Category About YWW

Cha-cha-changes . . . A Career Transition & my Norway/Netherlands/Malta Trip Preview

Category: About YWWTrip Reports Comments: One comment

I don’t directly talk about my actual job on this blog much, but some changes on that front have several direct implications on my travel and blogging, and since I don’t have any other blog, I’ll share this news here.

For a little over three years, I’ve had the privilege to serve as an attorney in the federal government, working to protect the rights of American workers and job-seekers. My specific portfolio has largely focused on employment discrimination, with a smattering of other issues relating to worker’s rights.  I also served as my agency’s guru on all things LGBT-related. So, as referenced in my post about Election Day in New Zealand, the election results had an extra dimension for me.

Although I’ve been a career employee, I worked very closely with political appointe...

Read More

2016 Index and Year in Review

Category: About YWWAirlinesHotelsTrip Reports Comments: No comments

I won’t belabor the point, but 2016 was pretty terrible.  My travels were pretty good,though.  I still owe you all a few posts from my November New Zealand adventure, but as we say goodbye to the dumpster-fire of 2016, here’s a look back at my year in travel.  For previous years’ retrospectives, check out 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

2016, yeah!

I’ve kept the blog as a travelogue, continuing to blog less and less about things other than my personal travel given how crowded the space is for “hacking” and “free” points.  Going into 2017, I’ve requalified for American elite status (Platinum), and let my hotel status’ drop down to be those I have via credit card (Hyatt Platinum/Discoverist, Marriott/SPG Gold, Hilton Gold, IHG Platinum) and Intercontinental Ambassador.

So, what were my tra...

Read More

Three Days in Barcelona: Back Where I Started

Category: About YWWTrip Reports Comments: No comments

This is part five in my trip report series from my July 2016 trip to Spain.  For an introduction, see this post.

Thirteen years ago, in the summer before my junior year of college, I got off a plane from JFK to BCN (on Delta, paid for with my parents’ Skymiles), and started my first solo adventure, and my first trip to Europe. (I made my way from Barcelona to Valencia, then Valencia to Madrid.  I then flew Spanair from Madrid to Copenhagen, where I was studying abroad.)  In Spain, I stayed in a dirty hostel on a sketchy street, carrying my massive laptop, huge suitcase, and a Let’s Go Europe guide. I went to (and got freaked out at) my first sleazy gay bar. It was hot, crowded, confusing– and I loved it. I’ve been to countless cities and 37 new countries since then, but Barcelona will always have a special place in my heart, something I was reminded of when I returned – my third visit — as I strolled through the crowds of la Rambla, meandered through the side streets of el Barri Gotic, and gaped at the only in Barcelona architecture and design that made a 19 year old fall in love.

One thing about visiting a city like Barcelona for the third time is there’s a lot less pressure to see things, because you’ve already done them.  So this post in no way reflects the “must sees” of Barcelona. I’ve been to la Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, Casa Batilo, Park Guell, and Montserrat before, all of which I recommend.  When I was 19, I had planned out every activity down to the hour, and made sure I saw everything I wanted to.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate a more leisurely pace, and the simple joy of wandering a foreign city.

There were still plenty of sights I hadn’t seen.  Given that it was peak tourism season, it was great that I was able to buy timed tickets online for a few of them.  On the day I arrived from Sitges, I had a ticket in the afternoon for the Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall built in the early 20th century by Catalan modernist architect Montaner.  The ticket includes a guided tour and a brief movie about the history of the concert hall and was pretty enjoyable, getting up close to the auditorium and some of the funky design elements on the outside of the building.  It is definitely a unique space.  One of the coolest parts of the tour was getting to listen to the computer-controlled organ, a video of which you can see below.

Palau de la Musica Catalana

Palau de la Musica Catalana

20160724_173223

The Palau is a short wa...

Read More

Reflections on Orlando, Pride, and Bars

Category: About YWW Comments: One comment

Some may say this isn’t a travel post.  Some may say it’s “personal.”  But for me, travel is personal.  And more importantly, there’s an important message I want to share, and this is one of the platforms I have to do so.  I’m exhausted and have been writing a lot, so this is a bit stream of consciousness-y.

I woke up early on Sunday morning.  I was already feeling like I was missing my gay “family” a bit, as I was missing DC’s Pride weekend in order to be with my family in New York.  And as soon as I checked my phone, I saw the news of what happened in Orlando.  50 dead, 50 injured. Out on a Saturday night at a gay party, like I’ve been on dozens of nights, like I was on Friday night.  As I read the stories, I felt the tears in my eyes.

I don’t know anyone in Orlando who was at Pu...

Read More

2015 Index and YWW Year in Review

Category: About YWWAirlinesHotelsTrip Reports Comments: One comment

It’s a bit late, but here is my 2015 travel year in review post.  It was a huge travel year for me, as I hit 5 continents and did more long-haul flying than I’d ever done before. It was a lot of mileage redemptions, and low on the mileage earning front.  I re-qualified for American Airlines Gold status. I thought about going for Platinum but it was a busy enough fall and winter that the marginal utility was not enough to outweigh the financial and other costs.

As for the blog, I have kept it as a personal travel diary rather than changing to something else, but hopefully folks find it enjoyable, useful, or both.   My philosophy is the same today as it was in my 2013 year in review post: “I will never stop loving travel, but business class and nice hotels isn’t the point of life.”

So, what were my travel patterns and accomplishments of 2015? I’ve put indices of the places, planes, and hotels I’ve reviewed at the bottom of this post, and have some statistics as well. It was a heavy year of international travel, with only one domestic purely leisure trip.
6
Total continents visited: 5
New continents: 1 (Australia)
Total countries (excluding U.S.): 10
New countries: 5 (Australia, United Arab Emirates, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil)
New states: 1 (Missouri)

New airlines: 7 (Qantas, Etihad, Asiana, TAM, Virgin Australia, Germanwings)

Read More

A Far East Adventure: Preview

Category: About YWWTrip Reports Comments: One comment

Things have been very busy here in YWWville.  I’m in escrow on a condo, work is hectic, and I just finished up the Jewish High Holy Days.   I hope to wrap up my trip reports from Germany this weekend, because next week I head off on a ten day adventure to East Asia.

The impetus for this trip was my friend from high school, who was living in Abu Dhabi, moving to Seoul with her husband.  I’ve never been to that part of the world, so why not.  Initially I planned on spending about a week in Korea, and then 4 days in Taiwan – not the closest place, but a place that’s supposed to be pretty and nice weather in October.  For the outbound travel, I used United miles to book business class tickets on United and Asiana (though I made a mistake on that I’ll talk about later that I had to fix)...

Read More

Thoughts on Abu Dhabi, Part 2: Ethical Travel, LGBT Rights in the UAE, and Why One Blogger Should Be Ashamed of Himself

Category: About YWWTrip Reports Comments: No comments

I have spent most of my professional life thinking about issues of injustice and inequality. When I travel, I try not to let these concerns dominate my thinking. I remember a speaker I heard in college, some noted activist whose name I can’t recall, who made the point that people working in social justice fields should not feel bad about taking vacations or indulging themselves outside of work, because you need that stress relief and recharging in order to be your best in your justice-related work. Nonetheless, I think I do think about injustice and inequality in the places I visit a bit more than the average traveler while vacationing, and it would be weird if I didn’t.

As I mentioned in my introductory post on this trip, I had a lot of ethical concerns about traveling to the UAE. These fall into three categories. The one that likely concerned my mother the most was the relationship between the UAE and Jews. The UAE does not recognize the existence of the State of Israel. I am very moderate on my views of Arab-Israeli relations and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, favoring a two-state solution, and wishing that both the left and the right outside Israel learn that there is nothing mutually exclusive between (1) supporting the right of the State of Israel to exist and (2) being willing to criticize specific policies of the current government in Israel. As I frequently explain many times, I support the existence of the USA, yet am opposed to specific policies of even the current government, which I voted for (twice). I think refusing to recognize a nation’s existence is silly, but that alone is a foreign policy decision that didn’t cause me much sturm und drang. I also checked online, and the UAE has made clear that all US passport holders are admitted, regardless of what stamps are on their passport, so my Israel stamp from 2012 wouldn’t be an issue.

The other two areas were of much greater concern. First, the UAE runs on inequality. The luxurious premium cabins that bloggers fawn over either don’t make money, or just get money from the richest of the rich. Yet the airlines get massive subsidies to provide these services just for the sake of image. As I learned first hand, as a coach passenger, there really isn’t anything special about Etihad coach travel. The airlines are held as the gold standard because they put showers in planes and fancy menus in their lounges, but the majority of people you meet in Abu Dhabi are poor. Very poor, and working hard. Some may say that they have a better standard of living than they would if they hadn’t left their homes and families to come work for rich Emiratis, businessmen, and spoiled brat bloggers who come to stay at luxury hotels, but that echoes the arguments that have always been historically made to defend what is essentially wage slavery. It also isn’t necessarily true; the laws to protect migrant workers are not very good. It apparently is common for domestic servants to come and work in the Emirates and surrender their passports to their employers immediately, being stuck inside the country. The society is not one “melting pot.” As I learned from reading the classified newspaper, racial and ethnic segregation is alive and well, and tolerated in rental ads.

Legal segregation in Abu Dhabi

Legal segregation in Abu Dhabi

The other area that gave me huge doubts is the human rights situation broadly. The UAE is a terrible place for free speech, for women, and for LGBT people. It is not a democracy, but pretty much a totalitarian theocracy. If there’s any doubt, photos of the Sheikh and his family dominate the landscape.

Read More

2014 Travel Year in Review and YWW Index to Trip Reports

Category: About YWWAirlinesHotelsTrip Reports Comments: One comment

2014 was a transition year for me in lots of ways. I ended up not traveling at all for work, and it was my first full year focusing my travel on American as opposed to Delta. I’ll talk about that change in a separate post, but as my tradition has been, I figured I’d summarize my year in travel, with big thanks to Flightmemory.com and Tripit for helping me keep it all organized. This post also serves as an index to the year’s trip reports.

Despite what my mother would say, this was not a big travel year for me. In 2014, I flew just under 100,000 miles, and this year was only 61,514 miles– my lowest since 2010 – though in terms of segments, I had 44 – the same as in 2012. Part of that was it was my first full year living in DC, so I spent time traveling up to New York to see my family and friends that might otherwise have been spent traveling to some exotic place. It’s hard to strike the balance, but I never want to travel at the expense of spending time with those who matter to me.  I’ve enjoyed seeing the world, though, and will continue to do so as long as my finances, work, and personal commitments allow.

As to where I went, I went to the most remote place in the world I’ve ever been – the Seychelles. Oddly, that was one of only two new countries for me this year, with Switzerland being the other one (and that barely counts as I didn’t spend the night there). Last year, that number was 9! But I did explore a lot of new places in countries I’d never been before, including Lyon and Montpellier in France, and Sicily and Milan in Italy, and places I hadn’t really explored sufficiently in the past or at least not in 10 years, including Berlin and Paris. What strikes me the most about my travel this year was how little domestic travel I did, with only one trip west of the Mississippi – in mid-December! Last year, I got 3 new states; this year, 0. I did, however, hit an incredible number of airports in Europe, given how few trips I actually made.

Oh hi European airports

Oh hi European airports

Not much here

Not much here

After five years as a...

Read More

Why I’m Not Blogging About the Rest of my Israel Trip

Category: About YWWTrip Reports Comments: No comments

Why I’m Not Blogging About the Rest of My Israel Trip

It’s been a few weeks since my last post about my June trip to Israel. I had had a post on what we did in Jerusalem almost all written, including a discussion of the Light Rail, which I found fascinating. And then that day, I came across this story in the New York Times.

I thought I might wait to see if the hostilities in the region would quickly calm down, as they often have, but it appears, unfortunately, they have not. My feelings on the politics of the situation are pretty moderate – there’s a lot of blame to go around, a lot of unfairly invoked victimhood on both sides, and that most people on Facebook should just stop talking. But my most passionate feeling is that loss of human life is terrible.

So I think it would be wrong an...

Read More

Reminder: Award Booking Service available

Category: About YWWTips and Tools Comments: No comments

Because it’s been a while since I mentioned it,  as a reminder, I do offer an award booking service, where for a very competitive fee, I will help you turn your miles into a dream trip (or any other trip you desire!).  I can help anywhere in the world, with flights and/or hotels.  I’ve used miles and points for myself and others to get to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and throughout the USA in all cabins and on dozens of airlines.  I won’t BS you, and if what you want is impossible, I’ll let you know and won’t take your money.

Contact me at youwentwhereblog at gmail.com for more information.

Read More