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“Let’s stick to travel hacking, please,” requested Wes when I shared an opinion piece and radio program by London-based entrepreneur Tyler Brûlé that London may follow the decline of Montréal. The piece is a provocative historical analogy to a contemporary event that has no direct parallel. Posting it attracted the typical angries expected on a complicated, controversial subject where many will benefit and many will not. Some of the commenters may have even read the piece before commenting.
When I editorialize or post topics intended to cause thinking, a Wes tells me to stick to my knitting. Wes has decided my blog should be travel hacking in a vacuum. To be another deals repost blog that scours email inboxes and online forums to share deals and hacks in a concise format. Plenty of those exist and their authors provide a service of utility. I cannot better them even if I had the interest. I cannot spend all day on FlyerTalk, Reddit and Slickdeals.
Travel is Political and So is this Blog
Rick Steves argues that travel is a political act. We the fortunate to travel have a duty to engage with the world at home and abroad.
When I visit what former-President Bush termed the ‘Axis of Evil’ countries or countries that President Obama’s drones patrol the skies, it is a political act. I cannot self-deceive that I am just a casual tourist. I may be the first, and possibly only, American, a number of people will meet in their lives. I can confirm or contradict their stereotypes, positive and negative.
Even if you never leave the airport lounge, life-flat flight seat, and hotel lounge, your travel is political, too. I do not like the serial complainer segment of this hobby. The people who set about to find fault with every flight and hotel stay to rake in compensation.
When I had a migraine in Gabon and a meltdown in Congo I was ashamed at loosing my cool with kind people to whom electricity, running water, and wifi may be unimaginable luxuries. Sure, a luxury hotel should uphold the standards that it proclaims and prices. Staff on the receiving end of a tirade draw their own conclusions and it is not about their hotel management.
Travel Hacking is Political
Those gift card liquidation trips to Walmart bump up against what Bloomberg reports as a crime wave at Walmart sapping police department resources around the country.
The flight fuel we burn has environmental costs. Remember the Nordstorm ship and return frenzy when the miles weren’t clawed back? How many said it was incredibly environmentally wasteful (and costly to a company guilty only of generous customer service)?
Our activities in this hobby have real world consequences that we cannot wish out of existence. Some are great, some are now. Have any of us not graciously used miles to help family, friends, and colleagues in an emergency? All of this says something about us and ripples through the world.
If I Hide Who I Am, This Blog Will be Pointless
The only value I can offer as a blogger is my expertise.
I lived in China for 8 years, speak Mandarin, and have traveled every province of the country. When I recommend a Chinese destination you can know that it draws on experience. I have not been to Greece so my advice there will be little different from any armchair traveler or hack journalist.
There are blogs that focus on the ‘can do it.’ A deal or a hack exists. On paper it looks like you can do it. Have at it.
I focus on the why and the did. Why do something? What is the context? The alternatives? How have I done it (or not) and how do it go in practice?
The difference is a general post listing airlines that offer transit hotels (on paper) and a Guide to Ethiopian Airline Transit and Transit Hotels based on many first-hand experiences. The other airlines I have not written such a guide because I don’t have the same expertise as with Ethiopian.
Both approaches have value. Some blogs provide useful info with no author byline. Some blog authors with valuable content are only free to publish under pseudonym.
With this blog, you get me. My name is on the byline. I take it as my duty to you to be honest about who I am and provide the best content that my experience, skills and resources can produce.
Michael Jordan May (or May Not) Have Said It
The famous line attributed to Michael Jordan when questioned about not taking a particular public advocacy stance is “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
I take my duties as a citizen seriously. My aspirations for myself are higher than I have achieved. I have not served in the military or in public service. I have not made big sacrifices to help others. I try to be pleasant person and I set a goal of giving 5% of income to charity. I should do more.
The Founding Fathers conceived of citizenry as much more than a birthright to posses 21st-century weaponry.
As a citizen I have a duty to learn, to challenge my beliefs and biases, to engage in debate with others. The guiding star is The Economist’s editorial stance from its 1843 founding, to “take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.”
This blog is political and will stay political.