How the 737 Max 8 issues affect travelers

31JUL19
Earlier this year, tragically over 340 people were killed in two separate incidents involving 737 Max 8 planes, one in Kenya and one in Indonesia. While the sudden deaths have undoubtedly taken a toll on the friends and families of the victims, the world of tourism and the multi trillion dollar business of air travel has continued on, albeit with many modifications and changes.

In March 2019, 737 Max 8 planes were grounded worldwide until further information was gathered and until they could be deemed safe to fly.

Were the two crashes related? Was it pilot error? Lack of training? Equipment malfunction?

While every news outlet seemed to have ‘the answer’, somehow, all of ‘the answers’ were different which means, as usual, that while they were reporting on what they call ‘facts’, the real story would not unfold for months later. In fact, the real story is still unfolding and while we have new ‘facts’, the planes are not back in operation, so it seems to me, the story is on going and anyone stating a date when they will be back in operation is speculating.

WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW?
As of July 30, 2019,  it has been announced that Air Canada, along with Southwest Airlines and likely various others to follow, have pulled their 737 Max 8s out of rotation until January 2020.  Until today you were able to book a fall flight from Halifax to London, even though it might not exist come fall. Today, they removed that uncertainty and have cancelled or replaced the routes operated by the 737 Max 8s until January, giving passengers some relief and stability in booking their fall / winter travels.

WestJet has pulled 737 Max 8s until at least Nov 4th, 2019.

HOW  DOES THIS AFFECT YOU AS A TRAVELER?

1. Not only do airlines have to reroute passengers, most of them need to do so with fewer planes in rotation, at a time when more people are traveling. In the end, that means that demand for the available number of seats is higher.  More people traveling + fewer planes flying means that you need to book earlier than normal and you need to be prepared for higher prices than what you may have historically paid. This is not a price hike … it is simply that the cheapest seats sell out early and if you are waiting until 1, 2, 3 months in advance to book your flights, then there may not be any of the cheapest seats still available.

This also means that popular routes are more likely to sell out and that more people will be doing advanced seat selection to ensure they get the seats that they want, rather than waiting until check in when it is getting harder and harder to get your choice seats.

2. May of the flights that were previously direct out of Halifax to various parts of Europe no longer exist. The one most people are missing the most is Halifax to London with Air Canada.  Now, you can expect to fly to Toronto or Montreal before heading across the pond to Europe with Air Canada. You can still fly direct from Halifax to Dublin, London Gatwick, Glasgow and Frankfurt. The problem is the routes forward from those locations with partner airlines are not well priced or well connected.

If you’d like to see the extent of Air Canada’s route changes, take a look here.

3. Many routes that had twice daily or daily service have been cut back to once daily and a few times a week. This is in order to free up planes to take over routes that were operated by 737 Max 8s. In turn, this means that those routes are now twice as busy because trust me, none of this has stopped people from traveling.

4. You can now book your fall / winter travel with Air Canada (and other airlines following suit) with better certainty for your flight routing and air craft type.  There may still be time changes and aircraft changes, as there always have been, but it won’t involve you flying on a 737 Max 8 until they are cleared to return to service.

5. If you have a flight booked on a 737 Max 8 route from now until January 2020, such as Halifax to London with Air Canada, your airline or travel agent will be in touch with your new routing, or in most cases you’ll have the option to cancel for a refund. I have already seen changes coming through for clients up until November 2019, so I would anticipate that if you have flights for November / December that were on 737 Max 8s, that those changes will be coming in the next few weeks.

6. Telephone wait times for the airlines are always long, but now they are longer. Grab a tea or coffee, get comfy and try not to lose your mind. The call-centre agents are working through requests as quickly as possible. It’s frustrating for everyone. Try to be kind.

If you are working with a travel agent, they often have access to agent-only lines with special service, however, these wait times can be long as well, so also have patience with your agent. Many days I spend 30 – 45 minutes on hold with airlines, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day.

7. If you’ve booked with a travel agent (give yourself a pat on the back), they are likely already taking care of this for you and you can sit back and relax.  In my case, I advised most of my clients booking in the last couple of months, for this fall, to choose routings that avoided the 737 Max 8 as I did not have confidence that they would be back in rotation any time soon. That doesn’t mean that some of those flights won’t be adjusted though as they have to move aircraft around to cover different routes.

8. If you are booking flights in 2020, pay attention to your assigned aircraft. If you are booking a flight operated with a 737 Max 8, there is no guarantee that it will be operating in January, Febuary, October 2020. We simply don’t know when they will be back in service. Keep an open mind and know that if the planes are fixed and deemed safe, you’ll have the best route. If they are not back in operation, be prepared to be rerouted.

9. Travel Insurance is so very important to protect your travel investment and interruptions that you may encounter along the way. However, it is also important to note, that at this point the issues with the 737 Max 8s are ‘known’ variables and to my knowledge, most insurance policies will not cover you for issues due directly to change of routing / cancellation if you are booked on a 737 Max 8. If you purchased your policy before the flights were grounded, then you are covered. For full details on your policy, you should check directly with your insurance company as they all have different rules.

LOOKING FOR DIRECT FLIGHTS OUT OF HALIFAX?
Right now, your options are limited to other cities in Canada, USA, Dublin, London (Gatwick), Frankfurt and Glasgow. In the winter season, we’ll again have direct flights to several Caribbean options.

While not completely up to date, you can check the Halifax International Airport Authority Website for what we ‘normally’ have for non-stop flights from Halifax.

NOT SURE WHAT TO DO?
When in doubt, book with a travel professional who deals with all of these intricacies day in and day out. You may have to pay a professional fee for their assistance up front, but the time they save you, expertise they have and peace of mind you’ll have in knowing it is done right will be priceless.

If you are looking for a travel agent to give you peace of mind, save you time and take the stress out of planning, I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached by phone, Monday – Friday 9am – 6pm, evenings and weekends by chance, for emergencies or by appointment. You can also reach me by email at your leisure.

Caring Counts for Critters too!

My business card says Photographer. Adventurer. Storyteller. But, in all honesty, I’m a story-listener as well. I love learning about people and why they are doing what they do. It’s amazing to start a small conversation with someone and have it turn in to a Caring Counts moment.

The owner of the Alona 42 Resort in Alona Beach, Panglao Island in the Philippines is a great example of Caring Counts (for Critters).

Christian is an engineer from Germany. He works five months in Germany each year and spends seven months in the Philippines. Contrary to popular belief, his time in the Philippines is not seven months of vacation, rather seven months of longer than normal work-hours managing his resort. The resort took three years to build and became operational in 2012.

When we arrived at the small resort, we were greeted by one of Christian’s four cats, Mary. She was in really rough shape, hobbling, dirty and looked like she was in a lot of pain. Her mouth and surrounding fur was black and her paws were balding. She was so dirty that I didn’t even dare touch her as I wasn’t sure what disease might be lurking. I was heartbroken and asked the staff what was wrong with her. They explained that she had some kind of mouth cancer and had been sick for quite some time. They also explained that she had been to the vet and that they had been trying to help her. As she hobbled over to the food dish that the staff set out, I found my heart aching that this poor kitty, presumably, was in so much pain, but happy that the staff were taking care of her despite her outward appearance.

Although we had only met one cat, Mary, at this point, Christian had actually taken in a family of four white cats Mary, Sophie, Chica and Mouse, all of whom we would meet in a short time. Within a couple of hours, we saw one or two of the other cats. It was difficult to tell them apart as all had similar markings with their white bodies, black and brown patches on their heads and various sizes of bob tails. They were all clean and appeared healthy which was a relief to see.

Generally speaking, animals aren’t cared for or respected here in the Philippines, which is sad. Many of them roam homeless, dirty, mangey and severely under nourished. Not to mention that they continue to reproduce, as very few are fixed. Due to lack of education, it is not uncommon for animals to be abused here. To control the animal population, every few months the government gives residents notice, sets a date and drives around collecting animals that are not tagged or collared. They are kept in a cage for approximately 24 hours. If you’re pet has been mistakenly captured, you can go and pay to have them released. After that time, sadly, the remaining animals are killed. It’s heartbreaking. And I’m sure that there is no hope of the animals being killed in any kind of a humane way.

As I spoke with Christian about the cats, I mentioned that I hadn’t seen Mary for a couple of days. He gently and sadly explained that she had been too sick. He had taken her to the vet the day prior and the vet confirmed that the medicine was not working and that she was in a lot of pain. He was given the option to take Mary for an operation in Manila which would cost several hundred dollars and may or may not work. Besides the fact that they would need to fly there and fly back which is particularly stressful for any animal, let alone one as sick as Mary. So, they made the difficult decision to put her down, humanely, by way of injection. You could tell that Christian was still a bit sad, but he went on to tell me about how he and his staff care for the other cats.

The cats are left to roam free, but rarely leave the property. They are outdoor cats, but have lots of shelter options when it rains under the balconies of the accommodations, or the small covered outdoor restaurant / seating area. They also tend to scare off new cats who decide to try for a chance at the good life at the resort. He chalks it up to them being fed and well taken care of on a regular basis, so therefore they have no reason to leave. He lamented with a smile that some days he wished he could be one of his cats as they have such a good life.

As I write this, Chica is snoozing on the mat outside my front door and Sophie is having a bite to eat at the bar. Mouse is sprawled out on the cement close to a wall, trying to cool off a bit. Chica doesn’t run away, but sticks her nose up at you if you try to pet her and saunters just out of reach. Sophie looks up with interest when you call her, but keeps her distance.

Although I was sad to know that Mary was no longer around, I was glad to know that she was no longer in pain. More than anything I felt warm from the inside that this man from another country had taken in not one, but four cats, to provide food and shelter for them as well as the necessary medical check ups. Even better, he had them all fixed as not to contribute to the overpopulation of animals. All of this paid for from his own pocket.

As I try to live in, and create a world around me that is full of kindness and caring, I am happy that I’ve had the chance to stay at this lovely little location where Caring Counts for Critters too.

Please take a moment to check out the fantastic Caring Counts movement that is going on in Halifax, Nova Scotia and spreading like wild fire. It’s all about the little things that make a difference and caring about one another. It’s for me and you and everyone! Let’s make this world a better place, just by caring!

Falling in Love with Sailing – Part 2

SAIL-AWAY

WOW! I had no idea I would be so completely amazed and in awe by the beauty of the send off. The sun had already set and sunset itself was kind of lack-luster, but when the music started, the deck filled with people, the deck hands started raising the sails and the Captain started commanding the ship, it was a magical, beautiful moment. It was then that I started to get excited about my big adventure. There had been too much stress leading up to the trip, that until I saw the sails of the ship I don’t think I really believed it was happening.

With the sails raised we started our slow sail through Venice, seeing St. Mark’s square off one side of the ship and the Molino Stucky hotel (where I almost stayed) off the right-hand side. With the sail-off anthem playing and the beauty of the lights and sails against the dark blue night sky, I got a little lost in my own little world.

Molino Stucky in Venice
Molino Stucky in Venice

The process probably takes about half an hour to 45 minutes and they do the sail-away ceremony every single night that you leave port. For me, it did not lose its charm. I watched every single night, even when it was cold and misty. Looking up up up as the sails come down, spread out and begin to catch the wind. Every night I spent 30 – 45 minutes lost in my own thoughts, amazed at the beauty and gentle power of the wind in the sails.

A couple of nights I actually helped the deck hands with the process, not that I feel I really did a lot, but I learned how to coil the rope properly and how to let the rope out slowly. I felt like it was an insignificant task, but yet there were six or ten different staff doing the exact same thing at different stations on the boat, so it couldn’t have been worthless. And I got to chat with one of the staff from Goa, India. He was really a great guy and so friendly! Sorry I made your job more difficult Shalesh! Glad you could at least have a laugh at me. (I admit, coiling rope shouldn’t be difficult, but somehow, it just wasn’t my thing!)

 

Deck hands raising the sails
Shalesh showing me how to coil rope (making fun of me actually).

Even though the process is the same every night, the light is different and the port is different. Some nights departure is after dark and the sails are raised into the dark night sky full of stars, other nights they are raised just as the sun is setting. Each night with a beauty all its own.

Royal Clipper Sail-Away from Venice
Royal Clipper Sail-Away from Venice
Royal Clipper Sail-Away from Venice
Royal Clipper Sail-Away from Venice

Each night I noticed something new, found a new process to watch or just simply breathed in the calm energy and beauty of the sails lifting to the sky as we were lulled away to our next destination.

Most people congregated at the front of the boat (bow) where the Captain was commanding the ship and where passengers could take turns learning how to steer. Although I didn’t take a turn at the wheel, I photographed several of my group mates giving it a shot.

Deanna steering the ship
Deanna steering the ship

 

Michelle steering the ship
Michelle steering the ship
Francine steering the ship
Francine steering the ship
Captain Sergei
Captain Sergei
Florentina steering the ship
Florentina steering the ship

What a different atmosphere from a regular cruise ship where you only interact with the wait staff. All around, staff on the ship, were wonderful, fun, friendly and accommodating. After all, I’m sure that Shalesh probably had to redo all of my rope coiling after I turned my back!

Royal Clipper Ropes
Royal Clipper Ropes

On our last sail-away from Porek, Slovenia the last tender to the boat was at 6pm. 6:30pm was set for sail-away. I arrived back on that last tender as I had been on a tour of stunning Ljubljana and our tour had run late returning. I didn’t even go to my room when I returned, I went straight to the sun deck for send-off because it was golden hour and I just knew it was going to be simply beautiful.

When I arrived on deck, I went to the bow where there were surprisingly few passengers. Just one or two. I thought it was unusual, but convinced myself it was just early and people would come in a few minutes. Then the music started and deck hands were everywhere working away. I was busy snapping a few pictures and taking it all in, but felt like I had missed something because no one was on deck!

Slovenia at sunset
Slovenia at sunset
Porek, Slovenia at sunset
Porek, Slovenia at sunset

Just then, one of the deck hands said to me ‘Why are you here? Why aren’t you out on the tender?’ I said ‘What tender?’ He pointed to the tender that was already out in the water staring back at the beautiful Royal Clipper with sails being raised in the setting sun. A perfect moment and I was missing it. My heart sank instantly. Then he told me that there was another tender and hurried me along to go catch it. And I did just that. I arrived at the second tender just on time.

I suspect there had been announcements earlier during the day on board, but because I arrived on the last tender back, I had missed them.

As we moved away from the ship to a better vantage point on the tender, the beauty of the ship, the perfect sunset and the beautiful week I had enjoyed on board all culminated together for a fantastic memory.

Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia
Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

IMG_8717

Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia
Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

I sat on the tender with 30 or so other passengers who were equally enamored with the beauty. Our two staff members, the tender Captain and Shalesh (deck hand) did a great job taking us to all of the best vantage points to see the beautiful Royal Clipper as she started to sail away.

We were treated to the opportunity to sail along beside her, to see her with the sun shining on her and the sun setting behind her. I climbed all over the boat, standing on seats, poking my head out above the top and standing precariously on the edge to take a few photos. I think my jaw was open the entire time as I just could not even believe I was part of something so stunning.

Royal Clipper at Sunset
Royal Clipper at Sunset
Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia
Royal Clipper at Sunset in Slovenia

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we were taken to the bow of the ship in our tender where about 14 of our crew members walked to the very tip to give us a grand send off with a bow and wave. An amazing end to a very memorable trip.

Royal Clipper send off wave
Royal Clipper send off wave
Royal Clipper send off wave
Royal Clipper send off wave

The next day, I went back on deck to find the deck hand who had pointed me toward the tender, to say a huge thank you for telling me to go as I definitely would have regretted it if I hadn’t caught that second tender. Thanks to his extra care, I shared in one of the most beautiful moments of the entire trip. He didn’t have to tell me about it, but he did and I am most thankful. The sunset was beautiful, but if it hadn’t been for the exceptional staff, I would have missed out.

What do you think? Are you ready for an adventure with Star Clippers tall ship sailings? I can’t wait to do another one. I’m not a fan of cruising, because isn’t adventurous enough for me, but somehow sailing has completely captured my heart.

If you are interested in more information on Star Clippers and the beautiful ports that I visited while I was on this seven day Mediterranean Cruise, please feel free to contact me stucker@tpi.ca

I would truly love for you to have an experience as wonderful as I did.

A quick note. I am not being paid to write this post. I simply adored my travels with Star Clippers and believe they are an amazing company with an interesting background, amazing ships, unique and fun products. I’m sure if you try them you will not be disappointed! I will be a repeat customer for sure.

Closing Day

Here it is, closing day (Wednesday, June 18, 2014). To me it seems like it has been a LONG LONG time coming, but yet in some ways it all came together too quickly. It is so hard to believe that I put this plan in place at the beginning of February and here it is June 18th and the planned part of my ‘Unplan’ has come together.

Now, things certainly didn’t just fall into place. Almost everything has been a challenge. Let’s not forget the pain of renovations, the frustrations of the kitchen cupboards being redone at least four times and having no livable space for weeks (felt like a year). Or, me doing last minute touch ups until midnight the night before I left for Asia for three weeks. And, don’t even get me started on the crazy week of packing, lifting things that were too heavy for me, 20+ trips to the storage unit and enough trips up and down stairs with heavy boxes that I should have a rock hard ass. (I don’t though … ha ha)

I had planned to have everything moved out and the place cleaned by Sunday. Wow! Did I ever mis-calculate the time needed to get everything done. The biggest challenge wasn’t physically packing items, but more so trying to figure out what to pack and what to throw away. Going through boxes / papers / CDs / clothing / kitchen supplies … You name it, I had to sort through it.

It is one thing when you are packing to move to a new house and take everything with you (unless it is broken). It is a whole new ball game when you are moving, considerably downsizing your life in an effort to simplify, travel and be happy.

Keep in mind I moved from a two bedroom condo – approximately 1100 sq ft to a 12 x 8 already furnished, bedroom. I downsized by about 1000 sq ft!

I hired Cheaper than the Rest movers (if you hire them, make sure you let me know & tell them I sent you – they have a referral bonus!). They were great and certainly gave me a good deal. They disassembled two beds and packed those up along with two dressers, a night stand, a bookcase, a tv, four SUV tires, photography backdrops some boxes and totes. They dropped one bed off at my sister’s house in Hammonds Plains and then everything else to the storage unit in Bayer’s Lake … All for about $175.

I have a storage unit that is 5 x 10 ft (about $100 per month) and if I hadn’t given my spare bed to my niece, I don’t think the unit would have been big enough. It is fine for now though and when I decide where / what I’m doing in the fall I may have to consider a larger unit in order to fit everything from my current room into storage.

Yesterday was a very difficult day for me. On top of underestimating the amount of time it would take me to pack and clean, I had a photo shoot scheduled for the evening and hadn’t even thought about the fact that leaving my condo for the last time, closing and locking the door would be very emotional. How did I miss that?

So, after packing and cleaning for a fourth day in a row, I finished up at around 3pm, dirty, exhausted and sore. I had everything out except for one bag of garbage and a vacuum that I simply couldn’t stuff into my SUV that was bursting with random items to go to friends, to storage, to my new ‘room’. I dropped stuff off at the storage unit (for the 2nd time that day), went home to clean up before my photo shoot and then at 8:30pm headed back to the condo for one last walk through to make sure there would be no hiccups with the final walk through.

I was getting close to the condo when it really hit me that I was going to leave my keys inside the condo, lock the door and never return again. By the time I unlocked the door to go in that one last time I was crying. It was completely overwhelming. I did it to myself, this was all part of the plan, but none-the-less, it was difficult to leave behind the first place that I had purchased on my own, the only place I’ve ever lived for more than two years. A place where I had many memories, many frustrations and really, a place that I loved. I sat down in the empty living room with my back against a wall and cried. Yup. I did.

Half way through 2014 I can easily say it has been one of the most chaotic years of my life.

From the beginning I’ve said that the first step of my whole Unplan was to get debt free. I refused to make any significant travel plans before making sure that I had full financial freedom so that I could move forward without any real commitments.

Today is that day everyone.

9am – the final walk-through of the condo by the buyers was complete.

9:07am – I had a message from my fantastic realtor, Richard Payne from Keller Williams telling me it is ‘time to celebrate’ as the buyers were happy and the documents were all signed and in the lawyers hands.

1:30pm – I received a call from my Mark Charles Law to let me know that the deal was fully complete and a cheque was waiting for me.

4:30pm – Funds were deposited in my bank account with no hold so I could start paying off debts right away.

Closing day was actually pretty calm for me in comparison to yesterday when I was still cleaning and packing. Today was just the cherry on top of all of the hard work.

Now comes the freedom part … that deserves a blog post all of it’s own (coming soon).

South East Asia – Chapter 5 – Long Haul

I left Halifax, on time at 11:45pm on Air Canada. I was seated in row 34 of about 40 in an aisle seat. I don’t know why but I was expecting the flight to be super long. It isn’t. It is only 4-5 hours depending on winds. I guess last time I flew to London was from New York when I went to Poland for the Coaltion for Kids project. That flight seemed much longer.

Touched down in London on August 15th at around 9am in Terminal three and was thrilled to know that I didn’t have to navigate various terminals as my Thai Airways flight was also set to leave from Terminal three. Thank goodness for small pleasures.

I sat around with hundreds of other people waiting for my gate to be populated on the big screen. That meant waiting from 9am when I arrived until 11:30am (15 minutes before boarding). I walked around a bit to try and give my poor ol’ bum a break from sitting, but I didn’t really go in any of the shops.

Air Canada had given us breakfast (egg omelette with mushrooms and bits of sausage & a fruit cup), so I wasn’t starving when I arrived, but by around 10:30 I decided I needed a bite to eat.

I went to a store called EAT and picked up a water, shop chips and a yogurt and granola parfait (yum!).

At pretty much exactly 11:30, our gate was announced and I headed down several long hallways to my gate. They checked us in and then we waited in an area that was completely closed in with windows. Not long though, we boarded about 10 minutes later.

As I was boarding, the first thing I noticed was a stair case INSIDE the airplane. Oh my! Seriously? Was I sitting on the top level? Um, no, of course not … but the thought crossed my mind.

I walked down past business class with their fancy stretch out cubbies to sleep in … past another full section of economy (or premium economy) all the way to row 64 (out of 70) where I grabbed my aisle seat and got settled.

Time to take my malarone pill for Malaria and an anxiety pill … mostly just to keep me asleep. At this point I really was quite relaxed.

I grabbed the bottle of water that I had just purchased and ….

IT EXPLODED! Sssssssss …. Spray … EEEK!

I closed it off quickly but not before it had managed to soak my pants and t-shirt and send a few droplets toward the passenger seated beside me and the kid on the other side of the aisle. The Thai hostess rushed to grab us each paper towel

How embarrassing!

Yup, England is one of the many places (unlike Canada) that regularly sells carbonated water. Yuck. I never even considered this when I picked the bottle up. Seriously! If you want water why do you want carbonation in it? It’s just not my thing. Anyway … now, it was my thing as I was wearing about a ¼ of the bottle.

I took my pills, apologized to the other water sprayed passengers and proceeded to try to sleep.

I really did sleep quite well on the plane, despite the three guys who were incredibly loud sitting behind me. Really, they were sitting with each other and still yelling. At least they were happy.

Take off was kind of cool. We seemed to taxi at high speed forever. I guess it’s necessary to lift one of these double decker planes off the ground. It was a bit bumpy on the way up, but nothing over the top and soon enough I was dosing off.

I awoke for our first snack about an hour into the trip. Sour cream pretzels and a drink. Liquor (within reason) is also free on these flights, but I didn’t partake. Last thing I need is to get hung over on all of these travels! And with my luck, one drink would have done it … or worse, I would have spilled it all over me!

Next up, supper. We had our choice of two lovely dishes. I chose the rice, vegetables and green curry chicken. Even the beans and carrots were especially good. YUM! (but yikes it was hot!) I was nearly crying by the time I got water to me and even then I had to ask for three glasses. I loved it though. Super yummy! So was the dessert cheesecake to go along with it.

Then they walked around and gave everyone a hot cloth to wash their face. Wow, did that feel nice. Too hot to hold initially but it cooled quickly and was certainly refreshing.

Then I tried to watch the movie Side Effects. I got about ½ way or maybe 3/4s through and then, well, I drifted off to sleep. I tried twice more to pick up and start where I left off and both times I fell back asleep. Not because the movie wasn’t good … I think the pills were just keeping me in dazed mode.

I was awake for about an hour a bit later in the flight and listened to some music and watched a couple of tv shows.

Back to sleep and then when I woke up there was a sandwich on the seat for me! I certainly wasn’t going to go hungry on the flight.

I tried the sandwich, but it wasn’t my favorite. I think it might have been tuna / salmon and maybe chicken? I’m not really sure. I took a couple of bites, but that was it. Besides, I wasn’t really that hungry.

Next up, about two hours before landing (flying over Burma at this point) it was breakfast time! Local time in Thailand was about 3:45am. I decided to get the quiche with mushrooms and bacon. Yum! Let me tell you, I certainly had no issues with this airplane food. It’s better than what I cook at home.

And then, all of a sudden, we are starting our descent! I couldn’t believe it. Despite the fact that I was uncomfortable, tired and my tailbone really really hurt, the flight really hadn’t been too bad. The service was excellent, the staff were super friendly and there was just a little bit of added space between your knees and the chair in front of you.

I’m so excited that they are a star alliance partner. I’ll choose to fly with them whenever I can. (Unlike United who I will avoid whenever I can!).

Our descent was uneventful (thankfully). I starred out the window and saw the lights of Bangkok as it was still completely dark. What a large and beautiful city in the dark. I asked my seat mate to take a photo with my phone. Not sure it’s very good, but it’s a memory just the same. Touch down was a piece of cake and then out through the airport was easy peasy.

Signs everywhere were in Thai and English, so no trouble to navigate the airport. This was one of my biggest concerns and it wasn’t necessary.

Next up, immigration … no problem.

Baggage pick up … no problem! By the time I was through immigration my bag was already rolling toward me on the conveyor belt, perfectly in tact in the large air Canada plastic bag.

Phew! One stress after another, just completely disappearing and I can feel myself getting closer to relaxing.

I went to a tour desk to see if I could get a city tour from 7 or 8am until 1pm, starting at the BKK airport, going through the city and then dropping me off at 1pm at the DMK airport. The nice man went through the entire city with all of the things I could stop and see, including China town where I could stop and eat if I wanted. Then he told me 4000 Thai Bhat. That’s approximately $200 US. That was an immediate no for me.

I found my way (after asking several staff) to the free shuttle to DMK and I’m about to board it now. Once I’m at DMK I’ll look into storing my luggage and taking a bus or train somewhere for a few hours. If not, I’ll sleep or use internet or find myself some yummy thai food for lunch!

Failure. No Thanks.

One day, not too long ago a photographer that I know from Halifax wandered into the Adventure Travel Company having seen the sandwich board outside announcing the Peru Art Show. As she started to have a look at the photos, I said hello to her and she recognized me. She then sat down and we had a chat as she gazed around at the photos.

The little chat of course quickly got to the fact that I had changed careers and she stated ‘I don’t blame you. The photography business is horrible. A bunch of us sit around and bitch about it all the time. There’s no work. No one values you. Some people just can’t take it and make any money at it, so I don’t blame you for changing careers.’

Bite your tongue Shari … bite it hard!

I politely told her that I hadn’t changed careers for any of those reasons and that it was just time in my life for a change. She skimmed over it and continued on about the death of the photography industry and so many people doing photos on their own with point and shoot cameras. She never heard a word I said because she was too wrapped up in her own negativity.

The fact of the matter is this …

If you sit and bitch about your job, that there is no work and no one values you … maybe you are the problem not the public at large. Maybe the industry isn’t dying, so much as it is looking elsewhere for better service. Or, maybe you simply aren’t selling your value. You can’t assume that people should think you are valuable! You need to prove your value to them.

I changed careers seven months ago for all kinds of reasons, but not for any one of the reasons that she was complaining about. I had no shortage of work. I had great clients who appreciated me and treated me well. Loyal and kind. You get what you give.

I changed careers for a different lifestyle, for a change in my life and although it is hard to believe, about a third of the money. That’s right folks. I make less than 1/2 of what I used to running my own business and I made that choice (not easily). Money simply does not equal happiness.

It has always amazed me from the time I was in photo school (many moons ago) at how negative the photography industry is as a whole. I can remember one of the photographers in our speaker series just before I graduated coming in to tell us about his part in the photography industry. After two years in school, he all but told us we wasted our time and money because there was no work and he was starving. I remember it so clearly. I was so angry that he had such a negative message for us when we were hoping to be inspired and excited to use our creativity. Not to mention that I had just put myself through school, while traveling every day from Truro, by doing photography on the side. I didn’t have any student loans to help support me and I had a mortgage to pay. Somehow I was making money, who was he to tell me that I was going to starve?

I knew from that moment on that in the photography business lots of people would fail and I did not want to be one of them … I came to learn that the photography business would be a bit catty and negative, so I avoided getting involved in a lot of that and concentrated more on the business aspect than mingling with fellow photographers. Although, there were positive conferences and get togethers it could be quite “clique-y” and sometimes very negative. Most of the well established photographers (5-10 years ago) were scared to death to talk about anything business related with someone up and coming. It made it difficult and un-welcoming to newbies, so you just had to find your own way.

I always shared everything I could with students, taking several on over the years as interns and then hiring several of them to work for me as well. If they asked me a question about the business I answered. I didn’t hide my ‘secrets’ of good business. I took some of them networking with me, others I sent on shoots by themselves. I wanted them to have a positive influence in the photography field rather than the often negative, jaded ones that are out there.

Now, there are several of the ‘younger’ generation of photographers who do the same and are willing to talk about business and how things work behind the scenes. The stuff you don’t learn in school.

What I learned through a lot of struggles was that my photography business would survive and thrive on three things:

1. My work being good. Although I have never been ‘the best’ photographer in Halifax. My work is good and appeals to a lot of people. And, photography is an ‘art’, so who can really determine ‘the best’ photographer in Halifax?
2. How good I was at running a business. This is where most photographers fail. They think that they can just be good photographers and everything else will fall in place. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. You have to be a business person as well as a creative. Not everyone can pull that off.
3. ** MOST IMPORTANTLY ** How much people like me as a person, connect with me and trust me. No one wants to hire a photographer whose work they love but who barks orders at them, asks for final payment at awkward moments in front of wedding guests, is disorganized or unprofessional.

In my 10 years in business, I have grown as a photographer, I have become a successful and respected business person. However, more than anything, the reason that people hired me is for me. It may sound cocky … which any of my friends and colleagues know that I am not … So, if it isn’t me just blowing my own horn, how do I know that’s why people hired me?

It’s simple. Two reasons.

1. My clients were loyal and still are. Many of my clients from 10 years ago were still clients when I decided to make my career shift and many of them treat me like part of the family. I’ve crashed on the couch in Ottawa at a wedding client’s home, I’ve travelled abroad with a portrait client, I’ve been invited to birthday parties, new year’s eve celebrations and much more … and not to take photos, but simply to enjoy. I’ve also photographed many clients children from maternity to 10 years old. I’ve watched their kids grow.

2. When I went to casual photography instead of full-time, many of my photography clients have now turned to me as their travel agent. That has nothing to do with me being good at photography … it has everything to do with the relationships I built with those clients over the past ten years.

When photographers who are starting out or who are struggling with their business ask me for advice … my advice is build relationships. Be good at your art and learn to run a business. If you are only good at one of these things, then your business will not succeed. Your option is to struggle through it and become bitter, or to hire someone to help you with the parts you aren’t as good at.

While some people out there assume that I failed or closed up shop as a photographer because I couldn’t make it work, I know that I succeeded because I ran a successful business for 10 years and then changed careers before I became bitter and jaded. I made a change for myself and I kept relationships with people who I will continue to do business with in a different capacity. Failure to me would have been to stay in an a job that I wasn’t passionate about and end up treating clients poorly or not delivering on what I promised.

Failure? No thanks.
New opportunities and moving forward. Yes Please!

38 Days of Peruvian Photos

Appreciate the work of a photo enthusiast. Buy a print and decorate your home or office. Make a difference to under privileged kids in Peru.

It’s just that simple to make a difference.

Leading up to the Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser on May 25th (and continuing after), I will be posting one or two photos each day from the art show.

The show is on display from May 25 – June 25th (now extended until July 10th). Prints are available for purchase for $30 (cash). If you see a photo you would like to purchase, drop by The Adventure Travel Company to purchase (or order) your copy between May 25th and July 10th.

Net proceeds from the art show are being donated to The Planeterra Foundation and the House of the People of the Sun where we spent a day photographing under privileged youth while in Cuzco, Peru. Your support will help them have a better education, a warm meal each day and learn new skills to work and help support their families.

Flowery Photo Essay

I thought Spring was here, but our forecast is calling for a bunch of snow. This makes me sad.
So, I’ve decided to post pictures of pretty flowers from a couple of summers ago that I’ve never gotten around to sharing!

As a photographer, I’ve never been particularly interested in photographing flowers, but I went on a garden walk put on by a not for profit organization in Halifax and really enjoyed the scents, the fresh summer air and the beauty!

With more white stuff on the way tonight, I thought we could all use some thoughts of summer. It really is on the way … really … (I’m trying to convince myself)

Adventure Travel Specialist (that’s me!)

I know most of you already know my BIG NEWS, but here’s the official proof!

I am the newest Adventure Travel Specialist at The Adventure Travel Company here in Halifax. We are located at 5552 Kaye Street in the Hydrostone, right next to Starbucks.

I’m very excited about my new position and at just three weeks into my new role, I know that I’ve made a great life decision! I am still adjusting to regular hours and office life, but all is good.

Please feel free to drop in and say hello if you are in the area. Or, give me a call or email if you’d like to talk about upcoming travel plans! You’ll be amazed at all of the exciting places, ancient history, interesting people, sights, sounds and tastes that are just out there waiting for you to discover them!

My new contact information is:

(902) 482-8000 extension 2306
STucker@atcadventure.com

Shari ATC