A cable TV movie brought a chuckle here at the world headquarters for an opening scene of two soon-to-be-dead characters arguing over a road map. A great plot device rendered almost unusable by advancing technology; somehow, travelers disagreeing with the voice coming from a global positioning system (GPS) speaker is just not as ominous. Younger viewers may have never even seen an actual road map, much less attempted to read one in the front seat of a car. Folding one back up properly was never a widely developed talent anyway but GPS has certainly made the traveler’s life easier.
Similarly, cell phones have sapped the drama from many a trip. We used to stress over finding a working pay phone, looking up addresses, and having enough change in the console to call the client to say we were running late. How many television shows and movies become illogical when there is no impediment to calling for back-up or warning a partner of a looming disaster?
I joke with my family that my only super power is killing time at airports. Over the course of a career my total “sitting time” far exceeds the vaunted 10,000 hours needed to achieve mastery of a skill. The real benefit of a high boredom threshold only becomes apparent when you get delayed far away from home and are surrounded by anxious and angry fellow travelers.
If only I could trade some of my super power for even minimal ability to speak another language! Nothing identifies an American overseas quite so much as our constant need for English signage. Fifty years after the debut of Star Trek and we are still waiting for that nifty universal translator.
Another skill I admire in fellow travelers is a willingness to try the local cuisine. My recent attempt to use chopsticks highly amused my hosts but only highlighted my limited food options. Duck tongues will never be something I want to partake of. I try not to eat any food I don’t recognize.
So don’t look for me on The Amazing Race any time soon. The stick shift cars, zip lines, and hectic travel plans would not bother me, but there is no way I am participating in any of their food challenges.
What travel skills do you admire?