Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Travelin' Tuesdays - Six

Baggage, Baggage, Baggage.

"What is all this?" my friend Monica shouted as she furled her brow looking at her computer screen. She was in the middle of booking two round trip tickets to New York City, when she realized her airline of choice was going to charge her for carry-on and/or checked baggage.

"Which airline are you using?" I asked in an irritated voice.

"Spirit," she announced casually.

Hearing her speak of an airline with the guts to charge passengers for a carry-on bag made me sick to my stomach.  If one airline charges for this, others would surely follow.

Trying not to let panic set in as I visualized all my future travel plans crumbling under the weight of all the extra fees I asked, "What are they trying to charge you?"

"$28 for checked bags and $30 for carry-on if I pay online ahead of time. Pay the fee at the airport and the charges increase.  $38 for checked bags and carry-on bags range from $40-$45."

The thought of paying up to $45 for a carry-on bag was maddening. But as I engaged in some research the following day, my rage simmered down to a low boil. I was relieved to find that no other airlines well known in the U.S. has started charging for carry-on bags. Although, I cannot imagine other airlines skipping out on the extra revenue for long, as fuel prices continue to sore.

I also learned that according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the airline industry took in almost $5.7 billion in 2010 in revenue, from baggage fees and reservation change fees. $5.7 billion seems outrageous at first glance, but profit (the true measure of a business' financial success) from these fees was only $958 million.

Airline industry experts like George Hobica of and Rick Seany, co-founder of, note that these fees keep the airline industry profitable. Without the fees they may be on their way to asking for a government bailout, because simply raising ticket prices decreases the number of passengers significantly. Personally, I am highly against a "bailout" situation for an industry that enables me to indulge in a luxury, rather than a necessity.  Additionally, the American Transportation Association stated to ABC News that "Without sustained profitability airlines cannot add routes, add workers, or buy new airplanes-- all in the interest of airline customers and the global economy."

Other positive notes of interest include the U.S. Department of Transportation's expansion of passenger rights, first publicly announced in April 2011. Included in this expansion of rights, was the requirement of airlines to fully refund a passengers baggage fee, in addition to reimbursement of lost items if the bag was missing indefinitely. This requirement had to be met by all airlines by the end of this month. (Note: airlines have limits to how much they will reimburse a passenger for a lost bag. Read each individual airline's policies closely.)

Taking into account the bigger picture when examining increasing airline fees, my anger decreases a bit. I understand that the cost of travel can be highly dependent upon rising fuel costs. I understand travel is a luxury and depletes a non-renewable resource that promotes environmental degredation. I also understand a business must make money in order to continue to offer their services and meet customer demand. But I will also continue to consider the difference between profit and greed.

The airline's revenue from fees (which became a common place practice as of 2008), increased 10% between 2009 and 2010. And as I looked at article after article, commentators on this subject seemed convinced that travelers should be bracing for further "add-on's" and increased fees. It is my hope that a balance can be struck; a balance between making this industry profitable and sustainable, while fairly charging customers for the services used.

Photo Credit: Microsoft office.

Continue to join Underlined and Bold every Tuesday for inspirational travel content. Tuesday will be set aside each week to inspire us all to get out of our comfort zones, plan our next adventure and be open to whatever we find along the way. If you would like to see how "Travelin' Tuesdays" got its start on Underlined and Bold click here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travelin' Tuesdays - Five


Beyond visiting my family in Ohio, I will be traveling  for the first time in over a year in mid September. My destination? Portland, Maine. I am giddy with anticipation as my departure day comes closer and closer. I'm excited to feel the coastal breeze on my skin, eat quality local seafood, visit with my friend Betsy who currently calls Portland home, mingle with the locals and have eight consecutive days far away from anything called "work". 

Are you giddy with anticipation for a future trip you've planned?
I would love to know where you are headed. Please leave comments below!

Continue to join Underlined and Bold every Tuesday for inspirational travel content. Tuesday will be set aside each week to inspire us all to get out of our comfort zones, plan our next adventure and be open to whatever we find along the way. If you would like to see how "Travelin' Tuesdays" got its start on Underlined and Bold click here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Interrupters

& Creating Compelling Narratives

Tuesday evening I made my way downtown to the Gene Siskel Film Theatre to see the documentary The Interrupters. I had initially heard about the film during my attendance of a lecture at the Harold Washington Library. The lecture featured one of the film's producer's Alex Kotlowitz.  Kotlowitz spoke about non-fiction storytelling and approaching all research with an honest sense of curiosity. He spoke clearly and passionately about the importance of narratives; that narratives affirm histories, introduce audiences to people and ideas they wouldn't otherwise encounter, and elicit empathy. He referenced fictional work like The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as non-fiction works like Johnathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities, and his own work There are No Children Here to illustrate his point. He also reminded the audience comprised of aspiring writers, that our purpose for writing is not that we will immediately change the circumstances in which we find the world. Rather, our writing can (at least) challenge assumptions, and nudge the rigidness in how one may think about people and ideas.

Leaving the lecture, I was left with a strong sense of respect for Kotlowitz and the messages he conveyed. I  yearned to understand his ideas about writing and relaying compelling narratives more fully, so attending his film seemed like the next obvious step.

His film co-produced with Steve James, did not disappoint. The Interrupters, a documentary featuring the violence prevention organization called CeaseFire, was compelling and moving. The film's success  is driven by the richness in which they develop the narratives of three key conflict mediators ("interrupters"); Ameena Matthews, Eddie Bocanegra, and Ricardo "Cobe" Williams. Matthews, Bocanegra, and Williams are all former "gang banger's" who were heavily involved in drugs and violence. Their willingness to be candid about their pasts and their journey toward changing their behavior, becoming positive role models in their Chicago communities, is inspiring. It moves the audience beyond "shocking" six o'clock headline news stories, painting  a more dynamic picture of Chicago street violence. Their past's also provide them the credibility needed to steer youth away from solving conflicts with violence and death.

If this film and the topics in which it explores seems to be of interest to you, you're in luck! The Interrupters will be playing in downtown Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Theatre for one more week. The film has been showing to sold out audiences, so get your tickets in advance!

Don't live in Chicago? Check out this schedule to see where else the film will be showing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Travelin' Tuesdays - Four

A Quest for the Spiritual.

"Where have you traveled that has provided you a deeper connection with parts of your life your extremely passionate about?"  

I posed this question two weeks ago in my Travelin' Tuesdays blog post.  Days after clicking the "publish" button on the post I found myself thinking about this question quite a bit. I began to look through old photos and day dream about some of the places I've visited over the years. Through this process I stumbled upon a video (view below) I took in Morocco in December of 2008. The video was taken during adhan, the call to prayer. Morocco is a Muslim country, so adhan is heard five times a day proceeding the daily prayers fulfilling one of the five pillars of Islam. Traditionally adhan was shouted by a muezzin in the minaret of a mosque. Today, most mosques are armed with a recording of the call that blares through a loudspeaker. 

Light sleepers, or those sensitive to noise, may be less than enthusiastic about adhan, as the first call of the day is around 4:30am. But as I traveled to different cities throughout the country, I found myself looking forward to the call to prayer. I found myself listening for the call, stopping briefly to remember how grateful I was for the opportunity to travel to such a beautiful country.  I would even go as far to say I was envious, as I would day dream about what it would be like to have adhan in my everyday life.

 Upon reflection, I think part of my envy and love of the call to prayer stemmed from my tremendous passion  for the Christian religion during that time period of my life. I was very passionate about Christ's message concerning serving others and loving ones neighbor. Having the call to prayer (contextualized within Christianity) in my daily life would mean I would be reminded of Christ's message everyday several times a day.

Three and half years removed from my time in Morocco, I am quite skeptical of religion. Despite my skepticism I still cling to some of the messages concerning social justice, service, love and compassion that I began to understand more fully during my time of great devotion to Christianity. I also cling to the notion that we (humans) are spiritual beings. Therefore I find religion to be one of the more fascinating facets of the world in which we live, as it has played a large role in many people's expression of spirituality throughout history.

 If I went back to Morocco today, I am confident I would find adhan as amazingly beautiful as I did in 2008. My reasons would be different, but I have no doubt that I would love its presence. During my travels in recent years, the more ethereal parts of the human experience seem to have had the greatest impact on me.

Looking toward the future, my list of possible places to travel is also dominated by the theme of spirituality and my fascination with otherworldly experiences. Some destinations on my list are explicitly spiritual like studying yoga in India, visiting the biblical sites of Jerusalem, and walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Other destinations are more implicitly spiritual, with specific focus on immersion into nature and/or deepening my connection and understanding of my fellow (wo)man. Nature, I discovered during my year living in Alaska, can be far more ethereal than any man-made structure or institution devoted to the ideal. Connecting to my fellow brethren, whether a close friend or stranger of another culture, are my teachers of generosity, love, compassion and humility.

Despite my spiritual path veering away from Christianity, I am passionate about continually cultivating gratitude in my life and seeing the interconnected nature of all things. Therefore I am grateful for experiences like adhan while traveling, that bring me closer to that passion in which the heart of my spirituality lies.

The video below was recorded in December of 2008 outside the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca (one of two mosques in Morocco that non-muslims are allowed entry). The audio features adhan. The images featured include the mosque's minaret and the my fellow travelers. Towards the end of the video my two friends who are muslim are featured. They are heading into the mosque to pray. 

Continue to join Underlined and Bold every Tuesday for inspirational travel content. Tuesday will be set aside each week to inspire us all to get out of our comfort zones, plan our next adventure and be open to whatever we find along the way. If you would like to see how "Travelin' Tuesdays" got its start on Underlined and Bold click here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Momentary Break...

Me @ Lincoln Square Lanes. July 2011.
Taking a little vacation from Underlined and Bold this week.
So in the mean time enjoy the sunshine and all the opportunities summer affords.

Light & Love,

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bedroom Transformation

In the past six years the longest I've lived in any given house or apartment is one year. The experience of constantly moving around has significantly stunted my will to nest and get cozy in any living space. Often I've deemed "nesting" as a fruitless endeavor because it would be time to start packing again in no time. Therefore, my bedroom would infamously be filled with unpacked boxes, barren walls and dust bunnies.

This past June, I broke out of my moving trend and resigned the lease with my Craigslist roomies for a second year. I'm absolutely elated that I will be forgoing moving costs and frantic apartment hunting! Instead I will celebrate the renewal of my lease by working to create a cozy nest-like bedroom space that will act as my sanctuary for the coming year.

Creating a cozy nest-like bedroom will include the addition and subtraction of furniture as well as drastically changing the layout of such items. I will forgo the paint brush, and tackle my monstrously tall walls with a hammer and nails. Images and photos of inspiration will be hung as I purchase some additional frames. Plants will be added to my window sill and additional lighting may become a part of the final vision. My goal is to ultimately create an inviting space where reading, writing, yoga, meditation and sleep are easily possible.

I feel as if I maybe asking a lot of one space, but I feel strongly about having a place where I can retreat from the fast paced city, relax and work on personal projects. I may not succeed in this endeavor, but I know its worth the time to try.

Check out the original inspiration for this endeavor on my former classmates blog entitled Jules Moksha. Her  post back in November 2010 concerning this subject matter really got me thinking. Finally, I'm taking action! Thanks Jules!

Photo Credit: Lynn @ Beneath the Bracken

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Travelin' Tuesdays - Three

June 2011, Vienna, Austria
Photo Credit: Hayley Leventhal

As I listened to my best friend Hayley discuss her Europe trip over dinner a few weeks ago, there was one story she told that I found particularly important. The story was of her second night in Vienna. During that evening she saw a string quartet performance in Vienna's oldest concert hall, where Mozart himself performed and lived in an apartment across the courtyard. The hall is small and seats about 50 people, providing a very intimate environment. The program she attended included works by Mozart, Bach, Hayden and Dvorak.

I loved listening to Hayley describe that evening. Hayley is a talented classically trained pianist, having an earnest passion and understanding of music and music history. Therefore, I found her memory of this evening particularly endearing, as she became more closely connected with one of the most important creative outlets she has in her life; music.

Where have you traveled that has provided you a deeper connection with parts of your life your extremely passionate about? Leave comments below!!

Continue to join Underlined and Bold every Tuesday for inspirational travel content. Tuesday will be set aside each week to inspire us all to get out of our comfort zones, plan our next adventure and be open to whatever we find along the way. If you would like to see how "Travelin' Tuesdays" got its start on Underlined and Bold click here.

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