Travel gets more complicated, more technical

Keeping up requires a strong will

I have prided myself over the years on learning new technology, starting in 1992 when I first encountered a Dell computer at work and figured it out. Then through the years, from Boston to Alaska, I entered newsrooms with unknown computer programs I had to learn by myself, as there was no training.

At the newspaper in Wasilla, I arrived in the newsroom to find no one knew I was coming, I had no desk assigned and the computer I was given did not have the application I needed to do my job, sending me on a hunt to corral the computer technician.

Those years have worn me down and I no longer wish or feel the need to keep up with technology - particularly with phones. My son begs me to get an iPhone, but I live in Tenakee Springs and we have no cell phone coverage except for a small patch of ground downtown where people wander around forlornly trying to pick up a signal.

I spent the first four months of our move leaving my desktop computer at a friend's, which meant climbing approximately 55 stairs up a steep incline to use it, or huddle outside the library with my laptop in minus-35 degree weather with the wind roaring down Tenakee Inlet.

But I've had some second thoughts after traveling to Chicago in early August to visit my son, his wife and my precocious four-year-old granddaughter. I may have to conform.

The curse of the QR

At the Seattle airport I was confronted by the need of a smartphone when I saw people using theirs instead of a paper boarding pass.

There are now big QR code images on maps within the airports and you get directions on your phone to where you want to go by hovering the phone over the code symbol.

But most alarming were the QR codes on the tables in restaurants where you viewed the menu - no more paper menus unless requested. And maybe this is a good thing environmentally, with conserving paper, therefore trees, resulting in more oxygen in the air.

I did purchase a flip phone on Amazon, but failed to get it up and running because, frankly, I didn't feel I needed it. I had a computer with me and so I emailed or called or messaged people through Messenger, the application through Facebook.

Next year, Tesla, the company that makes electric cars, batteries and now a macho personal space program, will launch a communications satellite geared for rural areas. We have signed up for it, putting down $500 for equipment and will pay $100 a month for service when it comes on line. Right now, the antenna up the back hill delivers a good connection but only if it's not foggy or windy. I have no answer as to why that is.

Other changes

Aside for the need to wear a mask in the airport and on planes, travel has changed in interesting ways.

For example, police in some airports, while there are still foot patrols, now ride a Segway. It's positively space age.

There are now all-gender restrooms, but that doesn't mean it's a large one like the men's or women's, jut a room like the family or disabled bathrooms.

And like so many products in America that have shrunk and cost more – M&Ms, candy bars, Oreo cookies – so has the toilet paper in airport bathrooms. The paper is narrower even though the average American has gotten larger.

In most airport bathrooms all the facilities are automated, which is a good thing considering the ongoing pandemic.

Seasonally in Alaska, visitors add a certain danger now with the new delta COVID strain. And I'd forgotten until I was in line at the Seattle airport that late summer is the time when hunters come up from the Lower 48 and like to posture with their camo outfits and not wear masks. I felt sorry for the two petite airline clerks checking people onto the plane when those guys went through. Where is a cop on a Segway when you need one?

Testing is as easy as one, two, three

Although Alaska leadership has not mandated special entry or travel testing requirements, there are some immunization and testing offers that visitors or returning Alaskans can receive for free.

All travelers as of June 1, 2021, can receive a free COVID-19 vaccine at clinics and at airports. Those not fully vaccinated, and also those fully vaccinated, can get a free test upon arrival.

Individuals currently positive with COVID-19 cannot travel to Alaska until they have been released from isolation by a medical provider or public health agency. Testing is not recommended for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days.

Individuals are fully vaccinated two weeks after the receipt of one dose of a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, or the second dose in a two-dose series.

Participating airports include Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, Cordova, Yakutat and Gustavus.

Yes or no, Europe?

On Aug. 30, the European Union removed the United States from a "safe list" of countries whose residents can travel to the 27-nation bloc without additional restrictions, such as quarantine and testing requirements. The suggested restrictions, made by the European Council, is not mandatory for member countries, where it will remain up to those countries to decide whether to impose them.

Most European countries reopened their borders to Americans in June, more than a year after imposing a travel ban, hoping Americans would visit this summer and help its tourism industry recover.

In essence, the European Union gave the United States a summertime pass to encourage tourism, despite the relatively high infection rates in parts of the country.

For the U.S. to be reinstated on the safe travel list it must have fewer than 75 new COVID-19 cases daily per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days. The United States is well above that.

On the other hand, the United States has remained closed to Europeans., which has caused some ill will.

And all these conditions are ever-changing, so hold onto your seats.