“And that’s the way it is”

Ok, just want to ask; when did businesses start the holiday shopping season right after the Fourth of July? Just saying…now on to more important issues.

Just goes to show that if you’re more famous than me (which is just about everyone), you can get my  ideas and thoughts published in the media.  Case in point, the excellent RIck Steves article written for the LA Times (the entire article is printed below).  He expresses exactly what I’ve been thinking and feeling over the last few years.  For those not familiar with that name, Rick Steves has been writing and publishing travel guides to Europe since 1979 with a philosophy he calls Europe Through the Back Door.  His books guide users on the best way to  immerse oneself in the local culture; why stay at a Best Western or eat at McDonald’s while in Paris when you can do that at home.(?)  Even though Rick and his company have gone on to be highly successful with their guidebooks, PBS shows, guided tours, travel products, etc., he has truly kept to his core principles.

In considering travel plans for 2016, whether domestic or international, I feel while there are very real international terrorist threats, they are probably no greater now than before the Paris attacks. In fact, the Paris terrorist attacks may have been able to occur due to complacency, with no recent high profile attacks on the western world. Now that it has happened, security will be as tight as ever, especially in public places such as airports and train stations, so this could be one of the safest times to travel. And as cliche as it sounds, if we don’t go on with our normal (or ‘new normal’) lives regarding travel, public events, etc…doesn’t that give the win to the terrorists?  Would love to hear your thoughts!  And when you finish Mr. Steves’ article (below) here’s another interesting article from a CNN contributor

Here’s the article in full;tune-out-cable-1200-1024x1024

L.A. Times Op-Ed: Tune Out Cable News and Turn Away Fear
By Rick Steves

I miss the days when people would say “Bon voyage” to travelers heading off. Today, Americans instead say “Travel safely.”

I travel a lot. In the last year or so I’ve been to Egypt, the West Bank, Israel, Turkey and Russia. My loved ones worry out loud: “Rick, do you think this is safe?” I always assure them, “As long as I’m not traveling through Chicago, I think I’ll be OK.”

After traveling and lecturing across the United States in recent months, it strikes me that our nation has never been so racked with fear. The paramount concern is “national security”: the fear that apocalyptic forces outside America’s borders — Islamic State, Ebola, immigrants from Latin America — will creep in and overwhelm us.

But the more I travel, the clearer it seems to me: Fear is for people who don’t get out much. These people don’t see the world firsthand, so their opinions end up being shaped by sensationalistic media coverage geared toward selling ads. Sadly, fear-mongering politicians desperate for your vote pile on too.

Commercial television news is hammering “the land of the brave” with scare tactics as never before. I believe the motivation is not to make us safer. It’s to boost ratings to keep advertisers satisfied and turn a profit.

When Walter Cronkite closed the evening news by saying, “And that’s the way it is,” I believe that, to the best of journalists’ knowledge, that really was the way it was. In those days, television networks were willing to lose money on their evening news time slot to bring us the news. It was seen as their patriotic duty as good corporate citizens.

But times have changed, and now corporations have a legal responsibility to maximize short-term profits for their shareholders. They’ve started sexing up, spicing up and bloodying up the news to boost ratings. And 24/7 news channels have to amp up the shrillness to make recycled news exciting enough to watch.

In a sense, news has become entertainment masquerading as news. Now an event is not news, it’s a “crisis.” Today it’s Islamic State militants and Ebola. Last month, the greatest threat civilization was apparently the National Football League turning a blind eye to domestic violence. Or was it racist cops? Or child immigrants at the Mexican border? Of course, these are serious issues. But hyping a news story as a “crisis” and lurching erratically from one to the next serves only to stir people up. Mix in negative political ads, and it can feel as if the world is falling apart.

The unhappy consequence: We end up being afraid of things we shouldn’t be — and ignoring things that actually do threaten our society, such as climate change and the growing gap between rich and poor.

It seems that the most fearful people in our country are those who don’t travel and are metaphorically barricaded in America. If we all stayed home and built more walls and fewer bridges between us and the rest of the world, eventually we would have something to actually be fearful of.

I’ve found that one partial solution is a simple one: travel.

The flip side of fear is understanding. And we gain understanding through travel. As you travel, you realize that we’re just 300 million Americans in a much wider pool of 7 billion people. It’s good for our national security to travel, to engage with the other 96% of humanity and gain empathy for people beyond our borders.

Don’t let fear-mongering politicians and ratings-crazed news channels shape the way you see our world. Get out there and experience it for yourself. Bon voyage.

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“The Hamster Wheel States of America”

Margaret and I are big fans of European travel writer Rick Steves.  If you’re not familiar with Rick, he has been traveling to and writing about European travel for many many years.  His philosophy is to explore travel destinations as if you were a local; stay at mom-and-pop lodgings, eat where the locals eat, take public transportation to experience life as if you lived in the city, town or village you’re visiting.  In other words have an authentic experience in your travels.

When we travel to Europe we use the Rick Steves travel guides as our bible.  Before our trip we consult the guide for lodging suggestions (no chain hotels suggested here!) and tips on transportation between destinations.  Once we arrive at our destination the travel guides are great for dining suggestions, short cuts for avoiding long lines at tourist sites plus suggestions on entertainment that is authentic to the region.  Rick takes great care to enhance your travel experience while saving you money.

If you love to travel or just like to read about interesting places subscribe to the Rick Steves on-line newsletter that features stories from Europe and other destinations.  His website is full of great information about European travel and includes a great readers forum to answer questions on every country in Europe by travelers with first hand knowledge.  And even though Rick Steves has become an industry with his guidebooks, tours, DVD’s, travel products, PBS broadcasts, webinars and seminars, he has kept true to his core value which is providing travelers with the tools to have a great experience while traveling in Europe.

So why is this Blog’s titled “The Hamster Wheel States of America“?  This is reference to an article-travel-news-02-15-corporate-hamster-wheelarticle in Rick Steves’ most recent newsletter.  What struck me about this article is Rick’s perspective on the world and America’s place in it.  As he states in the article “There’s no question that, economically, we are firmly established on top of the world. Yet, we are never reminded that half of humanity is struggling to live on $2 a day.”  Here’s a link to the entire article…..let me know what you think about it;  http://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/travel-news/february-2015/the-hamster-wheel-states-of-america