I read several travel blogs, as well as follow thru social media the travel activities of several bloggers. Typically, the travelogues of these bloggers provide inspiration about where I should travel to next, or how to go from one place to another. While I am not substituting research using guidebooks with blogs, I still read travel blogs every now and then.
Except that sometimes, I read something and get annoyed, thinking at how much attitude they reek, sounding all elitist and privileged and all that. This happened to me a couple of months ago, when one travel blogger moaned about the hassles involved when flying from Asia to the Americas, with a transit in the United States. See, in this itinerary, the blogger's luggage had to be picked up twice, instead of being sent to the final destination. And that was a problem, apparently.
See, this blogger went on and on about why the United States should have an international zone in their airports, where one shouldn't be forced to clear immigration in order to simply transit. But seriously, a large percentage of the flying done in the United States is domestic, so it would be way costly to redesign all airports and make it such that there are international and domestic zones for all of them. The United States is a big country, so it is not surprising that most flying happening in that country is domestic. It is just easier to make everything a domestic zone, and have the international transit passengers (which I am sure are definitely outnumbered by the domestic passengers) enter the country and transit within the country.
And yes, what is wrong with picking up your luggage twice? Since you entered the United States, even though for just a few hours, you entered the United States. So you have to retrieve your luggage. And since you're flying to a small airport in a third country, I am guessing when you enter this third country for the first time, you also need to clear immigration and customs, so you also need to pick up your luggage. Stop bitching about it. It is actually the Schengen Area in Europe which is the exception (and it is something I don't favor, actually). The Schengen Area allows you to pick up your luggage at the final destination, even though you've cleared the border somewhere else. The checks are just random, determined by whether your luggage tag has a green line on the edge or not. It seems that the Schengen Area feel confident that their measures are enough, but I really think that every sovereign country has the right to check the luggage of their incoming passengers at the first port of entry, so if you are flying further within the country, then sure, you have to pick up your luggage and re-check it later. Stop bitching about it.
See, normally, I am not annoyed by these things. But somehow, this one just annoyed me. The thing is, while every human being should have the freedom of movement, for the most part, this is only true within the country of which one is a citizen of. Visiting a foreign country has never been a right, but a privilege. Travelers (and yes, travel bloggers too) should know that. So I don't like it when travel bloggers act like the world is going to end because they waited for three hours in US Immigration, or that they had to pick up their luggage twice while traveling from Asia to the Americas. Stop moaning about it, because seriously, there are way more people in the world who don't even know what the interior of an airplane looks like.
The other day, I was in the metro here in Berlin. I saw two people with suitcases. One was middle-aged, and the other was significantly older. They obviously just came from the airport, and there were still luggage tags on their bags. I glanced at their luggage tags and found the flight number. Later on, I looked it up, and it seems that they flew from Khartoum, from Sudan. Their attire wasn't the most visually appealing, they looked more like refugees rather than savvy travelers on vacation. I would be willing to bet that perhaps that was the first time the old man flew on a plane. Given that his clothing seemed handmade, I am not sure he can afford to fly pretty often.
For these people, I am pretty sure that they wouldn't mind waiting for three hours in order to cross a border. I am pretty sure they wouldn't mind picking up their luggage twice if that was necessary to reach their destination. I am pretty sure that for them, what was more important was to reach their destination, and that these little discomforts wouldn't even enter their mind.
Sometimes, it is good to take things into perspective. I am glad that I live in a developed country. I am glad that I have the luxury to travel whenever I want to. Yet I don't think that is reason to be elitist and act like you know everything about travel and that you deserve to be simply waved through the hoopla surrounding international travel. Be glad that you have a passport that allows you to travel easily without visas and such. Because not everyone is like that. I only have a Filipino passport, which isn't the easiest passport to travel with, but I also know that there are more people who have worse passports than me. And I am thankful for what I already have.
So stop bitching about a three-hour wait in US Immigration: I lived in the United States for more than 7 years and I have done those long lines myself. Just bring a book and you'll be fine. And stop bitching about being forced to pick up your luggage twice while in transit. Because for some passengers, they don't even have the luxury to pack luggage, and instead they only have the clothes on their back.