First Class to AMS

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First Class to AMS

I don't talk about Amsterdam in this one, but rather the First Class flight on the way there and back. However, there are pics at the bottom of this blog. BOOM.

 

On Delta Airlines, it's actually called Business Class, or 'Delta One'. Being an employee, they often graciously upgrade me to business class. Of my 4 international trips, I've been lucky enough to fly business 7/8 flights. Each of these individual flights would cost an average traveler around $5000, or nearly double round-trip. That is more than I'll ever afford, or certainly choose to spend on a single flight. I'll attempt to describe the experience as best I can, since I recently got back from Amsterdam and it's somewhat fresh in my memory. You know a flight is something special when it's one of the main highlights of your trip.

You've arrived at your gate. You've just trudged through security, and you're around an hour early for the flight. A couple hundred anxious travelers are seated in the gate area, and a few pace around as they await boarding. In business class, you are one of 20ish that board first, and you hop on the plane. The flight attendant at the door personally guides you to your seat and offers you a choice of champagne, orange juice, mimosa, or heineken from a platter she carries around. I always choose champagne, because a business upgrade is a celebration. On this flight, I really wasn't expecting the upgrade, because the flight looked fairly full. As you adjust in your seat, you notice a little bag filled with an assortment of goodies. Toothbrush and mouthwash, lotion and chapstick, eye-mask and earplugs. These are always fun, and they last me multiple trips. You pick up your delta issued noise canceling headphones, flip on some Frank Sinatra, and lie back in your glorified recliner. Another flight attendant comes by with the in-flight menu and offers you a choice of The Financial Times or USA Today. At this point, you unpackage the quilt and pillow they have set in front of you. Yes, an actual quilted blanket, not a cheap, thin knock-off, sorry excuse for a blanket. Someone comes to take your main course meal order, and you begin to taxi to the runway. Oh, I forgot. You get cashews, or some other assorted nuts to munch on. Champagne and cashews. Why not? This is all preflight.

There's always a bit of a break at this point, because you know, the plane needs to take off and reach cruise altitude. At this time, they come through and offer you some fancy wines. I usually choose the port. The wine is accompanied by some fishy food. Smoked salmon, tuna, or scallops. I despise nearly all the seafood I've ever eaten, but these dishes were amazing. They are brought out on nice plates with sauces tastefully drizzled on top. I'm not a foodie - I drink for quality, but this really blew me away. I wish I had written down all of the food I ate on the flight. There is a salad with every appetizer, and the combinations of sugary / salty are mixes I never would have thought possible. Like I said, I'm not an avid fancy food connoisseur, but I never would have thought to sprinkle cilantro on my cantaloupe. Most of the time, I didn't really know what I was eating, but my rule is to just eat it all. The head Delta chefs really know their stuff.

In between the apps and salads, the wine / liquor cart returns frequently. I usually switch to rum cokes eventually, since that's a standard when I don't have scotch or quality beer. The beef tenderloin for the actual 'dinner' portion was probably the best thing I've ever put in my mouth next to Macallan 18 Scotch. After dinner, they give you a choice of dessert selections, which I always choose the icecream sunday with chocolate drizzle, strawberry topping, and nuts. This is especially where I need a generous glass of port, which they always give me. One flight, apparently I was the only one drinking the port, so I consumed nearly the whole bottle, and the flight attendant offered to send the rest with me in my bag. SCORE. 

After dessert is nap time. They still come by with the wine cart fairly often, but this is when most travelers get their rest. You press recline, and the seat shifts in to a lie-flat bed. Not just reclined, but entirely flat. I'm 6'3, and I can still stretch my legs to their extent while laying down. You choose a movie and let it play as you get in sleeping mode. On this trip, I watched 'The Big Short' , the Martian, Apollo 13, and Everest. I've already seen Everest on a plane when I went to Cancun, but it motivates my sense of adventure, as well as it giving me an emotional jolt (I cry when people die in movies when I'm on planes). After napping, you wake up to a roast beef sandwich, another salad, and more wine. It's probably one of the best things you can wake up to.

This is basically a business class flight. It's also extremely convenient, in that when you land, you're already rested and ready to travel further. Never would I ever pay for such a flight, but I'm very glad Delta is kind to their employees. 

Fun side story: Occasionally there is a male flight attendant that observes me enjoying my wine / rum-coke. The flight attendants know we don't belong in business class, but they travel the same way we do, so they are usually are extra kind. On the way back from Amsterdam, I think I consumed 8 drinks, largely in part to the one flight attendant that kept bringing me rum. The first time walks over and says, "I know you didn't ask for another rum coke, but I figured, 'What the Hell." and sets another one down. He knows me. He proceeded to do this a couple more times, and eventually brought me two Bacardi shooters and a whole can of coke. I appreciate people like that. He even came back with one and said, "here's one to go."

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Let's Go Back, Shall We?

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Let's Go Back, Shall We?

I'm pretty jacked. Usually the word is used by a jock wearing a SnapBack, or a lacrosse player, or the type of person who yells loudly at a bar when their team scores a winning goal. I used to be up with the lingo, but I've since fallen away from a dedicated following of sports, and am now the one that yells, "YEAH, SPORTS" when others cheer. Now back to my original point. Jacked. A term of prolific excitement. I'm jacked to go back to Amsterdam.

Some of my most fond memories, as well as nightmares began there. Spending the day on an elaborate date with a breathtaking girl from Milan, as we traversed the canals and kissed on a ferry: Fond Memory. Having nearly $5000 of camera equipment stolen, as well as purchasing my first and only pack of cigarettes (I still have it, and one remains.): nightmare. So many emotions are wrapped up in one city, so many friends I had to leave that felt as if I had known them for years. These are the joys of traveling alone. You are forced to create new experiences, and you're drawn so far out of your comfort zone that it terrifies even the most extroverted of travelers.

Im on my flight to Minneapolis from Fargo. There's about 25 of us evenly spread throughout a 50 seater Delta CRJ-200. The flight attendant both poorly imitated a British accent, and occasionally sung the words to his air safety spiel. I like writing in the air. It's something about the combination of sleep deprevstion and looking out the window that brings better adjectives to mind. 

I'll soon be boarding the A330 for what my Delta App says will be a 10hr20min flight. I'm stocked with a bottle of sleeping pills, a few granola bars, and some mandarin oranges...courtesy of the Delra IROP cart, with the exception of the pills. This is the third flight I've tried boarding today, and apparently it is a 'charm'. The other two filled up with passengers who actually pay for flights, so they certainly are prioritized. I woke up this morning whole-heartedly planning on going to Santiago, Chile. But not getting out of Fargo early meant not making it to MSP, and then Atlanta. 

I really don't care where I end up. I have 4 days off, and even my outgoing self needs a break from Fargo occasionally, as much as I adore the city. To twist up this adventure from the last, I hope to take a train a couple hours South to a city on the coast of Belgium. I saw gorgeous pictures on the interwebs, and I really hope I can find two trees in a park to lounge in my new hammock. Literally, that's a main goal of this trip. If I can lay in my hammock and read, it will have been successful for me. 

 

Also, if you like blogs like this, please, please tell me so. It's a creative outlet for me whether you enjoy it or not, but I would write more if anyone cares for my musings. 

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Travel Nostalgia

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Travel Nostalgia

I'm cleaning out my Mac to find untold stories in the form of raw camera images. 

Travel nostalgia often leaves my mind lost. It's probably the most bitter-sweet feeling in my existence. I feel directionless, yet content with such an ambiguous longing. The paradox of 'I wouldn't trade this experience for the world.' and 'I gravely wish I could be there right now.' is often overwhelming. 

Amsterdam is on the brain today. I miss the friends I bonded with in a matter of a couple of short days. Most are still there, and I must visit again soon if at all possible. I found a few photos that brought a reminder of a story I hadn't told anyone, which I would have forgotten, if it weren't for the pictures.

To set the stage, I hadn't slept much the night before I flew out of Fargo at 5am. I was the last coach seat on the 3:00pm AMS flight out of MSP. I couldn't sleep much on the flight, and arrived in at 5am AMS time. I couldn't check in to my hostel until 1:30pm, so I was forced to stay up for quite a long time. I was half-asleep wandering through a gloomy alley on the way to the hostel, when I met a man standing outside his door. Severely lacking sleep meant severely lacking judgment, and I accepted his invite inside for breakfast and coffee. He was a kind soul and served me the best sugar coated bread I've ever had, as well as some top notch coffee. I chatted with a few travelers who stopped by, as well, but understanding their English was difficult. I sat there intrigued, while listening to the dutch language - trying to comprehend any possible word I could. I ended up falling asleep sitting upright in the chair and woke up in time to check into my hostel. Waking up was embarrassing, as they looked at me as if I was a cute puppy who cocked his head to the side. I thanked them for the food and conversation, and I was on my way - this time even more disoriented than an hour prior. I'm not sure how I made it to the hostel, because I don't really remember the walk, but a few hours later I woke up in my bunk to 6 german guys laughing loudly from their respective bunks. I'm assuming they weren't laughing at me.

The old man on the street brought light to a rather gloomy morning in Amsterdam and I'm thankful for them. I can still taste coffee and bread in my mind. I don't remember where their place was, but when I go back, I will find them again to say hello. I have this photograph of the street. 

Such independence cannot be found in Fargo like it can in another foreign place. I'm so fortunate to have experienced this story, but I miss it all the same. I'm itching to travel again, and I'm hoping next weekend will bring me somewhere new, or even somewhere old to curb the nostalgia for a little while longer.

  

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The Girl from Milan

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The Girl from Milan

 

There is something peculiar, yet beautiful about the ability to bond with a stranger. Two people vacationing alone from two opposing cultures, to meet in a third.

It was 2am when she walked through the door as I sat at a lonely coffee shop table inside the hostel I'd lived in for two days. She flaunted a large grey scarf, a slim black peacoat, and a black hat covering the non-blonde roots where her hair was growing black. She appeared shy, yet frustrated as she spoke on the phone with just a subtle enough accent to determine she wasn't an American.

I had to say hello. 

Nearly all European women are attractive, but she was a unique, strikingly beautiful sort of attractive that I hadn't seen thus far - ever.  I discovered she was from Milan, Italy: the fashion capital of the world - hence her clothing choices. We chatted for a couple of hours before deciding to get some rest, but planned to spend some time together the following evening.

By that night, my camera had already been stolen, so I seriously regret my inability to capture her with anything but my iphone. Our adventure through the city was incredibly spontaneous. We ate at a fine burger joint, pretended to negotiated a sale with a coke dealer, and walked aimlessly in the rain. I also purchased my first pack of cigarettes that we smoked together, since it's apparently the European thing to do. Side note: It's incredible the vast difference between the smoking culture in the states versus Europe. There appears to be a wall of judgement cast upon smokers in the US. Societal constructs allow you to smoke with and around others who are comfortable with you, as long as you accept the idea that certain folk from particular classes will view you as some variety of scum for it. Europe: a large portion of the people, including very beautiful women, smoke consistently around complete strangers. I apologize for the tangent, but that detour is to briefly explain the motivation behind my cigarette purchase. And she wanted them, so there's that, too.

It was quite dreary in a peaceful sort of fashion that evening - a light misty rain, and a calm feeling in the air.  We visited a few local pubs for a couple of drinks and I found she shares my affinity for fine scotch. I rarely run into anyone who enjoys the Laphroig 10 Year like I do, which essentially makes her the very best. We also were able to secure to-go cups for our beer when an individual pub closed, which is an allowance that should (but really probably shouldn't) be adopted elsewhere. We departed to one of the canals and dangled our feet between the railings of a staircase, while overlooking the crowded night life. This is about the time we met a homeless man who began with, "Hi, my name Frankie. What can I do to make you happy?" He had the most genuine smile that I'll not soon forget.  We also met an English street musician, and a few other interesting characters.

At this point it was about 3:30am and our adventure brought us to a nearby club where we sat near the wall and observed people's interactions. We were the only sober ones in the establishment, and I'm certainly glad she loves people watching as much as I do, if not more.

This is the part of the story where it becomes difficult to accurately recount our adventure in a way that offers the same emotions to the reader. Any words I use will fall drastically short of the truly wonderful time it was.

I left the restaurant just shy of 4:00am to walk her to the ferry she would take to her hotel. Her favorite artist, very appropriately, is John Mayer, and we both agree "In Your Atmosphere" is one of our favorites. I played the song on repeat as we walked hand-in-hand down the empty canals of Amsterdam. By empty, I mean, it was soothingly silent, outside of the way the music echoed down the canal. We were literally the only two on the misted-over cobblestone street that would normally be occupied by hundreds. We linked arms and approached a bridge overlooking the still, and ever-silent canal. We were content. But far more than content, the moment was right, and wasn't actually as cliche as it sounds. The desire for the 'romantically-spontaneous-date' scene is something that dwells in my heart continually, but is rarely something I am able to actualize. It was right, and therefore why I will call it the utmost of contentedness, although content is usually used in a "meh-alight" fashion, but this is not how I mean it here.

We kept walking toward the ferry while making jokes about things we had experienced that day. We stopped to share a quick bite to eat before her ferry departed, and then came that mutual moment we hadn't really thought about prior. It was time for farewell. She grabbed my hand and led me out to the docked ferry where we stood facing each other for a while. We shared a kiss, and the ferry departed into the brisk, foggy, yet wonderfully still night. The 'bitter-sweet' emotion could not have been further polarized. It's much easier to connect with someone in a foreign place, knowing that you may not see them for a long time, or maybe ever again. Maybe it's the assumed lack of future commitment that makes people act this way? I'm so thankful for last night, as it was the best date I've ever had, and I never would have imagined such an evening when she walked in as I sat at that lonely table where it started. Returning to that night will be fairly easy, as I just have to close my eyes and play that John Mayer tune. It's funny how music has the ability to hold memories between its notes.

Until next time, Joyce. 

 

 

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Iamsterdam

My computer is apparently fried, so I've neglected blogging much more than I would have liked. I'm typing from my IPad from within my hostel while hanging with an Aussie and a Dutchman. I've taken some wonderful photos thus far, but due to the lack of my computer, I cannot import and upload them, so that will come when I get back to the states. 

Amsterdam has been just about as much of a culture shock as Paris, but in a completely different way. The people here are extremely kind, and it is no problem meeting new friends. I've mostly been adventuring with a guy from the Canary Islands, an Aussie, and a New Yorker living in Berlin. As far as exploring the city, we've gone out quite a few times to wander the canals and observe the different groups of people. There seems to be a much more widespread acceptance of English in comparison with Paris. When meeting someone new, I always start with English with the assumption they are comfortable with it. 

I had a "small world" moment yesterday when I met an American girl working at the hostel. We have a mutual friend of a girl I met like 7 years ago at a camp in Wisconsin. She attended a small Christian university that a few of my friends went to. Of all places - I meet her at a hostel in Amsterdam - small world. 

The hostel has both a community guitar, as well as a piano - which has been a blast. Living for a few days without making music can be difficult sometmes, but I found a group of people who love to play and sing, so we had a jam session the past two nights. The girls particularly enjoyed my piano playing, so that was fun. 

I just said goodbye to my Aussie friend, Ed. It's actually rather sad watching a new friend depart. In a hostel, there is so much potential for bonding in just the 48 hours after you meet someone.  It feels like I've known these guys much longer than I actually have. He's heading to Germany to catch a flight back to Brisbane to continue his life sailing boats for a living.

Overall, Amsterdam has been a wonderful journey, and I haven't even smoked weed. New friends are what makes these adventures worth it, and it only makes me want to travel alone even more in the future. 

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Jet Lag

 

I'm not sure I quite understand jet lag. Side note, I saw someone on Facebook a while back use the term, "Jet Leg" after describing their "strenuous United States flight." and I thought that was funny.

Anyway, in theory (or so I thought), someone could be SO tired at the end of a long day of traveling, and a few nights of little sleep, that they could sleep through the night. Wrong. I slept 9:30pm-1:00am and have been up ever since. It's currently 4:30am, and breakfast isn't served until 7:00. 

I got up at 1:00, took a shower, and walked the canal near my hostel for an hour or so. There was no one on the street, and it glowed a beautiful dim yellow tint from the lights. It was much more enjoyable not seeing an abundance of tourism on the streets, and have Paris to myself for a bit. I had John Mayer's "Where the Light is." album playing in my shirt pocket, and I just walked. I could be more emotional due to lack of sleep, but I was tearing up a bit at how peaceful I felt, yet being utterly alone. I don't usually enjoy alone-travel as much as with friends, but this trip has been eye-opening for me. I can potentially see myself traveling all over Europe alone, and meeting strangers along the way.

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Paris: A City of Stereotypes

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Paris: A City of Stereotypes

Parisians hate Americans. 

It's what I've been told most often pending my trip to Paris. My friends' first concern was the recent events in Paris, and whether conditions are safe to travel, and the second was always in relation to Paris' hostility toward Americans. 

Based on everyone I have spoken with thus far, I think much of this is a stereotype, and only partially true. I met a guy named Thomas at an Irish Pub near the big Cathedral. He poured me a stout, and we chatted about life and travel experiences. He's originally from El Salvador, but has spoken french all his life, and has lived in Paris for 11 years. He's certainly the most friendly character I've met today. He explains Parisians apparent "hostility" toward americans as more of a cultural barrier. People from Paris, when on the street, want to get from point A to point B, and don't care for anything in their way - it's how they are, and how their culture works. As an outgoing American, I could perceive this as rude, or I could see it as a difference in lifestyle. Everyone I asked for help was very gracious to me, and certainly any business owner was extremely kind. I guess I will see if anyone is rude tomorrow!

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Bubble N' Tea

I'm sitting in a very small shop somewhere in downtown paris. The shop is maybe 350sqft and serves a variety of specialty teas. I happened upon the place while walking aimlessly through the streets. I flew into Paris this morning, waited in an endless line of customs, then took the train downtown. I told myself I was going to walk around and take pictures until I found something appealing. The joys of traveling alone - everything is entirely hedonistic. I see something I want, and I buy it. 

It was wonderful chatting with the shop owner. He gave me some tips about Paris, and was extremely friendly. He talked in depth about some personal experiences regarding the recent Paris attacks, which was insightful as well as sobering. He recommended a cafe to visit and instructed me to go to the bars if I wanted to meet French people who would want to talk to me. 

Walking the streets of Paris reminds me exactly of scenes from Inception, even the architecture is similar. I know I don't belong in Paris, and they know it, too, but I love it here. I haven't even seen the tourist-y things the city has to offer, and it's breathtaking. The view at the top of the escalator out of the subway was one of the largest gaps of air I've ever taken. The weather is perfect, and I'm wearing a flannel, scarf, and beanie. I didn't bring my colored pants on this trip for fear of exclaiming far too loudly, "HEY, I'M AMERICAN.", ....but I realize I just don't look french, or european, or anything that's not American. I've had a few awkward encounters already where I I can't remember on the spot how to say, "I don't speak french." in French, so it just comes out as a rather honest; "Yeah, I don't speak french - sorry."

The other thing I'm at odds with is whether I attempt to butcher simple pronunciations of french words like "Merci, pardon, and bonjour". I can say them, but I'm sure my american-french accent is so thick it probably sounds laughable. So is it better to just speak english, or embarrass myself with poor french? My first international trip is going wonderfully, and I haven't even had a pint yet... in Paris... I had quite a few in business class on the way here, but that's a 'whole-nother' blog post.

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Tampa, Florida - Engagement Shoot - 11/13/15

I’m currently flying from Tampa to MSP aboard a Delta operated MD-90 aircraft. I’m listening to ‘The Oh Hello’s” new album, ‘Dear Wormwood’, while sipping orange juice, and snacking on some pretzels. The last day.5 has been fairly exhilarating with plenty of adventure to be had. With a couple of hours left in my flight, I’m going to attempt a habit of blogging about my travels to pass the time in the air without internet connection. I was able to secure an exit row, so I have an exceptional amount of leg room, as well as sufficient space for my laptop.

I flew out of Fargo Thursday morning with only the slight hiccup of a 15 minute potential mechanical on the plane. I spent my 3 hour ‘layover’ in MSP telling myself not to order the Macallan 18-year scotch from the airport iPad sitting at my charging station. I didn’t get it. Many regrets. On the flight to Tampa, I sat next to Rodger – a fellow non-revenue passenger who is from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and has a daughter who works with Delta in Tampa. We sat in the very back row of an MD-88, and he had just sprinted through multiple gates and was doused in sweat.

My childhood friend of nearly 20 years, Matt, picked me up at the airport and we made a brief pit-stop at Chic-fil-a, because Chic-fil-a… We ran some errands before he left me with his car to go coach his middle-school basketball team. I drove his beater to the ‘causeway’ where I observed some fisherman, took some photos, and sat beneath the bridge that connects Clearwater and Tampa. The view of the seemingly endless bridge was phenomenal. My Fargo-born-and-raised eskimo-body wasn’t reacting well to the 90-degree weather, which was nearly a 60-degree difference from North Dakota earlier that morning.

Next I ‘yelp-ed’ (can that be a thing?) for a local pub with a decent local brew selection and I stumbled upon ‘Nolan’s Irish Pub’. It was a beautiful little shop where I was the only patron. Jeff greeted me when I arrived and served me a Tampa brewed beer that broke my top 10 IPA’s list. You probably don’t understand the significance of this. All I drink is hop-heavy drinks, and this hurdled above hundreds of previously consumed IPAs to it’s leaderboard status. Enough of what you may perceive as mild alcoholism (which it is very much not), and on to the rest of my trip.

We went to a local burger joint, played rock-band at Matt’s apartment, and passed out before midnight. This morning we went out for what I think is my favorite engagement I’ve ever shot. The couple is so beautiful, and significantly less awkward than they thought they’d be during photos. It’s fun to see distanced childhood friends find love and find the girl of their dreams. I can’t wait to share the images with you all.

I’m going to catch a nap before landing, so this quick story brings us back to my quite comfortable exit row seat, as I sit next to a gentleman reading the newspaper. In a few hours, I get to celebrate my buddy Adam’s birthday in Minneapolis by going guitar shopping and brewery tasting. From now until then I must consider whether I want to hop over to Los Angeles for tonight and tomorrow morning, since I have the day off. Flight departs MSP at 7:37pm. Do I want more travel, or do I want to sleep in Fargo all day tomorrow? We’ll see.



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