Thursday 15 December 2005

Beyond the clouds

The trains are still slower
There have been times that I have planned a holiday or break up to 4 weeks ahead, but I am more an impulsive travel planner than a methodical pedant.
Once I realised that I had a bit of free time to the next major meeting, I was on-line looking for a destination and a hotel.
I started with thinking of Paris or Madrid, usually, I would not fly to Paris, getting out of CDG – the airport, for Paris can be a lesson in global navigation when you find you have boarded the train going North. So, from Amsterdam, it is better to travel by train.
What is most irksome about arranging this type of travel is that all the railway websites in the , , and allow Internet booking. Of the lot the German site is most flexible even allowing a proximity booking.
The others allow for planning but only with a lead time of 5 days, because they resort to postal services to send the ticket. The Germans allow you to print out your ticket as a valid document for travel.
Then compare this to Air France/KLM where at 03:00AM I got a flight for 12:40 the same day with a confirmed ticket and boarding pass to Barcelona – it is no wonder, trains are slower than planes not just in getting to destinations but in adopting sensible Internet technologies.
I would not be too surprised if some desk manager in the railway organisations has some theory about not adopting these ideas because it could put unionised workers out of work.
Working hard is out, working smart is in, I suppose trains would work on nuclear fuel before change comes to working practices – read never.
Hotels and not hostels
When booking for travel, I first look for a hotel, beginning with an Accor Hotel which handles the chains of Sofitel, Mercure, Sofitel, Dorint, SuiteHotel, Ibis, Formule 1 and Etap in descending order of sophistication and having an Accor Favourite Guest Card helps in confirming bookings and getting good deals.
Once that is available rather than confirmed, I book the flights and confirm all the bookings then pack my bags and catch a nap before setting off.
The weather reports
The weather was very dull, cloudy, probably with the expectation of rain with the temperature close to freezing. Then getting on the plane, it did look really small and there was lots of space, probably not half full.
I also found out that in the cramped economy class, if no one is sitting in front of you, you can push the back of the seat in front forward to make space. Well, I did.
Sunny beyond the clouds
As we lifted off, we were soon above the clouds with glorious sunlight lighting up the plane and reflecting off those natural shutters that made life on the ground less sunny.
I learnt something; the sun was always above the clouds and it took getting help outside of my strength to see the sunnier side of things from the gloom on the ground.
The same with our circumstances, sometimes we are ground in our mundane, ordinary, slow and routine norms that we fail to see beyond the clouds, especially when the clouds just sit there like forever.
The only message one then gets from those clouds is rain and snow, making us wrap up more to warm than loosen up to feel cool.
Help beyond yourself
Just like I had the help of a plane to see the better side of things, we need a help higher than us be it religious inspiration, a pep-talk, mentoring, sometime to get us out of the rat race and rut of our circumstances to see the bigger picture and scope of things.
We need to be enthused into optimism to make our mindsets adapt to the expectation of good things, successful things, confident things and healthy things.
At that point, you have the tonic for life and if you keep taking it, spring and summer are back again as the clouds are moved on and your circumstances have less dominance over the bigger perspective of things.

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