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Travel Whoredom: Part 2 Expanding Horizons

In my last post, I wrote small primer on flying frequently.  My flying is primarily with Southwest Airlines and it’s been an a new evolution in flying to consider flying an airline other than my favorite.  I have come to the evolution in flying because I would like to eventually fly to other parts of the world.  I would love to visit Hong Kong again.  Now that a friend is relocating there for a new chapter of life, it would be sweet to see him again there.  There are still many places in the United States to which I would love to visit and see.  But this is a big world, and many more places are here to see!

Since Southwest only flies within the United States, I have noticed that my city options are a little limited with the airline.  My flying horizons expand in light of Southwest’s limited reach.  Thus I’ve  turned to the offerings of the so called “legacy” airlines.

Legacy airlines, like United, Continental, Delta, and American are called that because they’ve been around since the early days of aviation.  They have a different business model than the “Low Cost Carriers” like Southwest Airlines.  Whereas Southwest Airlines was built from the ground up on efficiency, the legacy airlines have had to morph into leaner and meaner machines to keep competing and make a profit.  The upper hand legacy carriers have against Southwest is its’ networks.  They simply fly to more places.

Airline networks get complex with another layer.  They come in the form of alliances and codeshares.  There are three worldwide alliances: Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and One World.  Star In the US, each alliance is anchored by United, Delta, and American, respectively.  Each alliance has it’s strengths and weaknesses.  Bottom line, they get you from point A to point B all while earning the frequent flier miles.

Since I am from and still live in California, my origin point in my flying is here on the West Coast.  The dominant legacy airline here is United.  With two major hubs in the state (San Francisco and Los Angeles), United and it’s partners can take you pretty much anywhere with 2 connections.  My aspirations to travel to Asia and Australia further help with looking at the Star Alliance as the preferred network.

United Airlines itself has a substantial presence across the Pacific.  Add the Star Alliance partners of Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Air China, Thai Airways, Shanghai Airlines, and Asiana Airlines, and this is quite the coverage!  Singapore, Japan, China, Thailand, Korea and many points in between are reached.  How could one NOT choose this alliance?!  (Yes, there are arguments against…)

Thus, my shift in focusing all my spending and flying on Southwest has shifted to thinking about flying and earning points to Star Alliance carriers.  My previous post discussing earning points with a credit card and flying on a single carrier is slowly changing.  Instead of exclusively checking Southwest for my flying needs, I have begun to look at the Star Alliance carriers of United and Continental.  (US Airways is also in the Star Alliance, but I am choosing not to patronize them because this company is based in Arizona.  Arizona has immigration laws which I don’t agree…but I digress.)

An interesting twist in the Airline world is happening.  United and Continental have agreed to merge into one large airline.  So, the earned miles that I have done on both carriers will soon come together into one.  (Eventually!)  Some upcoming domestic trips will be on these legacy carriers, and I look forward to experiencing the good and bad they offer.  It’s a joy and privilege to have choices and enjoy air travel.  Cheers to more amazing flying!

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Travel Whoredom Part 1: Frequent Flying

Frequently travelling has it’s pluses and minuses.  I love to travel as it’s a way to see those I love and be present in a way that no Skype call, text, or Facebook message can provide.  Of course it takes time, and it does take money.  But those finite resources are well spent with people.

Companies reward frequent travelers with programs and incentives.  We can “get back” a little bit of what is spent.  Thus, I have become a whore of some ways to many programs.  Not only am I a member of certain programs, but I have taken membership to another level by maximizing the benefits for every dollar spent.  (There are many more levels to go as I have seen!)

Flying has been a reality since the parental units decided to move to Las Vegas.  It’s funny to think that much travel in and out of that city connotes bachelor parties, hangovers, losing life savings, and straight up debauchery, yet a lot of my time is just to hangout with good ol mom & dad.  They’ve started a vacation home business anyway (inquire within if you’re looking for a place to stay!).  I don’t really ever want to drive the 10 hours to/from Vegas any more from Northern California.  It’s just grueling.  Flying is simply much more enjoyable.  I have had the pleasure of getting to know Southwest Airlines as a wonderful service.  Southwest Airlines has built up its low fare brand very nicely in California.

First of course, one has to fly frequently!  Thankfully, Southwest has been there to fly where I needed to go, and at a low low price.  The short hops from Northern California to Las Vegas or Southern California makes it easy to build up reward points.  Flying only once or twice a year doesn’t build up the reward points.  Actual flying does.  To build up the supply of points, you can supplement earning in a variety of methods.

Secondly, the Southwest branded credit card pays off nicely.  This card adds to the reward earning power.  Yes there is an annual fee.  But it is worth it since that cost is far less than the price for a round trip ticket to anywhere Southwest flies.  Simply put, consolidating all spending onto one card earns enough points to keep earning these travel awards.

Lastly, due diligence reaps dividends.  Keeping an ear to the ground for deals, tips, and tricks of the trade works.  Knowing the benefits and limitations of the rewards programs was a must.  I was made aware of travel forums like FlyerTalk.com is a treasure trove of information.  Tapping into the experiences of many other travelers is a wealth of knowledge to inform and has helped me make decisions.

Maximizing benefits for every dollar spent is a game.  I’ve had many hours of enjoyment trying to get the best deal.  It’s spending money wisely!  Plus, I attribute my deal-mongering to the influences of my parents.  Thankfully, lessons learned from them enable me to keep my relationship going strong with them.  I get to see them despite the physical distance.  The advent of frequent flyer programs is another tool in my pocket to keep relationships up.

Joining in with the World

I have never really watched soccer, let alone actually play the game.  Thus, one can definitely call me a bandwagon follower to Team USA.  I don’t have any shame in stating this!  If I were to say I actually liked my hometown NBA team, that’s a whole other story…

The 2010 FIFA World Cup has been an exciting tournament to draw me in.  When looking at the tournament bracket, what I would normally think as soccer all-star nations were there:  Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Korea, Japan.  But USA?  Even I knew USA doesn’t compare on the world stage.  As I began to hear about how the teams actually stacked up upon one another, I started to realize this could be USA’s break.  Highly touted England…fizzling out.  Team dynamics leading to larger fallouts with France.  Even Italy choking in its battles.

Team USA loves drama.  To be scored upon early in all their games, USA loves to play the underdog.  USA has a fighting spirit and it showed!  In Group play, USA eventually pulled out a draw with England.  Even being robbed of the win from Slovenia, a draw was in the books.  The win against Algeria came in the final minutes.  Team USA just likes to work that much harder.

It was deja vu when Ghana scored early, and then USA answering back in the 2nd half.  Sadly, this underdog mentality didn’t pull a win against Ghana.  I couldn’t believe my own disappointment when the final whistle blew and Team USA had their heads hanging low.  My head was hanging low in solidarity with them.  They played valiantly and against many obstacles. (Disallowed goals in two different matches!!)

There’s a respect for the sport I never knew.  It’s simply amazing the level of athleticism soccer players have.  Not only does peak cardio condition have to be there (running/sprinting for 90 minutes, equating to probably 7-8 miles, no time outs!), but finesse is so clutch!  What eye-foot coordination!  How can you kick a ball with so much control, yet have so much power?  AMAZING!  And since I am such a noobie to the sport, I can only imagine the level of complexity when it comes to strategy and making plays happen.  Let me just say, a fanboy is born.

Another point about why soccer is awesome: it’s the world’s game.  And Americans must join in with the rest of the world!  All across the world, people play soccer.  I can somewhat equate soccer’s ubiquity to basketball’s here in the US.  It’s simple and doesn’t require much equipment (people, a goal/hoop and a ball).  Anyone can play.  Team USA’s continued participation in soccer in international tournaments and in the World Cup is simply great to keep the USA at the table as a member of the rest of the world.

Team USA’s performance in this year’s World Cup has turned some heads.  Soccer continues to build more steam, and we could be at the cusp of a change in the attitudes Americans’ have of the sport.  Instead of thinking this game is just for kids with mini-van and moms, soccer can too have the respect Basketball and Football have in our country as it does in many others across the world.  As fans, we too are joining in with the world with so many other people who love this game that brings people together.

geeking out

There are many ways to become inspired and have passion in life.  Interests that are taken to a higher level of attention can be termed as “geeking out”.  Geeking out simply entails one spending hours thinking, breathing, experiencing, and influencing others about that interest.

I recently returned from a trip to Southern California.  In running with my sister and friends in the Inaugural Santa Barbara International Marathon, I realized how amazingly huge the sport of long distance endurance running is!  (Actually, what made this observation escalate to higher heights was finding out that people had participated in a marathon here in Sacramento as well as Las Vegas on the same Sunday!  Holy smokes batman! I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more events across the country.)  Not only did this marathon have over three thousand participants, but there were scores of volunteers and organizers.  Many people participated in the marathon, and the whole twenty-six-point-two miles of running!!!  (I am a person that abhors running…yet, I got roped into trying this out.)

I am amazed.  I was made a believer that this sport has its merits.  It doesn’t deserve the negativity I have given it.  My sayings would include:

“I get so winded after 50 yards…give me my bike!”

“Why would you torture your body with that much impact?!”

“What in the world are you thinking to subject yourself to that?!”

My ridicule can go on and on.

But I decided to give it a try.  Workout after workout on the treadmill, then a few outdoor runs prepared me for the ten kilometer marathon leg.  I even participated in a 10k the week before to give me a little bit more experience in running a real event!

I realized I had scratched the surface of a sport in which many are so passionate about.  People literally live for the rush of finishing a race, the excitement of random strangers cheering you on, and the satisfaction that you’ve accomplished a physical feat.  All the hard work, discipline, and sacrifices made pays off.  And of course, the passion keeps the fire burning.  Runners talk about the next event they will participate.  (and of course talk about the past runs as well!)

Does this qualify as geeking out?!  It sure does.  Passion drives action.  It’s what makes you get up on the morning and gives you a smile that your day is going to be awesome.  Why else would one spend so much time, energy, money, and of course sweat to any activity?  If it weren’t for this thing called passion, life would be a pretty boring.  The world would be a perpetual “meh”.

A yearlong dialog with friends got me thinking about passion.  I find that I am spending more time honing in on my passions.  Would I continue in the sport of endurance running?  I’m not sure yet.  I loved giving it a try.  I will continue experimenting with this activity.  Yet, with so many wonderful activities to do in the world, there’s only so much time.  I seem to have a hard time choosing.  I suppose this is where prioritizing comes in…but that’s for another post.  In the mean time, let’s talk continue to talk about passion.

What makes you geek out?

Welcome!

Hello.

I’ve been on blog hiatus for a couple years, and I thought it was time to try this again.  Most of my blogging experience has really been a chronicle of my daily life.  It’s what I’ve done, where I’ve been, where I’m going.  But the reality is that there wasn’t much more to that.

I’d like to start this blog with a warm welcome to you.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!