This post runs the risk of becoming one of those “old man” posts … the kind where some old fart expresses wonder at the current state of something-or-other, and then compares that with the way things used to be. You know, posts of the “walked uphill both ways”, or “kids today don’t know how good they have it” kind.
I’ll try to make this more about the former (wonder), and less of the later (kids these days). 🙂
I’m writing this from a Starbucks kiosk at the Seattle Tacoma International Airport.
If you think about it, there’s a whole lotta “wow” in that statement all by itself. But to really express the full breath of what I’m grateful for today, I need to start a little earlier.
I mentioned to my wife this morning that traveling is amazing these days, from start to finish. Sure, there can be hiccups along the way, but still… we’re taking for granted things that used to be major obstacles in the past.
Booking. My flight, and my hotel, were both booked online. Nothing really surprising at all, I suppose, but being able to pick and choose flights and seats and hotel rooms from the comfort of my office and at my own pace and convenience is pretty amazing.
Checking in. Naturally I have the app for Alaska airlines on my phone. 24 hours before my flight it reminded me that I could check in right then and there, so I did. That app would then also serve as my boarding pass, using a QR code I’d scan at various points along the way. No paper printed at all. Even the copies of my itinerary were saved as PDF files on my computer – which via the magic of Dropbox were also then available on my phone, and on my wife’s computer.
Transport. For a variety of reasons I elected to try Lyft for the first time, ever, as my ride to the airport. A couple of days beforehand I scheduled a pickup, and around 30 minutes before by desired pickup time I got notice that my driver was on the way – with a level of granularity that allowed me to see on a map exactly when he drove past my home in search of my mailbox to confirm the address. That quickly corrected, 45 minutes later he dropped me off at arrivals. A minute after that I paid (and tipped) via my phone’s app. A wonderfully smooth experience.
Contact. Of course I wanted to let my wife know that I’d arrived safely, and indeed, set up for the extended low-speed conversation we would have throughout my trip. I messaged her on Facebook. Seconds later she replied, noting that my trip in was pretty quick. (She was monitoring my progress via Life360, another app/service that I’d set up for exactly this purpose.) That conversation thread will presumably continue until my return at the end of my trip. As, presumably, will her stalking of me.
Security. I signed up for TSAPre some time ago, and it paid off nicely again today. Almost non-existent line, my phone’s app for a boarding pass, no need to remove laptops or clothing. Quick and easy.
Wi-Fi. As I mentioned I’m sitting in the Starbucks kiosk (quad-americano paid for using the Starbucks app, of course), and using the free airport Wi-Fi to not only write this, but also to stay on top of that Facebook conversation with my wife, as well as any email that might arrive. (And, indeed, some did between this and the preceding paragraph – email that actually warranted a reply, even.)
Digital Security. As you might imagine I write about digital security all the time, and thus it’s important that I follow my own advice. 🙂 I’ve actually elected to make this trip a bit of an experiment. To that end I’m currently typing on a $200 ASUS ChromeBook, and have my browser proxied through a TunnelBear VPN. (As a proxy it’s technically not actually a “VPN”, but the technology is similar and the terminology might be more familiar.) It’s my plan to use this setup as much as possible for the duration of my trip, though I have my more fully-featured Dell laptop with me also, just in case.
In-flight. Everything above was written at Starbucks. Everything below is from 30,000 feet. I’ve gushed about in-flight Wi-Fi before, so I won’t belabor it, but it’s pretty darned amazing. During my flight to Holland last year I found myself instant-messaging my wife, on one continent, and my cousin on another, at the same time, from somewhere above northern Canada or Greenland. The only reason I’ll wait to post this article until I reach my hotel is simply that the Wi-Fi speed isn’t quite up to browsing for and downloading a stock photo to use above.
Arrival. While I’m in the air a friend at my destination will be monitoring my progress as well. Initially via one of the many flight status applications, and then once I hit the ground probably with the Life360 app I mentioned earlier. He’ll be picking me up in his Tesla – an electronic marvel for which I’ll reserve my gushing for another day (other than to say the reason I used Lyft is that I wasn’t yet comfortable leaving mine at airport parking :-).)
There’s probably more … much more … that I could call out about travel today that is both dramatically different than in years gone by, and that’s made travel dramatically easier as well. Yes, we can gripe about delays and security theater, and the occasional discomfort, but we also get to make this wonderfully dramatic assumption of safety as well. As mentioned in a very timely Seattle Times article just this morning, everything else pales in comparison.
But pale or not, everything else is pretty darned cool.