London, before and now.

London, before and now.
London Bridge
London Bridge, October 2018

I haven’t been in London since 1993. And it has changed just like everywhere else. Seems more claustrophobic then I remember.  The skyline is a chessboard of old and new buildings.  A host more glass and steel structures that I like and not.

Maybe those old memories are now regulated to the depths of my subconscious.  Transformed into veiled illusions.  Snippets to be recalled for comparisons.

Last month, September marked module two in our study abroad program.  I facilitated the learning of our introduction to tourism class.  There we learned the breadth and depth of tourism, some of the most important concepts and theories.  Stressing how important it is that we in the industry craft a memorable experience.

Only a few memories stand out from my first visit to London.  A nice chap that did our

The White Tower
The White Tower

tour of the Tower.  He wasn’t one of the Beef Eaters, but a tour guide with a black bowler and black coat.  That is all I remember, except the crows and some of the tower itself.  I know I saw the crown jewels, but can’t recall individual pieces. Sparkle, nothing more.

Returning this past fall, it is like a bright shiny penny.  All new and glistening, beckoning to be claimed.  I set out for traitor’s gate, then the medieval apartments, and finally the White Tower to see the armor and examples of weaponry.  All for research and references for my writing.  And it struck me how tourist have changed.  How behavior has changed.

Everyone jockeying for that perfect position for a selfie.  Navigating through the apartments with several tour groups, wall to wall people.  I don’t remember it being this crowded last time.  Definitely not the technology.  Back then it was analog, or SLRs, no cell phones or DLSR.

This time it was about movement.  Moving quickly through the landscape, gain as much information as possible before moving on to the next.  I was caught up when I wanted to spend hours.  Hours to examine and study, both cultural assets and the people who populated the attraction.  But I couldn’t.  I couldn’t enjoy the Tower as I wanted, caught up in the flurry.  Move, move, move and move again.

Tourism has changed in the last twenty-five years.

Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower
Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower

Do tourist really see what they are looking at?  Do they know their history or the meaning behind the attraction?  Do they take the time in the place to understand and talk to the guides?  Do they appreciate what they are viewing?  How important the structure is to our cultural heritage, our past, our present and our future?  Or has these attractions come to mean something else?

That is what I cover in module 3–tourism, culture and place.  Tourism’s effect/affect on destination, the host-guest relationship and their impact on place.  Cultural tourism is one of the reasons people travel to places.  It pulls and tugs at you to make a choice, and move.  It may be the only reason.  For instance, ancestral tourism.  The want and need to find those places associated with our ancestors, our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents.  Answers the age-old question–Where do we come from?  Who are we?  What were they like?

Concepts discussed include authenticity, culture, identity, place, place attachment, place dependency, sense of self, sense of belonging, etc.  A lot to cover in just three and half weeks.  I traveled to London for two reasons, well three.  I wanted to see the city again and what it looked like now.  I wanted to visit key heritage sites for my writing research, and finally, I wanted to see the places associated with my genealogy research.  The Tower is just one because I have may or may not have a link back to William the Conqueror (apparently my 27th Great Grandfather).

So, London holds this place of interest for me now.  Or maybe it is the type of place.  Not just the destination.  Maybe my choices, my needs and wants have shifted to something more.  It happens throughout our lifetime.  I see London in a different light.  Every trip will be different because of the variety of choices.  But the mainstay for me at least is the history in one form or another.  The cultural heritage of the place.

 

Change is a part of life…

Change is a part of life…
Flags over Edinburgh Castle
Flags over Edinburgh Castle during the Military Tattoo

It’s been nine long years since I was last in Scotland. Eleven years since I’ve lived here. Time continues and I grow older. I have always known that age is a great leveler in life, changes the playing field, and the participants. Life changes you, changes your point of view on the world and the type of perspective in which you wish to view it.

I can mark the change.  I can’t always articulate the moments, the passages of time, but I am more aware of them now.  I have some understanding.  I experience grief and uncertainty.  The whispers are different.  The voices have changed, and the language even more complex.

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Contemplation

Time affects us all and change is hard to accept, even fathom.  Scotland has changed.  I have changed.  The dynamic nature of life is in constant flux just as in tourism.  Our reasons, our motivations shift and morph with the progression of time.  Innately, the passion I once held for this place has transformed, no tempered.  It is not as mystical as it was nineteen years ago.

So, what does this mean?  What sense of this landscape do I now possess?  What sense of belonging?

The world outside my window has changed.
The world outside my window has changed.

I was an explorer twenty-five years ago to this place, this Scotland. Prior to stepping on its shores, I knew it only from literature, film and TV shows. It held a mystique.  My passion was shrouded in truths and half-truths.  I had a child-like curiosity and consumption.

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Time passes for us all

Seven years of planning, of working hard, and dreaming, my reality changed.  I returned and had the privilege of living in Scotland for seven years.  During that tenure, the world changed drastically.  It continues to change drastically for us all.  Relationships were altered.

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Pondering life on Isle of Lewis

Sometimes, I wonder what I am trying to grasp when I try to piece together the visceral and cerebral.  To understand about this change within my heart and soul.  Do I belong here?  Can I identify with this landscape, this place?  Where on the barometer of life has my sense of self migrated?  Innately, the fields of home have a stronger pull for me, than lands farther away.  I haven’t been the only one that has changed, others have too.  I am pushed to consider others now more than myself.  I am sometimes in limbo, overwhelmed with that responsibility.  Those promises inherent with our relationships have a louder call.  I have reached another milestone, another moment of truth that can’t be ignored.  More of the complex layers have been uncovered, exposed, and choices must consider a new reality.

I never did like change.  Sometimes, it has a hidden, nasty smell.  Something you want to ignore and leave alone.  Let the world go past, without acknowledgement.  Brutal honesty, we all have those moments.  Scotland was that wonderment that I could call my own.  That luxury I could escape to and find myself, find that grounding of strength that seems elusive during questionable moments.  Scotland always made me happy.  Scotland has changed.  It is different.  I’m different.  That is good.

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New boots, new journey

Good in that I can search. The journey is about moving and embracing change, understanding fear, and looking. It’s okay to look, to search out, and find. I may not find exactly what I am looking for or the answers at this moment. Life and travel, tourism is all about experiences.  It is a circle of experiences, just like life.  And change is a part of that circle, and finding yourself during each of those moments.  Another layer of who you are.

New boots, new journey.  More me.

Stepping off into Magic

Stepping off into Magic

Cuillins from Kirkibost
Originally uploaded by bruiach1

Wrote in 2010:

I wrote several years ago, well seven, actually about my meeting an elderly gentleman at Inverness Bus stop. At the end of our conversation, we parted as friends and he said something strange about gifting me with magic. That conversation has stuck with me the longest. I don’t know really why. I can only guess.

I fondly remember returning to Scotland from the States. How the moment my feet touched off the plane onto the ramp leading up to the airport proper, a grin spread wide across my face. I felt the anxiety of travel slip away as if some hands pulled away a clinging shawl. I wanted to run through the airport, customs and out into the misty Glasgow morning. But I took my time. I took my time, savoured each step.

I dreaded gathering my luggage but knew that soon, I would be out on the road back to home.

Today, I live in the middle of the corn belt in Illinois. I have to say that I miss the green and the rain. I miss the magic moments that seem to creep upon me without any announcement. As if there was this boundary, only Scotland creates. And it reaches out with strong hands to pull you in and to keep you there. There is no stagnation. There is always energy. I looked for all those thresholds and eagerly stepped off into the magic. Even loving the moments of wet socks and drenched clothes. Sometimes the reward was worth searching for that elusive elixir.

The boundary though is transparent. Scotland needs not exert any control. It is understood. It exist without explanation. It knows that you will be back.

Today, as I drove the length of the road from one town to the next and back again, I noticed the browning fields of summer corn. The leaves are turning and falling as the chill of autumn sets in. Some days, summer tries to reassert itself but autumn is just laughing. I think it is a patient task master, knowing the full the cycle of things. He sits down, draws his breath slowly and sighs. I wish there was more bite to autumn, like back in Pennsylvania. I don’t know. There seems to be something missing. I have no idea what it might be or what it is. Even now, at my favorite time of year, I feel lethargic from lack of choice.

I hate to be so detrimental to this area. I hate that I’m becoming entrenched in my old ways, complaining about everything. I hate that there isn’t more laughter.

I now know what it feels to return with the elixir and you’ve told your story. You’ve reached the end of a great adventure. It has changed you for the better. And yet, I think Vogler and Campbell, didn’t express this sufficiently. You can again, enter into that stagnation, waiting for something to come along and pull you again onto the road.

A road that leads to that magical boundary….

Year of Natural Scotland

VisitScotland, the national Tourist Board of Scotland has designated this year as the Year of National Scotland. Every year Scotland promotes it brand in unique ways. They have encapsulated the attributes of their brand by affixing the adjectives, Enduring, Dramatic and Human. These words have been around for awhile now and allow for adaptation to the varied landscapes that define Scotland. Here we can see it displayed within their promo videos.

Slàinte Mhath to Robert Burns, 25th of January

Slàinte Mhath to Robert Burns, 25th of January
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with Moleskine, Steinbeck at the Babbity Bowster
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with Moleskine, Steinbeck at the Babbity Bowster

Well Burns night is almost upon us. Going to try to make a nice meal and pull out my Rabbie Burns poetry books, plop a fireplace DVD into the TV or watch Spartacus on Starz…

I really do miss my haggis, neeps and tatties.

Ode to a Haggis

by Robert Burns

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
You pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’need
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slight,

Under the candle light
Burns Night Dinner

Trenching your gushing entrails bright

Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,

Warm-reeking, rich!

Then, horn for horn they stretch an’ strive,
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive
Bethankit hums

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash
His spindle-shank a guid whip-lash,

Haggis, Neeps And Tatties
Haggis, Neeps And Tatties

His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle

Ye pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
An’ dish them out their bill o’fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r,
Gie her a Haggis!

Promotional Power: A deeper breath…

Promotional Power:  A deeper breath…

There is something to say for having the Internet.  Once and awhile my senses are awaken by gems of video, music and words as they were today when I received a post from VisitScotland.  They were inviting me to SINGLE MALT WHISKY: THE ISLAY 8 + THE FESTIVAL AWARDS CEREMONY.  Unfortunately, I will not be able to go but wish I could just to sample Islay’s best whiskies and the food by Chef Art Jackson food.  

I know Islay’s whiskies.  I’ve tasted all of them and relish their unique flavors.  I would love to live on that island and be a part of that subculture of Scottish society devoted to making uisge beatha; the water of life.  Heck, I would love to work in marketing in one of their distilleries just to be surrounded by the people who have such a devotion to their craft.  These people breathe deeply of their loves and convey it with every dram.  Scotland’s economy is driven by whisky and shouldered by tourism.    I can’t wait to see this film in its entirety and use it in my classes.

It demonstrates the authentic experience of this island’s life as well as the promotional power that one product, various brands have in drawing people to its table.   It embodies a sense of self, a sense of identity that draws you in and holds your attention.  It conveys a sense of place and deep-rooted mysticism that has more than a kernel of truth.

Whisky: the Islay edition. Long trailer. from Olav Verhoeven on Vimeo.

Whisky: the Islay Edition.

This film is an initiative of POSTORGASMICKITCHEN.

Produced and directed by Olav Verhoeven

Scenario by Fabian Molleman.
Production by Ellen Cosyn.
Editing by Remo Beutels and Olav Verhoeven.
3D direction by Fabian Molleman and Michiel Coene.
Soundmixing Emanuel Van Egghen.
Art Direction by Olav Verhoeven.
Art direction VFX by Tim Vandekerckhove.
Director of photography Olav Verhoeven.
Camera 2nd Fabian Molleman and Michiel Coene.
Research process and facts by Lies Debeer.
Assistant and grip Olivier Van Mele and Sean Goossens.
Sound recording by Sean Goossens.
Copywriting by Fran Bambust.
Colourgrading by Bart Verraest.

Hurricane Sandy and the clean up

What's left of the Jetstar from Casino Pier sits in the ocean in Seaside Heights, New Jersey Tuesday 10-30-12 photo by David Gard
What’s left of the Jetstar from Casino Pier sits in the ocean in Seaside Heights, New Jersey Tuesday 10-30-12 photo by David Gard

It will be interesting to see how the hospitality and tourism industry rebounds from Hurricane Sandy. The infrastructure of this country was already taxed and decaying from lack of refurbishment. Atlantic City already suffering from last year’s Hurricane Irene and diminishing casino revenues due to legalization of gambling in surrounding states, has yet, probably to total the complete damage. There may be minimal damage to the hotels, casinos themselves but the supporting infrastructure is sure to be challenging. Are we going to see an influx of legislation now for more Internet-based gambling opportunities? How will social media help in drawing back crowds to that famous area of New Jersey? How will the hospitality organizations work together to rebuild and flourish in these uncertain times?

In the back of everyone’s mind in hospitality has to be the thought that there is a remote chance of something dreadful happening. Any hotel, hospitality venture with its grain of foresight would have such a plan of action in place to address this possibility. With climate change has this probability evolved into a likely possibility? Does it have to be a catastrophic storm or just a guest becoming ill for a company to recognize that it needs action plans in place to address and overcome these challenges? How can you not?

My grandfather, my father always said, have a plan of attack. You cannot sit on your laurels, thinking nothing bad is ever going to happen. It does, whether you are prepared or not, someday, someone, something, is going to take a bite out of your flesh. Those that sit and wait will be, as my grandfather eloquently said, “Sh*t out of luck.” But how do you prepare for such a national emergency? How do you prepare your employees, your middle managers and so forth to deal with such events? How do you safeguard your assets?

Planning just isn’t for the future, it is for today and tomorrow. I tell my students in my two-week lecture on crisis management (believe me I could use a whole year on this or more), you learn from the past, you visualize scenarios and you plan. You put it down on paper and you train. Sure, people will panic, people will react differently when placed in real life events, but the more training you have the better you will be to handle the situation. Your instincts will kick in and take over. You will not second guess yourself and act. We don’t have time to train? It costs too much. Yet, the impact to your bottom line could be far greater if you do not incorporate crisis management into your budget, have as a line item on your income statement. Wouldn’t insurance agency be happy and consider this planning a bonus and give you points for planning? Perhaps they do already? Do you know? The old cliché–plan for a rainy day jumps out at you.

No one is good at anything without practice, even if that just means sitting down and closing your eyes and visualizing what would happen. Test yourself, test your own ability, challenge yourself. To this day my favorite quote that came into my mind and I know probably has been said by many others:

Challenge life, do not let life challenge you.

I know that is all well and good and believe I’m not perfect. I should be better prepared for any challenge in my life. All of us want to go about our lives as if nothing bad would happen. But the fact is, reality is rose with a host of thorns. I do not always plan and I should. I procrastinate and wait until the last possible moment to do things. I know I shouldn’t. I am human and flawed. You have to realize that and get over it. You have to develop thick skin and push on. And yes, you have to remember the humor of life.

God grant me patience but hurry