If Airlines Were Backpackers

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We all have our favorites.  Flight booking thought process…

British Airways is backpacking for the value, but that’s really just to sleep, during the day British Airways is eating nice food and not afraid of top shelf cocktails.  British Airways would pull a casual but smart polo over the whole plane body, if they could find the right size.  

Virgin Airways starts the drinking game people actually want to play and then introduces everyone to some obscure but cool World Music band.  Virgin prefers big flashy cities or well-worn mid-range backpacker trails, not budget holidays; they surf.

Quantas references both Lonely Planet and Let’s Go before booking.  Everything Quantas does makes sense.  Quantas will add you on Facebook later, and you will accept, but you’ll only have a vague recollection about whether you liked hanging out with them or not. 

United Airlines is always annoyed that no one can keep them and Delta straight, because not all Americans are the same, okay!  United Airlines is mid-western and polite, they mix with everyone.  They always have snacks and they are the best snacks (ahem, Tapas Box guys!).

Air Canada is perpetually hungover, resulting in being consistently late or having busted up gear.  Air Canada is always complaining about running out of money.  For three hours per day when everything goes well, you think you could maybe like Air Canada again, because Air Canada is acceptably human, and then they give up and throw someone’s luggage down the stairs or let a dog out and lose it permanently.

Westjet ended up backpacking by accident.  From high school, Westjet liked all-inclusives that result in everybody posting group pictures from pools in Mexican resorts.  Westjet is really nice, all the time, because Westjet doesn’t have a lot of problems, and likes everyone.

Etihad has logistics worked out and a plan, tagging along on whatever thing they’re doing will probably go ok, although you will have no idea when you are signing up where you are going or what it might involve.  It’s unclear if even Etihad knows what is going to be involved, as they often seem surprised by developments.

Emirates is scheduled to climb a mountain tomorrow, no big deal.  Emirates wants the backpacker experience, but secretly has a trust fund or designed an unusually successful app, or is actually Royalty in a tiny country.  Emirates is selective about destinations and knows Africa well.

KLM doesn’t say much but has all kinds of odd skills and surprises.  KLM whips a dinner out of nowhere from things they bought at a wilting market up the street that you are quietly impressed with, and has way more movies than everyone else that they are willing to share.  KLM is better at this than you.

Jetstar is broke and should probably go home.  Jetstar is in the communal kitchen eating spaghetti with butter for the eighth day in a row.  Jetstar will take an eight hour bus to save fifty cents.  It hangs out with Mango, sometimes they talk about the time six months ago when someone taught them how to fire dance.

South African Airways is really relaxed about this whole travel thing… maybe a little too relaxed.  SAA has been sitting on the common area couch watching Family Guy on repeat for an unexplained amount of time.  SAA does not care when the bus leaves, perhaps does not know there is a schedule, they just go down to the station and patiently wait.

Kulula is down for dollar bucket beers.  It’s on a budget, but it’s not broke. Kulula is charming enough to get along in the world.  You are generally going to have a good day with Kulula.

Korean Air is polite and quietly friendly.  They just want to get on with things, really, they check out on time and have probably booked a tour tomorrow.  They travel with a sleep mask, they have spare earplugs for you too.

All of the above is horribly biased, based purely on subjective personal experience, tainted by jet lag and anhedonia.

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Island Hopping

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Spending a lot of time on the islands off Vancouver lately, sometimes escaping the heat, sometimes dodging the all-night-noise on a hot summer night when shutting the windows turns your glass sky box into a sarcophagus.  Scratching around for a cheap room with a pool, this came up.

Kids, we’re going to Nanaimo.

Only about a week ago, when a bunch of Irish people I know described “these little bars” as “delightful” did the limited range of the Nanaimo bar became more obvious.  The prevalence at Canadian Christmas parties is apparently geographically restricted.  This is the food of our people. 

Finding out that Nanaimo has a Nanaimo Bar Trail is, probably almost certainly, the best thing known to my long range island searches, ever (including Tofino, and goats on a roof, so there).  I mean, they are drinking, frying and spring-rolling the things over there.  It’s out of control. 

Bikini season, no, it’s Nanaimo Bar season. 

The Definitive Guide to Skytrain Happiness for Visitors

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Why, hello.  I’m so glad you’ve come to Vancouver for the summer, to cuddle our hipsters and instagram our still, flat, ocean views.  You may have realized that this city is very easy to get around – first, the parts you want to see are actually probably all pretty close to one another.  Not like that time you hiked Yonge Street in Toronto and got all Rob-Ford-bender sweaty.  And I bet you were delighted on your first Skytrain ride from the airport, though mystified why it appears to operate on the honour system (that is a story for another day!).

But I can’t help but notice you, traveler.  No, it’s not your shoes, those are fine.  It’s that no one has explained to you the nuanced etiquette of transit.  I know this because right now, I’ve just seen you break about six unspoken rules, and it is clear the commuter beside you is ready to wrestle that day pass right from your hands.  Some tips.

1) When you get on the bus/train, Keep Walking.  I know, it’s exciting, so many places for you to go and sit or stand, you are overwhelmed and must pause for fifteen seconds in the doorway or aisle making up your mind.  Where will the best view be? Who might you sit with?  This may shock you, but public transit pauses for mere seconds so that a large number of people can get off and on.  Behind you, other people must get on.  Move. Darling.

2) Perhaps avoid rush hours.  In particular, if you are prone to the above, you may note that after you have selected your standing spot and unblocked the door, around 8:30 a.m. there are many people in office wear glowering.  If you can spot them amidst the limbs and limited floor space.  Why so glum, office chum?!  Rush hours are not a great time to haul your giant suitcase or six-month-supply backpack on public transit.  They are not a great time to be on transit if you have no idea, or do not care, where you are going, or if you are having trouble with Rule 1.  Just give it the extra half hour.  Have some coffee, there’s a lot of it.

3) Last down, first up.  Whoooo the bus has finally come! I am so tired from casing Zara! And look, open seat at the front of a full bus, who is a champ today?  First, look at who else is getting on when you are getting on. Are they elderly? Are they a baby? Is it a pirate with a wooden leg that seems a little hard to handle? Give them priority.  If you get on, and accidentally take the last seat in the front because you did not see the baby pirate behind you, it is your job to pay attention and stand up and give priority.  Don’t look at that poor lady next to you, or your phone, just stand up and move along.

4) Plan for your stop.  Sometimes, we are but sardines in tin cans, in which case there is nothing you can do but try not to be gross or loud (imagine how terrible loud sardines would be).  If this is not the case, there are options.  If you know you are on the bus for the next 30 minutes, as much as you can, move away from the doors and toward the back.  Take the window seat.  If you are aware that you are only going one stop on the Skytrain, maneuver yourself towards the doors.  Do not hustle your way to the back for a seat you will sit in for fifteen seconds.  It is difficult to manage this in concert with #1, but you can do it, promise.

If you do all of these things, the transit gods will bless you and your progeny, for eternity.

Jamming in Northern Washington State

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My first thought when Washington declared marijuana legal for sale was how much more desirable Washington just became for holidays.  My second, much later thought, was Pike Place Market having a producer with a weed booth would pretty much make THAT my number one holiday destination in Washington.  My third thought, on thinking about actually putting these travel plans into action was… what about border security?

See, border security is Federal, and thus, as confirmed by a Washington immigration lawyer, they DGAF what the state of Washington is up to, the war on drugs continues.  Telling border security the plan is a visit to Mary Jane… nope.  So I’ve been compiling a list of things I would be doing in Bellingham (dude, two dispensaries) that would work well with the possibility of having a legal joint if one presented itself, and the anticipated border guard response.

  1. Eating decent Mexican food:  unless the guard is well versed in how superior Mexican food is in Washington versus immediately North… “please open your bags.”
  2. Trader Joes:  angry silence.  Guard likely to know Canadians are always down buying up all the Speculous and ruining TJ’s for local people a few days per week, those cheese loving jerks!  Likely waived through.
  3. Being Cheap: “have a nice day.”  ‘Bellingham’ is associated with paying less for something than you would two hours North.  I think the Fifth Estate covered this.  I’m not that sold (ha), as my bank card has always seemed to hurt just as much after a tour of Bellis Fair as it has after a tour of Metrotown, and no one can take away the pain of sitting in the non-Nexus customs line – even with cheap milk.

Sounds like a plan.  Report to follow.

PDX is for Lovers

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What’s it like? It’s like food truck fried chicken in a plaza where a dude with my little pony mohawk hair busks using Postal Service songs and a uke. Like that. That’s actually the best part. Just being there in the unabashed strange.

A lot of Portland people I spoke to (or… who kept speaking to me…) volunteered where I should go and most of what I was told definitely delivered – I still have a variety of recommendations scratched on a restaurant bill that I ran out of time to get to, as a result I must return.

Haiku reviews:

Voodoo Donuts: no one told me then / there would be vegan donuts / full of cream magic

Food Truck Clusters: Van City spoiled / I the food truck dilletante / was fed but blase

Alcohol: yes, craft beer heaven / but distillery district / has heart forever

For Canadians: urban Trader Joes / with your free tiny coffee / so convenient

Transportation: frequent fast bus land / this is familiar man / oop crossed bridge turn back

Recommend.