Saturday, April 23, 2016

Everything Great About Airports

A friend of mine whom is constantly on the road making his living in a sales field once told me of how much he hates airports. Between the line-ups, the paper work and the hauling of luggage to kingdom come (or the next terminal at DFW), he has associated these hubs of long range travel with the same ill-will that the average commuter would place upon a big city highway at 5:30pm. This couldn’t be further from how I feel about airports.

I don’t work in sales and I have never had to travel for work. Also because of my job (which is steady, well-paying and one that I consider myself lucky to have) I don’t have the opportunity to jet-set around the world like some of the “digital nomads” we all love to read about online. The vacation time I have accrued allows me to take maybe two major trips per year. The good part about such infrequent travel is for one, the time I have on my side to plan the perfect vacation, and maybe more importantly the scarcity allows me to fully appreciate all that contributes to the magic of travel, of which the airport experience is an integral part.

Love getting up close and personal with one of these beauties 

With my selective memory conveniently blocking out painful customs lines and the occasional flight delay, here is everything I love about airports and airplanes:

The 4am Wakeup Call
…and leaving the house well before sunrise. I don’t do this when I go to work. I surely don’t do this on the weekend. I only do this when I’m going to the airport. Thus 4am wake-up call = vacation!

The Departure Board
Call me weird but sometimes I just love to stand in front of this thing and imagine all of the different places I could get to in a matter of hours. I could be in Lima for lunch or Delhi for dinner.

Oh, the places you can go...

The Obligatory Facebook Airport Check-in
Remember all those times sitting at your desk eating leftovers, reading about who’s about to takeoff to Europe? Well now it’s my turn, and you’re getting an Eiffel Tower emoji with that too!

The Duty Free
So what if I will have no shortage of opportunity to buy cheap booze while at my destination. I’m at the airport, I’m on vacation and dammit I’m going to at least look at all of the bottles and cigars. 

The Airline’s Destination Map
Similar to the destination board, look at all the places you can go! Beautifully illustrated with hub-and-spoke airports all over the map. I also enjoy the layout maps of the hub airports and info about the airline’s fleet. Other than Skymall, this is the pinnacle of inflight reading. Oh ya, Skymall!

Unleashing my inner geography nerd on every flight

No real explanation required. I will never buy a cat house or a Boston Red Sox themed BBQ set, but these are fun to look at for 5 minutes from the window seat.

Shopping at it's finest

The Views
I know, the major portion of an 8-hour trans-Atlantic flight is pretty damn boring, but man those views from above during take-off and descent are stunning.

The Mediterranean is a sight from above

This only really applies when flying to the tropics. The heat and humidity you feel when stepping off the plane in Miami or Punta Cana is awesome, especially when there is no tunnel and you step off right on to the tarmac in the mid-day sun. #Summertimeandthelivinseasy

Mike @ Palms & Pints

Monday, April 4, 2016

Essentials for the Travelling Runner

For more than five years running has been a huge part of my life. I have developed a love for the sport such that not even the deep freeze of winter or piercing humidity of summer can keep me off the road, (and living in the Toronto-area ensures I see plenty of both!). In fact, my general mental well being of the day, especially on weekends, is often directly related to whether or not I completed my morning run.
Bundled to run on the coldest day of 2016
Naturally, when the time comes for vacation, the activity doesn’t stop. Running, whether at the beach, in the big city, or on a back-country trail, is my favorite way to experience a new locale. I have written in the past about the benefits to running while traveling, so that is not the focus of this posting. Instead I’d like to offer up a list of the “essential” items any runner needs with a bit of extra focus on running while abroad. 

1) A GPS tracking device

There are a few options here. The most popular of which (especially amongst newer runners) is a smartphone. This is something that the majority of us already own, so all that is needed is an armband to secure it. Don’t worry about data roaming charges, as GPS tracking does not use data (only loading the maps does). When you are back on a Wi-Fi network you can review the details of your route.

Trusty iPhone on my arm, tracking my running route in Barcelona
The second option is a dedicated GPS smart watch. These range in price from a couple hundred to over a thousand dollars. They allow you to track your route and other stats on the fly without the need to carry your phone with you. On one hand this is useful if you are worried about your phone being lost or stolen, but on the flip side it’s always a safe practice to have your phone accessible when running in unfamiliar territory, just in case. 

2) A Heart Rate Monitor

Some of the aforementioned GPS watches include a wrist-based heart rate monitor (HRM). This is great for walks, light hikes and other moderate exercise, but for runs when your pulse is pounding at 160+ BPM, the accuracy of a chest-based unit is unmatched. Whichever route you go, a HRM is the best way to ensure you know just how hard you are pushing yourself. When running in new areas where the temperature, elevation change or terrain is harsher than you are used to, it is very important to keep tabs on your body’s limits. A basic HRM should set you back no more than $100-$150, which is more than worth the value it provides.   

3) Running App/Website

A running app or website will take the data from your run and translate it into several statistical and graphical breakdowns for you to review. Even at a basic level it will show you your total distance, route, pace, time and more. I highly recommend the app/website Strava, as it contains not only all of this info but also allows you to compare your time in certain sections of road or trail all over the world with others who have run it. Imagine seeing how your time running the perimeter of Central Park or along sections of the famous Boston Marathon compares to those from all over the world!

4) Music

This is an obvious one, but oh so important. Make sure your phone or iPod has a great playlist lined up with songs that will keep you moving and feeling good. Get creative and build a list of tunes that matches your location like British rock in London or jammin’ Latin beats for your beach run down south. The stock Apple ear buds are great for this use, but I find a head band or hat is required to keep them securely in the ears. Even with the tunes pumping, always be aware of your surroundings, especially when running near live traffic or at night.

Quick selfie during a beautiful beach run in Dominican Republic

Here are some other tips when running on vacation:

-If your accommodations do not include laundry facilities, bring a plastic bag to seal your sweaty running clothes in. You definitely do not want to stink up the rest of your luggage. You can also give them a quick rinse in the bathtub and hang dry them on your balcony if the room/weather allow it.

-Ask your hotel concierge if they know of any great running routes nearby. If your hotel is in a touristy city/area, they are likely asked that question all the time and will be happy to help. It may save you from a dangerous run in a dicey neighborhood or at the very least boring one in an commercial/industrial part of town.

-Use the local geography as part of your post-run reward. Whether that be a dip ocean as an instant cool down, or replenishing your electrolytes with water from a coconut cut fresh from the tree.

Mike @ Palms & Pints