can be overcome. It’s just a matter of understanding what you’re really scared of and learning to manage your concerns. Here are the four biggest fear-related excuses I hear from would-be travelers and tips on how to cope with them.

Going abroad is dangerous

This is probably the most common excuse I hear for not traveling. In fact, the idea that foreign places are dangerous is so pervasive that many people not only stop themselves from traveling, but they try to prevent others from doing so as well. “Are you really planning to go there? Do you think it’s wise? Have you heard the news reports about xyz?” are all refrains I’ve heard over and over. But here’s the thing: life is dangerous and bad things can happen to you anywhere. Despite this, we tend to be afraid of the big, catastrophic events that are actually quite rare (such as our plane crashing, or being kidnapped abroad), but less afraid of more common dangers (such as car accidents) that happen all the time.

So how can you quash this fear? First, do some research. People are often afraid of travel because they don’t know what to really expect. In other words, fear of going abroad is really just fear of the unknown. By learning about your destination, you can start to feel more comfortable with the idea of visiting it. You might even be surprised to learn that your destination is less dangerous than where you live.

Also, remember that news reports tend to focus mostly on negative events, giving you a disproportionate image of how dangerous a country really is. Even in countries that do have genuine problems, not all parts of the country are necessarily dangerous. So just because you saw a story about a shooting or hostage situation in one city doesn’t mean the popular tourist town you’ll be visiting has the same problems. The best way to know for sure is to read detailed travel advisories.

At the end of the day, as long as you use common sense (avoid dark alleys, keep an eye on your belongings and so on) you’ll be just fine.

I won’t be able to communicate my needs

If all you have in your language arsenal is a bit of high school Spanish, then it’s normal to feel anxious about heading to a country where you won’t be able to understand a word of the local lingo. But of all the fears on this list, not being able to communicate is probably the most unfounded. Remember, English is widely spoken around the world, and even those who don’t speak it may have enough of a basic understanding to be able to help you out. And the people you’re most likely to come into contact with – those working in the hospitality industry – will almost certainly know some English.

If you’re still worried, it might be a good idea to prepare yourself by learning a few key words and phrases in the local language. Things like, “where is the toilet?”, “I want chicken/beef/pork,” “I want a single/return ticket” and so on, always come in handy. Of course, “please” and “thank you” also go a long way when you’re seeking help from locals.

Other ways around the language barrier include carrying phrase books, flash cards or picture books bearing images of things you commonly need when traveling. You could also try using gestures or miming to get your point across – it may feel silly but it works.

At the end of the day, there are very few places in the world where you’ll struggle to get by without the local language and if you’re a first-time traveler, chances are these places are not on your itinerary anyway.

What if I get sick or hurt?

Falling ill or being injured abroad are unlikely but not altogether impossible scenarios. So the key to getting around this fear is to be prepared. Firstly, recognize that most health problems people have when traveling are minor – according to this list of the most common travel diseases, diarrhea is the number one ailment. Carrying a small first-aid kit with a few common over-the-counter meds should get you through most situations, but if not, remember there are pharmacies just about everywhere.

Of course, a stomach bug is not what most people are really worried about. It’s the bigger health emergencies that could end in a visit to a scary foreign hospital that gets travelers anxious. But it’s worth noting that many international health systems are better than you think. India, for example, has earned a reputation for its highly experienced heart surgeons, while Thailand is top a destination for medical tourism because of its internationally accredited facilities. Moreover, many developing countries often have large expat communities, so sleek hospitals with highly-trained English speaking staff have sprung up to serve them. If you have a pre-existing condition or are simply anxious, find out where these expat-oriented hospitals are and keep a list of them when traveling.

Lastly, get up to date on all your vaccinations and make sure you have good health insurance that will cover you while you’re abroad.

What if I lose my passport/credit cards/wallet?

Losing your documents is a nuisance, for sure, but it doesn’t have to ruin your whole trip. I once had an ATM swallow my debit card at a bus station in Bolivia … 15 minutes before I was about to board a bus for a distant city. What did I do? Well, I wanted to be sure that no one would figure out a way to retrieve my card from the machine and use it, so I borrowed a cellphone from a kind passerby, called the bank and canceled my card right there on the spot. They promised to express post a new card and a few days later, it was in my hands. Life certainly went on despite the little hiccup, especially because I had other cards to fall back on.

Rogue ATMs aren’t the only threat to your valuables, in fact, pick-pocketing is much more likely. Still, this doesn’t have to be a trip-ending nightmare at all. Just be sure not to carry all your credit cards and cash in your wallet everyday – it’s best to leave most of it in your hotel safe and only tote around what you’ll need for the day. Should the worst happen, call your credit card company right away, cancel the lost card, and they’ll express a new one out to you.

When it comes to passports, again, don’t carry it around unless you have a good reason to. If it does go MIA, you’ll have a much easier time getting a replacement passport if you’ve made copies of it. Keep one copy with you and leave another with a trusted friend back home, just to cover all bases. Your nearest embassy or consulate should be able to help you out from there.

At the end of the day, remember that if the trip really turns out to be as horrible as you imagined, you can always turn around and come home. However, chances are, once you take those first steps and get going, you’ll discover all the wonderful things about life on the road and want to stay. If anything, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

What kinds of fears stop you from traveling? Have you found ways of managing them? Let us know below!

[Photo credits: Flickr users cvander; shock264; Fields of View; gwire; swimparallel]

Photo Of The Day: Thanks For Flying

photo of the day - air stairs
Happy Thanksgiving, and hola from the Dominican Republic, where I’m spending the holiday with family and friends. Rather than searching the Gadling Flickr pool for a turkey (or Turkey, where I spent the last two Thanksgiving holidays) photo this year, I wanted to see what came up for the term “thanks,” and found this pic from our own Kent Wien, boarding an American Airlines airplane in Antigua. You don’t see the first words “Thanks for…” in the shot, but if you’ve been on enough planes, you know how to complete the sentence that ends “… flying American Airlines.” Climbing air stairs from the runway always feels a bit retro, and seeing the old slogan brings back memories of some of my first flights. I’m thankful for my passport and the ability to share my wanderlust with my baby, in her thirteenth country today. Count your blessings and enjoy the day wherever you are.

What are you thankful for? Add your picture to the Gadling Flickr pool for another Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Fly For Fun]

Travel Troubles: What To Do When You Lose Your Passport Abroad

Some people are accident-prone. Others attract bad relationships. Me, I get into travel trouble. I once broke a piece off a plane mid flight – luckily not one crucial for flying. I’ve been robbed and swindled – in Bolivia, both in the same morning. There are friends of mine who joke that the only sure thing when traveling with me is that our flight will be canceled. I confess to you that I have even been deported.

Amazingly, I’ve never actually lost my passport. (Just a moment, please, while I race around knocking on every available wood surface in my apartment.) However, being embarrassingly prone to travel troubles, I’ve gone ahead and prepared for the highly likely possibility that this will one day occur. Here’s what to do when you lose that prized official ID, according to various subjective (me) and objective (the government) sources.

What? You’re not panicking? You’ve lost your PASSPORT. You might be stuck in a place that is not America FOREVER. I’m kidding. Do not panic. Definitely don’t. Do you know what happens when you panic? Well, it has something to do with the shift of blood flow and “fight or flight” and sweating and, see, it’s all very scientific so let me simplify things by saying that it’s the reason all those big-breasted, short-skirted girls run up the stairs in horror movies. In your case, it’s the reason you are currently braced against the nearest wall, starting to breath funny, and wondering if 25-year-olds ever have heart attacks. This will keep you from taking the necessary steps to remedy this unfortunate situation. So stay calm, guy. Everything is going to okay.If You See Something, Say Something
Of course, you might not have actually seen anything at all. When I was robbed in La Paz, the culprits set up an elaborate spit-on-the-target-and-abscond-with-her-stuff-while-she-is-wiping-disgusting-goo-off-her-neck ruse. I had no clue who these ninjas were. (Side note: referring to the people who rob you as “ninjas” makes you feel better than admitting they were probably not particularly gifted 12-year-olds.) Still, I filed a police report and you should, too. It’s important for making claims with travel insurance, at the very least. And you can rest a little easier that night knowing you’ve done your small citizen part to fight crime in Gotham City (or wherever you are).

Get thee to an Embassy
Turns out you’re not spending a lazy morning sucking down espressos at that quaint little bakery in rural France. Nope, you’re on the next train back to far less friendly Paris to visit your embassy. Here’s what will happen when you get there, according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs website: “You will need to speak to the American Citizens Services unit of the Consular Section … You will need to complete a new passport application. The consular officer taking an application for replacement of a lost, stolen, or misplaced passport must be reasonably satisfied as to your identity and citizenship before issuing the replacement. In virtually all cases this can be done through examination of whatever citizenship and identity documents are available, conversations with the applicant, close observation of demeanor and replies to questions asked, and discussions with the applicant’s travelling companions or contacts in the United States.” My unsolicited advice: don’t make any jokes about being a double agent or respond “Jason Bourne” when asked your name. I understand the embassy has a terrible sense of humor.

Ask for Help
Before traveling to any foreign country, I make sure to learn a few key phrases. How much does this cost? Where is the nearest restroom? Is what I’m eating right now technically food or are you just hazing unsuspecting tourists? Useful things like that. Another helpful sentence would go something like this: Help, please, I’ve just been robbed and I need to use your Internet/phone/bottle of tequila. (If you lost your passport over-indulging in the local wine, say, I recommend neglecting the specifics of how you ended up ID-less and only wearing one shoe and concocting a more sympathetic storyline. The travel gods will forgive you the white lie.) Losing a passport sucks, no doubt about it. But you might look at it as an opportunity, albeit an unwanted one, to witness for yourself the kindness of strangers. In any given place, even New York City, I promise you, there are compassionate locals ready to offer help. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find them.

Back it Up, Back it Up, Back it Up
This is more of a post (or ideally pre) passport loss piece of advice – common sense but often ignored, as is the way with much common sense. You should have copies of all your important documents: passport and driver’s license, boarding passes, traveler’s checks. If you’re a real overachiever, you’ve stashed copies with a loved one back home and somewhere in your luggage – not to mention scanned the stuff and saved copies in your email. I’ve heard that getting new passport photos taken abroad can by a royal pain in the embassy so you might consider bringing these along for the journey, too.

[Flickr image via Howdy, I’m H. Michael Karshis]

Is Traveling Without A Passport Really Traveling?

passportThis is a debate I encounter all the time, whether on the road or at home talking to friends. Technically, if you drive to the store to buy milk or go for a jog around the block you’re “traveling,” but what about the perception most people have of what travel really is?

After asking many people about this topic, it seems as though the answer often depends on what kind of travel experience the person has. It’s almost as if international travel makes people a bit jaded. For example, I recently went hiking with a guy from France who hadn’t really done much travel around Europe. However, he had been all over the United States, Canada, South America and Asia.

“Why don’t you go to Germany or Switzerland for a few days?” I asked, amazed that he’d never seen these countries that were so close to France. “Train travel in Europe is so convenient.”

“That’s not really traveling,” he responded. “I don’t even need a passport for those.”

While it may sound odd, this way of thinking is pretty common. When I spent six months studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, I spent every weekend and break frantically flying around the country, trying to “travel” as much as I possibly could in the time I had. Meanwhile, my roommate, a native Aussie, had never even been to Melbourne or Cairns.

“I can go there anytime,” she responded. “If I’m going to really travel, I’m going to go to Europe or South America.”While it always surprises me to hear people act so nonchalant about their home countries – places that I’ve traveled to and think are amazing – I have to admit I often fall into the same category. When people ask me when I started traveling, I usually respond, “When I was 20 and went to Australia.” My parents, who planned vacations and road trips every summer across the U.S. and Canada when I was growing up, probably wouldn’t like this answer. I’m not sure why, but flying to Maine to eat lobster and ride the Banana Boat or driving up the east coast to visit various theme parks just doesn’t feel like “real” traveling to me.

Not everyone feels this way. I have many friends who get excited about going to the Jersey Shore or to Washington, D.C. They request a week off work and spend hundreds of dollars shopping for new clothes, the perfect camera and colorful luggage. Additionally, I know people who tell me about how their jobs allow them to travel to places like Chicago and Boston. It isn’t that these places aren’t exciting, it’s more that they don’t provide the necessary amount of culture shock I need to really feel like I’m away from home.

Moreover, when posing the question on Twitter, most people said they believed traveling without a passport to be real traveling. However, many also agreed there was a distinct difference between domestic and international travel, probably due to contrasts in language and culture.

passportIronically, if you asked me if traveling without a passport was still traveling, my gut reaction would be to respond, “yes, of course.” However, I can’t deny that when friends tell me they are visiting family in Denver or spending the weekend in Atlantic City, I don’t think of this as “really” traveling, but simply “going away for a few days.”

I think for many people, traveling to a truly foreign place allows for the feeling that they’ve really left home. There are new foods to try, a new language to learn, a different way of dress, customs and ideas we find odd but want to learn more about, and unfamiliar landscapes to explore. To many, it’s a richer experience. However, you have to wonder if this is only because, when abroad, travelers tend to be more active in their pursuit to learn. When out of the country, most people will pepper taxi drivers and hotel owners with questions about food, dress, history and norms, while in their home country they’d probably just ask for some restaurant recommendations.

The truth is, even when traveling to a different city in your home country you’ll be experiencing a different culture. For instance, I have a friend who lives 20 minutes from me, and half the time I can’t understand what she’s saying, as her town seems to have developed their own language. If I drive an hour further, I’ll see girls who dress completely different than me, and have a completely different attitude in general. If you open yourself up to unique encounters, ask questions and try to discover something new about a place, even your own backyard can offer a worthwhile travel experience.

Do you think traveling without a passport is still travel?

[flickr photo via Sean MacEntee & tiffini]