In Transit

Posted: July 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

Trish and I have almost finished working in Dallas after living there for 2.5 years. Just a few more weeks and one more short trip to tie up loose ends and that will be Texas in the rear view mirror. We grew to love the Texan culture…especially the way cool music. We have been back in Vancouver Canada for a few weeks…feeling like aliens after being away so long. It’s hard to get used to the increased cost of living compared to what we had. Canada is three times as expensive as in Texas….across the entire spectrum. The cost of food in Canada is especially outrageous…but what can we do? Well, what we have decided to do is leave again soon. The first week of October we will be back in our favorite apartment in Bangkok Thailand, where we have gone for refuge many times over the past 20 years.

It really feels like home whenever we go ..”Back to the old neighborhood” as we say. The plan is to spend the winter….6 months….making more video’s and learning to breath again. It’ll be nice to see all our old friends and swim under the stars . I have written extensively in historic posts about our little perch and our experiences….and posted many photographs in the archives. For some strange reason the setting brings out an artistic drive in both of us…..painting, writing poetry and constant flow of video production editing.

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So bye bye Texas……we love you…..next stop sweet home Thailand. Some very interesting projects await.

What a fiasco, what an embarrassment for the employees of American Airlines. Management should be immediately replaced over the mass cancellations of flights in and around Dallas Fort Worth Airport. Less than an inch of snow and these incompetents stranded tens of thousands of travelers for days.  While management dithered over cancelled flights for days at a time all other responsible airlines were in the air and landing at DFW on the same day American went on vacation.

The official response from American was that the ice storm was at fault…but we all know that was not the reason behind the slow moving operations tangle that stranded so many people…. it  was incompetence. I suggest they hire some Canadian or European managers who don’t freak out at the first sign of snow. After all European airlines and Canadian airlines fly in the cold weather all the time…hell I taught my wife to drive in worse weather than we saw at DFW…..there is no excuse for the incompetence shown by American Airlines management.

Our flight out of Vancouver to Dallas has been cancelled for the fourth day running. As American Airlines tries to reschedule it’s massive network of flights and clear up the back log of stranded passengers, Vancouver is an after thought for the schedulers right now. Even though other international flights are beginning to land at DFW after the massive ice storm …flights from Vancouver are getting the rump treatment….think of that next time you try and fly out of this place if there has been a disaster…..Vancouver is the last place that flights will start up again…as our experience has shown us. My advice..be prepared for a long stay…and remember…hotels, car rentals and restaurants are hyper expensive in Vancouver. The airlines do not give you vouchers for weather delay and the entire cost of being stranded will be borne by the stranded.

We’re not aware of YVR giving any comfort to stranded passengers during the three day delays. In Dallas they have given out thousands of cots, toys and food vouchers…Vancouver has given the hundreds of stranded passengers nothing that I saw while there. YVR, for those of you who know it, is one of the least comfortable airports and most disorganized or welcoming  on the planet. There are no suitable stations or special areas ( like Singapore has for ex) where passengers with long stopovers can make themselves comfortable. YVR is cavernous and barn like. It’s just one long cold hallway with no comfortable chairs or suitable areas for children or passengers in distress.

The only attached hotel starts at $240 per night if you need a shower. Arrivals are chaotic and there is no visible information for the first time traveler to know where the transportation access points are. The few signs there are tell the traveler nothing about which buses to take or where the teensy train goes. Frankly the train looks like a model left over from a tourist attraction. Oh..and YVR…thanks for letting the newly arrived traveler have to be greeted by the smokers at the front exit…..nice welcome…not.

This is a typical experience for anyone coming to Canada. It’s all smiles until there’s an issue..then they turn on you…and you realize that you don’t matter. Thats the true face of the Canadian experience.

The entire network of air traffic headed south came to a halt on Friday. Dallas Fort Worth in particular was hit by a massive early season ice storm. This is so unusual in Texas that the emergency administrations panicked and stuck their collective heads in the sand. The feeder airports like Vancouver, where we got stuck, can fly, but they have no destination to fly to, and that has caused thousands to be stranded in the airports overnight. Travelers are hard hit because airlines don’t give hotel vouchers for weather related delays. Hence there were thousands of people forced to sleep in the airports overnight….4000 in Dallas-Fort Worth alone.

Our being stranded in Vancouver for two extra days gives me a chance to get a good look at the city again. I can’t believe how miserable people really are here. There is no Christmas cheer. Say ‘Merry Christmas’ and you’re more likely to get a growling response about how crappy someones life is…or how much they want to get out. The cities famous road rage is whacked. There is zero courtesy on the roads. A simple drive to the grocery store yields people of all ages, races and attributes shouting at each other, honking, cutting one another off, failing to yield. If this was a sole indicator of peoples attitudes in a city then Vancouver deserves the reputation of ‘Road Rage Capital of the World‘…..what a bunch of assholes…seriously.

We’ve learned not to tell people we’re from somewhere nice. The mention that you’re heading out and you’ll instantly see the face of a Vancouverites turn sour. people seem genuinely angry if you have someplace better to go. I’ve been watching the local television stations for the past few days and I’m thinking that people here are being programmed to be as miserable as they are. There are two glaring aspects to the television offerings…one is the numbing number of murders, rapes, incidents of violence, police shooting citizens and getting off scot free 100% of the the time.

Everyone talks of how they neither trust the police or government and of how they’ve lost their faith in receiving justice, about fatal accidents, home invasion robberies, desperate families, starving children, poverty, grasping, needy, jealous, envious, rat and cockroach populations, breakout of maggots, bedbug infestations, polluting the harbour with raw sewage, arrogant civil servants telling people they’re stupid…things like that…there are no good news stories. A constant diet of these kinds of negative stories could be part of the problem. People might begin to see that they are being attacked from every side. With bad news inundating you from all sides, every day, I’d expect a person would come to expect a miserable outcome from every day activities. People get absolutely furious if you tell them their $45 dollar holiday turkey costs $12 in the USA. No one except the elite civil service has enough money to live at all well here…and everyone is furious that food and clothing in the US is a third the price….but ask why and the same people say “Its the high wages we pay government workers’.

The other prominent aspect of the news barrage is covetousness at it’s most raw. The television stations rotates possessions, hate fueled political diatribe, lottery wins, media stars with multimillion dollar salaries, expensive homes and the like that must have the effect of making people feel like inadequate losers. Together it is this characteristic which is most prominent in Vancouver’s population. People present themselves as mean, greedy, grasping, jealous, envious, burdened with dislike for the people around them and generally hate  for life outside themselves.

Another thing that is obvious is the failure of the multicultural experiment. You see ethnicities aligned against each other…there is no assimilation towards the greater good. Each ethnicity is distinctly separate…in isolated race ghetto’s, each with their own media, that appears to race bait one another without any blow-back from the administration….as if the separation exists on purpose. You’ll get the impression that a sanctioned state of apartheid exists is regulated by the government.

Poverty is increasing in Vancouver. The facade of middle income sanctuary is a myth. There is a thin layer of richly paid civil servants wrapped around a miserable rotting core. Child poverty is at it’s highest in Vancouver. Seniors are starving due to the high cost of living. Young families are the fastest growing segment of Food Bank clients. People who live in million dollar houses are sending their children to school hungry. 85% of income goes to pay mortgages. Credit debt is now the highest in the world with a debt/income ratio at 180% of disposable income. Those luxury goods advertised on TV are driving people into fits of dissonance. When people see that their civil servants being paid like international elites, four and five times what an average worker makes…of course it results in road rage and general incivility.

I have to laugh at the constant advertisements that describe Vancouver as ‘the best place on earth’. Thats something you’ll never hear on the streets of this city. Every one I’ve talked to wants to get the hell out….myself included.

I arrived in Vancouver last night. From the air the city reminds me of a weeping fistula. When I see the glass towers I am reminded of anal warts. I am constantly reminded of the millions of gallons of raw untreated sewage and toxic hospital waste that spills out into the polluted waters. It’s as if a little piece of hell broke through and now sits festering on the surface between the ocean and circling mountain. I know closer up I will see the thousands of homeless, addicts and mentally ill people who control the streets below. Between the drug fueled gangland violence ruling the nightclub scene and the unchecked police shootings of innocent citizens the inner city is no place I want to be these days.

Propaganda aside….this city is one sick puppy. people are miserable and it shows. There is no friendliness or compliments, the people I pass look suspicious and sullen. Are they jealous we’ve escaped and do they envy us our travel? I listen to passing conversations and I’m reminded of growling dogs. I know there’s an enforced hierarchy here, the rich civil servants and the poor working class. Is grinding personal poverty at the root of Vancouver’s cranky masses? After all, credit debt has reached the astronomical level of 170% of disposable income. Housing takes an average of 84% of a workers wage….are these people hungry? I know that child poverty rates are skyrocketing. People who live in million dollar homes are sending their children to school hungry and without food. Is this why crimes of violence are so common here?

Describing the US as  violent and gun crazed  is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. The differance is that more legal gun ownership is the case in the US and in Canada the same number of guns are in the hands of violent criminals. Knives, hammers and hands are the weapons of choice among the rolls of offenders in Vancouver’s courts. The crimes are ugly and personal. Vancouver is a much more violent place per capita than Dallas…for example. Theres no doubt that Vancouver has an extreme incident count of rape and stands as the road rage capital of the planet.

We exist on a reputation that is long since passed. The propaganda machine of the elites who run things spends billions advertising on the back of a corpse. The cities civil service royals spend millions on planning pleasant bike lanes through public places when children , seniors and the under privileged shiver and starve. Vancouver they say in the ads…is the best place on earth,  except nowhere outside the reach of the tightly controlled local media machine will you ever hear this nonsense repeated. It takes only minutes after landing at YVR to realize that the myth of a friendly, welcoming, inclusive Canada doesn’t exist.

Step off the plane and  I am reminded of a death camp, there are no greetings or signals of welcome. Of course there is no car rental kiosk in the airport, we’re forced out into the rain and onto a dark causeway to find our way without signs. Once there, the service is abysmal. I can speak with some authority. I have been to the worst and most dangerous countries on the planet and have never witnessed as horrendous level of customer service as we do when we arrive in Vancouver.

Stay in Vancouver and you quickly see that the second myth of inclusive multiculturalism is a joke. Vancouver is a network of ethnic ghettos where interaction is impossible and not welcomed….people don’t mix…there is no common bond or integration…it’s everyone for themselves.  Ethnic divisions are strictly regulated by the elite politicians who farm the ghetto’s for votes. Government employment and welfare is  meted out by ethnicity…never by merit. Indian hates white, Chinese hate Indian, Mainland Chinese and Cantonese share no love for one another and will not tolerate the physical presence of the other. Muslim, Hindu and the other various odd ball sects avoid contact with anyone who doesn’t share the cult of slavery they impose upon one another . Vancouver is more like an old whore in bad light than a fresh faced princess. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

Have you figured out how to travel for free yet? Have you got a plan to get you out and never come back? There’s lots of ways of doing that, you just have to apply yourself. The lucky ones will inherit an obscene amount of money from a parent or grandparent, that’s number one on everyone’s list. And believe me, there are more of these types than most people imagine possible. Next, there are plenty of people who have defined benefit pensions whose cash flow will never fail due to the crazy courtesy allowed by a broken system of government. Some of us have to be smarter and more creative to achieve our goals.

I began to see the possibilities when as a young traveler I spied opportunities to trade goods between countries where things were abundant and cheap and transport them to locations where they could be sold as rare and dear. I stole that line from Adam Smith who had this figured out in 1722 and wrote about international trade in The Wealth of Nations, still a best seller. I was very impressed by this philosophy as a teenager and applied it as a young adult wanting to travel and escape. In most western countries there are open city markets, with the exception of commercial dead zones like Vancouver,  where goods from all over the world can be sold for a profit. A simple way to increase your travel opportunities is to buy trade goods in the third world and sell them to people browsing away their boredom on the weekends. Trust me, bored shoppers will buy any kind of crap that reminds them of the holiday they had in the past.

I paid off my travel lifestyle for decades doing exactly this. My first purchases were leather products in South America.  I later branched into manufacturing jewellery from India and Thailand…even selling Indian goods in Thailand using all the same dynamics of trade I had learned along the way. I sold these items all over the world. I acted as a purchasing agent for people who wanted a steady flow of such goods to their home countries. I traded goods from Pakistan to Afghans in exchange for items of value hard to find in India. I also carried bales of cloth from one boutique to the next selling items in countries as diverse as Switzerland, Spain, Canada and the USA. Shopkeepers need unique products to draw the shoppers into the store. The more unique your products, the higher the margin you can ask. Only during major global recessions did my business ever fall off and I was forced to hunker down.

Nowadays we have become more sophisticated, we are technical specialists and visa holders practicing our trade and getting paid well for it. I miss the old days of being a traveling merchant, but that’s not to say I have foregone my old habits. In every town I go to I visit shopkeepers and ask them what they want. I go to trade shows and find out whats available. It’s best to collect as many business cards as you possibly can. There are opportunities that sometimes appear from out of nowhere and you want to be the one that takes advantage of those opportunities.

Do you hold an undergrad degree or similar certification? If so the world is at your feet. Teach English in Koh Samui with a simple TOEFL certificate. The add on is a weekend class on line but is recognized world wide. There is always a lot of turn over in teachers, and there is a hungry world wanting English teachers….from Spain to China and all points in between. Teaching English is a no brainer and less complicated than trading but not mutually exclusive…..we’ve done both simultaneously. Are you headed for a place where a great many foreigners congregate….have you thought about finding work as a rental agent or a real estate agent selling local properties? Your ex pat community has special requirements that a local doesn’t understand and your knowledge of the language is in demand. Working as a bartender or waitress is a thing of the past in places like Thailand or Mexico…but have a skill and you can obtain a legal visa to work.

At the top of the food chain are the technical specialists who can reside legally. Even the rich ex civil servants on a pension can’t live in Thailand or elsewhere permanently…they will have to abide by the short term of a tourist visa. These types have to leave the country on a regular basis to renew their status. If you are trading in a country don’t mention this to the immigration police at the border, a working visa is difficult to obtain. However, if you can achieve an ‘ex patriot’ status, where you are paid, your bills are covered and the visa is taken care of by the company you work for, then your troubles are behind you. Trisha and I have done all these things, and enjoyed every one of them. The travel lifestyle can be yours. You just have to want it.

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ex pat perks abound if you plan your life around travel

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trade goods can be found in every country…almost

 

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and by all means…enjoy yourself along the way

 

“Be careful what you wish for…you just might get it”, so goes the old saying. Ever since I was young I wanted to travel. I was impressed by two books, The Wealth of Nations , The Travels of Marco Polo and  any documentaries/photojournalism work from the wild world outside my tiny corner. By the time I was eighteen I had been infected by the travel bug so that as soon as I was able to get my first passport and the inoculations necessary  I was gone. I have been traveling or planning to travel ever since.

‘Getting away’ has always been a personal obsession. The preoccupation with foreign countries and cultures has been a distraction. While I should have been in university with my cohort I was exploring my fantasy world. I missed all the usual benchmarks anyone of my generation strove to achieve and the knowledge of those that did has faded like a mist. I have never attended a wedding or a funeral. To my family I existed only as a postcard or a phone call at Christmas time, appearing only in the event of  some catastrophe.

I learned so many things on the road that I can’t share with anyone. My relationships are transient by practice. Time away has severed all ties.   I pay a price for my wayward ways. I am more comfortable in a hotel room or short term rental bungalow than in the house I own. I prefer the company of strangers. I go home and feel like an alien when nothing looks familiar . The cross streets of New Delhi or Bangkok are more recognizable than the place of my youth.

And yet I get emails from people who say they envy the travel lifestyle. I say to anyone who considers what we do as a permanent choice for themselves, “Be careful what you wish for… because you just might get it”.

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