I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions that people have on the glamorous lives of travel writers. Contrary to popular belief, life is not one big vacation. When you, reader, go on vacation, no doubt the worst part of the whole experience is the airport. However, at the end of that tunnel, you have a beautiful hotel, no schedule to keep but your own, and usually about a week in which to enjoy your destination.
Travel writers, on the other hand, spend the majority of their time in airports only to get to a destination, follow someone else’s itinerary and turn around to come home in about four days…only to have just enough time to recover, see some friends and get back on a plane to do it all over again. Allow me an example:
Saturday, at approximately 4 p.m. I checked into JFK at the SWISS counter, only to find that I had been granted access to the Business Lounge. What a nice little start to my press trip, I thought. But airports are fickle mistresses. They can seduce you with complimentary cocktails one minute, and the next tear your heart out and leave you for dead sitting on the tarmac like a shmo…which is exactly what happened.
Our aircraft took off down the runway for an ON TIME departure, only after the captain had announced that we’d be getting into Zurich early. The plane sped up, cocking itself at that slight angle before its wheels lift into the air, when suddenly it jolted back to 180 degrees, our bodies thrust forward as the captain slammed on the brakes….So that’s what those flimsy seat belts are for.
“Folks, we’ve had to abort our takeoff due to the failure of one of our engines.”
And so began a two-hour saga while we waited for maintenance to find a staircase so that they could actually get onto the plane to check it out. And even after that, it was discovered that there was no problem with the engine at all. The signal light was broken. So to the back of the taxi line we went, only to take off three hours late.
Of course, I missed my connection in Zurich and so I had to wait on the transfer line, only to miss the next flight to Istanbul. After I eventually did get rebooked, that flight was delayed due to thunderstorms.
Cut to the next scene: Me on a flight to Istanbul with a French child behind me kicking my seat with the force of some kind of small horse, while her mother screeched, “Arrêt!!!” for three hours. Seriously. This is how I commute to work. The normal employee may sit in traffic for an hour, get jostled on a subway, or what have you. This is how a travel writer commutes.
Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul is a shit show. There really is no other way to describe it. I was told that cruise passengers do not need a visa to enter Turkey. That is a lie. Do not attempt to stand on the immigration line without a visa, even if you are a cruise passenger. (I’m attending the Crystal Cruises’ 22nd Annual Sales Gala this week, if you are interested.) Oh, and FYI, the line to purchase a visa can give the Great Wall of China a run for its money in terms of length. Visas into Turkey cost approximately $20, and no, they do not accept Turkish Lira…in Turkey…to buy a Turkish visa. There are ATMs, however, that dole out cash in dollars and euro. But folks, let’s remember that travel writers are still writers. Making writers’ salaries. And unless you’re a former president or JK Rowling, writers’ salaries ain’t much. No worries, though. Visas are $20, and I had $36 in my checking account.
Hello, Istanbul. Twenty-four hours later. No joke. I looked down at my feet in horror as I saw they had swollen to the size of giant hams, and my toes looked like little cocktail weiners stuck into their sides. My ankles had been swallowed by my calves. At a certain point I also realized that that thing I was smelling was me. How’s that for jetsetting glamor?
Now I sit on a cruise ship and will have four hours to take in Istanbul before we ship off to our next destination. Not so much with the cultural immersion when on a cruise. (And this is a conference…so any free time you would normally have is eaten up with interviews, general sessions and sales presentations.)
Look – don’t get me wrong. I love my job. This is the life I chose, and for every 50 horrific issues, there’s that occasional private jet, epic meal or spa treatment. I love this lifestyle, but it is NOT for everyone. So the next time you meet a travel writer and say to them, “I wish I had your job,” really think about it. Do you? It’s lonely, it’s exhausting, it’s hectic and it will make you want to scream 80 percent of the time. That other 20 percent, however, is the reason why this is the only job I will ever have.