The American Half Smile


The American Half Smile

“Peace begins with a smile.”Mother Teresa

I’ve perfected it. It is known around the world as the American half-smile.  It is a smile that does not reach your eyes. It is faking kindness for a second to be considered a polite person.

I grew up in New York where you don’t have eye contact or smile at anyone – just in case they suddenly have the urge to lunge at you, steal your money and slit your throat. I had to learn the half smile when I moved to California. It is a dead giveaway that you are American. Most cultures do not have this.

In China, Russia, and Eastern Europe , people don’t smile on the street. It is impolite to show emotions in public to strangers. Smiling at strangers make others question your motives or your sanity. 

Before  the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese authorities wanted to get more people to smile . Their approach was to encourage Olympic stewards to clench a chopstick between their teeth to develop their smile muscles.Russian border guards were also instructed to be less intimidating and smile more to be more welcoming to visitors. The  French tourist authorities also occasionally attempt similar measures. In Norway and Finland they say when  a stranger on the street smiles at you, he is insane, drunk or American.

 When I was younger and spending a summer on Mykonos, I moved into a house with other people. I immediately introduced myself. I was going to be living with them. “You’re American yeah?” said the very cute Australian guy.  “Yes, I guess you can tell by my accent.“ He replied that only an American would walk into a room and introduce themselves to everybody.

Studies blame our friendliness on the immigrants. They say that countries with less homogenous populations learn to smile and get along with all different kinds of people. 

Also Americans love their white straight teeth. By and large, the American dental care is far superior to most countries. Not everyone in the world flosses. We flash our smiles  around like the Amex cards that a few non-American businesses take. Un-naturally white, perfectly straight-toothed smiles have “U.S.A.” written all over them.

Fly safe,


Things That I Am Worried About When Traveling As A Couple

Things That  I Am Worried About When Traveling As A Couple

“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way.”  Henry Boyle

It all seems perfect when you are thinking about it in your living room. I imagine breakfast in a fluffed bed, over looking a clear blue ocean. In my story, I look effortlessly beautiful five minutes after waking up. The new normal airport security lines are fast and stress free. My suitcase is not heavy. Traveling in my fantasy is just as glamorous as traveling looks on Instagram and Facebook. No one has jet lag, gets annoyed, sick or has physical bodily functions.

Traveling  together as a couple prematurely  can ruin a potentially great relationship. The pressure to get along and enjoy yourself all day long can be huge.  A short trip is a good test. It is easy to over look things when you are home, but when you are traveling together every minute, an issue that would otherwise not be a big deal, can blow up out of proportion.

He does not yet know that I truly believe that to have the perfect trip you need to have the perfect travel wardrobe no matter how heavy the suitcase is. I am a spiller and not just on myself. The pressure of not knocking over a glass of wine or cup of coffee all over him will probably make it happen. Does he really understand that saying you get carsick and being in a car with someone who is carsick are two different things?  What funny, weird habits does he have that I don’t yet  know about? Besides that he just mentioned he has a fanny pack for traveling.  At least it is a cute one. What is a jet lag problem?  We are both planners. Will that turn out to be one of our issues?

Finding oneself in a challenging situation often changes temperaments and can lead to misunderstandings. Different agendas often lead to calendar conflicts and the inability to visit every site you hoped to see. Flexibility and at least a bit of alone time is important.We both are funny so that might help. He says that he is funnier. 

The unpredictability  of any trip  and being together twenty-four hours a day means there is no place to hide. The chips will fall one of two ways: I will return hating every fiber of his being; or I will be convinced that this is the person I am going to travel the world with. The first trip we have planned is a few days in Northern California – the second is to the most remote place on earth.

I am  about to learn quickly whether he  can read a situation, problem-solve, and handle his  baggage in any circumstance. He is about to learn what it is like to be with a serial traveler. 

Fly safe,


What Do You Carry For Good Luck When You Travel?

“You know what luck is? Luck is believing you’re lucky…to hold front position in this rat-race you’ve got to believe you’re lucky.” –  Tennesse Williams said by Stanley Kowalski in Street Car Named Desire

I am a believer in good luck charms when you travel. I never get on a plane without one. There’s a fine line between a bit of harmless (and possibly helpful) superstitious behavior for luck, and developing an obsessive and crippling dependence on some elaborate routine.

My good luck charms vary. For years I had a lucky flannel shirt that I wore on the plane. I convinced myself, it kept me safe from plane crashes, hijackings, robberies and getting caught bringing too much in at customs. I’m sure anything could have happened without it. Now it is all about some talisman or amulet to keep me safe while I travel. It changes but I wear the same one for a whole trip.

A talisman basically brings you good luck, as opposed to an amulet, which is designed to protect you from evil. For me it is an object designed to attract positive things – such as good luck, interesting people, unexpected adventures – and to protect you from negative things while you travel.

When I was briefly into Kabbalah, I wore a red string around my left wrist. It is used to ward off bad luck caused by the evil eye. It was knotted seven times and blessed. I figured if it was good enough for Ashton Kutcher and Madonna, it would keep me protected as well.


After that I still liked red for luck. When it comes to red in China, you can never wear too much. Red symbolizes good fortune,happiness and joy. A circle always symbolizes wholeness or unity so I sometimes wear red bracelets when i travel.


In Japan. I learned about Omamori which are used in both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs. They are rectangular pouches and gain their power from words written on paper or wood and sealed inside a cloth bag and can be purchased a temple. . Each omomori has a different purpose so make sure you get the right one. The words could be the name of the shrine, or a section from a sūtra, or some other powerful word. Never open the cloth to see what is inside! It is disrespectful and the omamori will lose its power. Omamori draw some of their power from the concept of the power of enclosed places. The covering of the omamori encloses the sacred words and so puts them in a separate realm where they can be effective, much as Shinto shrines are set within a separate space marked by torii gates. I usually attach one to a carry on bag  if I’m not wearing a bracelet.


Having spent a lot of time in Mediterranean countries, I’m a fan of the evil eye charm. You will see them all over Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. It is based on quotes from all the ancient religious texts that” the gaze of someone who harbors feelings of envy or jealousy can bring misfortune upon the one who is seen — the one who “gets the evil eye.”Iit is used  as a safeguard against misfortune –  worn or hanging in their house, businesses or on their babies. I’ve had them on necklaces, bracelets earrings, ankle bracelets and sometimes just on a string.


There are many others you can use. Ancient Egypt is a good place to go for charms. The Ankh and the Scarab are protection from Evil.

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Religion is another great source for superstitions. St Christopher is the patron saint to all people who travel. A St Christopher medal was once compulsory for any Catholic traveler. The Star of David, Hamsa (hand), the Holy Cross, Celtic Cross, Guardian Angels, beads blessed from a Buddhist Temple, written words, from the Quran, Bible or Torah can also be used.

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Folk tales and Myths have many as well. Four Leaf Clovers, Phoenix, Horns, Fish and Dragons are a few. I always buy the local good luck when I travel.

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Good luck charms feed the human need to look beyond ourselves for solutions to our difficulties, while still encouraging us to do our best. They are more like a boosters than a total solution. When things are tough, it feels good to hold a charm in your hand and hope for things to get better. They seem to be working for me. So go ahead, carry that lucky coin, wear those lucky socks or underwear because you can never have too much good luck.


Fly safe,




(ZEN-uh-fyl, ZEE-nuh-)

noun: One who is attracted to foreign things or people.

“Americans are very friendly and very suspicious, that is what Americans are and that is what always upsets the foreigner, who deals with them, they are so friendly how can they be so suspicious they are so suspicious how can they be so friendly but they just are.” Gertrude Stein

I have just learned this word which is the opposite of xenophobe a word I know and have heard too much lately. I am a xenophile. As soon as someone speaks to me in a foreign accent, I want to know where they are from, how long they have been here and how do they like it. I want to know about their country as well. The longer I speak to someone who’s first language is not English, the more I begin to sound like English is not my first language either. It is a bit of traveling in my day without leaving the country. It sparks a memory or makes me think about planning a trip.

Im overly friendly when I meet someone who is from a country I have just visited – a waiter, a parking lot attendant, a sales clerk or the person on-line behind me at the grocery store. I’ll just randomly start talking about their state or village. It’s definitely awkward. I don’t have a fear of saying the wrong thing because I usually do. I smile, not like a prom queen, but because I’m genuinely interested in anything they are going to say about their country. It usually goes well. People like to talk about themselves and like that you know their part of the world.

You get to hear their impressions of America and Americans. One of the things people have to get used to here is that we use over the top adjectives and smile a lot. We are not happy all the time and all the smiling is cute but confusing to cultures that don’t smile a lot or New Yorkers. Everything is not awe-inspiring or awesome to people who know the meaning of the word.

We like to say we are “Irish or “South African” or “Italian” to people who are actually from those countries. They don’t like it.

They think it is funny that we write the month before the day. I always get annoyed with the rest of the world for not doing that.

I notice that when I talk about politics to people who are not American I am very PC but I get defensive when they criticize our government even though I feel the same way.

Around the world, they are starting to say that we are a people who are always shooting at each other like we have nothing else to do. We are a scary country to visit now.

I met a nice looking man who had been here for three months legally and looking for a job. He had a beautiful accent and I couldn’t figure it out where it was from.  He had always heard Americans liked people from different backgrounds because that was who we were, yet he felt his accent was keeping him from finding a job. Though he had a business degree, he was willing to take any job and start at the bottom. i said it was probably that he had no work experience here. With the condition of the world these days, being a xenophobe is definitely becoming more popular than being a xenophile.

Fly safe,

Ways To Look A Bit Less Like A Tourist

Ways to Look A Bit Less Like A Tourist

“I wore only black socks, because I had heard that white ones were the classic sign of the American tourist. Black ones though,- those’ll fool ’em. I supposed I hoped the European locals’ conversation would go something like this:

PIERRE: Ha! Look at that tourist with his camera and guidebook!
JACQUES: Wait, but observe his socks! They are…black!
PIERRE: Zut alors! You are correct! He is one of us! What a fool I am! Let us go speak to him in English and invite him to lunch!”  Doug Mack

Becoming invisible as a traveler is difficult and the skill takes a long time to master. Don’t get discouraged and let the act of “trying to fit in” ruin your trip, You are who you are.

Learn a few words of the language, Good day, good evening, please and thank you are a good start. I can say coffee with milk and no sugar in any country I have been to. It was particularly difficult for me in Turkish. You aren’t going to pass for a resident but it is a way to ingratiate yourself with the locals and at least get better service.

Speak softly in public. Speaking loudly in a foreign language can lead to unwanted attention from pickpockets.

If you are in a city where people are stylish, it is best to not walk around in sweatpants and flip-flops, unless you are in Rio where people do wear Havianas. Casual chic is good. American casual is not that common outside of the US. Scarves are a nice accessory when traveling. I’m not perfect. I do bring a cute baseball hat for the sun in cities. It is an easy to pack hat but also a dead giveaway no matter how casual chic the rest of my outfit is.

Wear the colors that local people are wearing. Black is good in many cities but not in the Caribbean or India. Wear the right swimwear if you want to fit in. In Brazil, your bathing suit will look like pants on the beach. All the men wear Speedos in some countries.

Use the typical condiments of your host country when eating. If you can’t eat without ketchup bring some McDonald’s packets with you. If you can’t eat without ketchup you should not be traveling anyway. Don’t ask for decaf. It is not a thing in most restaurants in the world.

Eat the local food at the local meal time. Use local table manners. If everyone is eating with chopsticks, you should be too. In many countries it is rude to walk down the street eating. Tipping is a dead giveaway. Learn the customs of a country before you go.
Don’t chew a lot of gum. It’s an American thing.

In certain areas, it is best to live a little less through the lens of a camera. Camera-toting tourists are an easy target for theft because not only are they showing off expensive equipment, but they are also distracted from their surroundings. I still take lots of pictures in my travels, but I make sure to be discreet. I am guilty of wearing a camera but being from New York, I am always aware of my surroundings and keep it out of sight when necessary.
There is a difference between awareness and fear. The more authentic travel experiences you have, the more you learn how to travel.

Fly safe,

Some Quotes From Around the World

Some Quotes From Around The World

“The problem with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they are genuine.” Joseph Stalin

I have collected quotes all my life – way before the internet. I had a compilation of napkins, theatre programs, index cards, ripped pieces of papers from newspapers and magazines, hotel stationery, loose-leaf paper, memo pads, notebooks and colored bits of paper – all filled with quotes I had read or heard somewhere. The internet makes it way too easy. I read a book or see a play I like and I look up quotes from the author. I pick a subject I’m interested in and find hundreds of quotes about it. I have a lot more knowledge now but every once in a while I find a folded up piece of paper in an old pair of pants or purse with a quote that touched me when I heard it.

I thought I would share some of my favorites from around the world –  especially for those of you who are not on my quote list. I hope you enjoy them. They are special to me.


A bit of advice

Given to a young Native American

At the time of his initiation:

As you go the way of life,

You will see a great chasm. Jump.

It is not as wide as you think.” Joseph Campbell


“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are

princesses who are only waiting to see us act just once, with beauty and

courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence,

something helpless that needs our love.” Rainer Maria  Rilke


“Laughter is the language of the soul.” Pablo Neruda


“Once upon a time a man whose ax was missing suspected his neighbor’s son. The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief. But the next day, the man found his ax while digging in the valley and the next time he saw his neighbor’s son, he walked like a child, looked like a child, and spoke like a child.” Lao Tzu


“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez


“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.” Vaclav Havel


“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” CS Lewis


“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.“ Albert Camus


“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?” Erich Maria Remarque


“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” Mahatma Gandhi


‘One day the sun admitted I am just a shadow.

I wish I could show you the infinite incandescence

that has cast my brilliant image.

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness

the outstanding light of your own being,” Hafiz


“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” W. B. Yeats


“Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David’s Tower in Jerusalem. I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. “You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head, there’s an arch from the Roman period. Just right of his head.”  I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them, “You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it, left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.” Yehudah Amichal


“There are three classes of people. Those who see. Those who see when shown. Those who do not see.” Leonardo Da Vinci


“My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.” Masahide


“Conscience is a man’s compass.” Vincent Van Gogh


“How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?’  Alexander Solzhenitsyn


“As I walked out the door toward my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind, that I would still be in prison”. Nelson Mandela


“Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.

Traveller, the path is your tracks and nothing more.

By walking you make a path and turning, you look back

At a way you will never tread again.

Traveler, there is no road, only walks in the sea.” Antonio Machado


“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama


“On a day when the wind is perfect,

the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.

Today is such a day.” Rumi


“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Fly safe,