Observations

Some stuff I have come across while living out of my car.

A traveler’s home is her stuff

Today, I was hanging out in my kitchen when my roommate, Alex, came home after going on a hike with our friend Megan. As only roommates can do (because no one else cares enough to listen), we began chatting about the most minute details of our day.

“I hadn’t seen Megan since before I got back from vacation (about one week ago),” Alex said. “And, of course, even though I put it in my bag, I forgot to give her the bracelet I got her.”

I told her how much that drove me nuts too. I hate having other people’s stuff in my house, I hate it when people leave things behind and, of course, I hate leaving my own things behind.

I like knowing that everything I need can fit in this backpack.

I like knowing that everything I need can fit in this backpack.

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New passport, same me

The average person has several coveted milestones in their life – the prom. The graduation. The first job. The wedding. The baby. For those who travel, there is also another important milestone – the first time that they must get a new passport.

Since I got my passport when I was 16 years old rather than 15, I narrowly missed the five-year-renewal mark, and instead, I got to keep my horrifying passport photo for an extra five years, leaving airport security to seriously question my identity when they saw a photographed face slightly similar to mine, only much more pimply, braced and skinny (thankfully).

However, upon my return from my trip to San Juan in early March, I knew it was time – with a bit more than six months left on my current passport, it was time to renew.

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An Adult’s Right to Travel

When you’re living in your childhood bedroom as a 24-year-old and basically using a 12 x 9 space as your entire living area, you start to get a little wacky. This is only accentuated by a one-and-half-hour-plus traffic-ridden commute and a mind-numbing office job. You start to dream – big.

Throughout my time living in northern New Jersey, Morristown was always the place to be. Even though we hadn’t been to many of the restaurants and bars there, we knew they were cool. We knew that there, in what seemed to be an alternate universe 45 minutes away, there were people our age who had cool jobs, modern apartments, new cars, tons of boyfriends and always had something to do on a weekend night.

Thus, once I saved some money, ran out of sanity and secured a roommate, I was out. I was going to Morristown.

One year later, I’m not sad that I did. Even though I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy when friends who live with their parents tell me how much money they’ve saved and the awesome meals that their mom cooks for them, I know that’s not what my life at home was like and I’m pretty psyched with what I created – a new life in a small city with a cool job, a short commute and a nice apartment.

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

However, to no fault of its own, Morristown didn’t crack out to all I hoped it would be. The restaurants aren’t as good, the bars aren’t as fun and I don’t have a ton of new friends as originally planned. Thus, when my roommate heads off to graduate school next year, I will probably venture somewhere else.

Throughout the last 25 years of my life, my real estate mogul father has endlessly harassed me to buckle down, save some cash, make a commitment and actually purchase a home. With the promise of impossible rents ahead of me, I finally thought about it – maybe I would actually purchase my very first abode.

READ: Jockey Hollow restaurant lives in historic setting

READ: At home in the Garden State

READ: 6 roadside curiosities in Central Jersey

However, not in Morristown. Instead, nearby small cities with better restaurants, better bars and more things to do are luring me in. I didn’t anticipate my father’s reaction, a helicopter dad who lives only a few minutes from Morristown.

“Dad, I think I’m going to try and save money to buy a house soon.”

“Really?! That’s awesome! I’m so excited. I can help you fix it up, and I’ll give you my realtor’s number, and – ”

“Well, I don’t really want to live around here. I was thinking of a place maybe 45-minutes or so away.”

*Silence*

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Photo by Jenna Intersimone

Dad wasn’t thrilled. He went on a tangent about how I just can’t go that far away, and where I was thinking was a crappy area, and if I did venture that far, he wouldn’t be able to help me fix anything up. (Side note – my three-years-younger-sister moved to North Carolina about a year ago).

At first, I was SO ANGRY. Deanna moved to North Carolina and no one said a word! Where I wanted to go wasn’t even far away, and is very up-and-coming! How could I possibly do all this work on my own! And Dad, why are you still texting me real estate listing of houses in your neighborhood!

But then I stopped. And I thought about it. And I came to a very strange realization.

I am an adult. (A 25-year-old adult trapped in a 16-year-old’s body). And I can figure out how to do any work myself, or pay someone to do it like a normal person. And I can live wherever I want. Just like I chose to move to Morristown one year ago, I can choose to go somewhere else, and if I feel like it, then I can go somewhere else still.

And no helicopter dad is going to stop me.

Fanwood man trades N.J. traffic for Utah tourism

Mike Coronella, the 52-year-old founder of Deep Desert Expeditions of Moab, Utah, didn’t always spend his days exploring the desert southwest and hosting guided hikes through some of the country’s most breath-taking landscapes.

Much earlier in his life, this Fanwood resident worked for the Courier News as a delivery boy when he was 13-years-old, and again as a page, where he drove to pick up advertising copy, when he was 21-years-old.

Five years after his year-long stint working for the Courier News, Coronella found himself in a rut, reeling from a breakup and odd jobs, eager for a change that differed from his mundane life in New Jersey.

“I didn’t want to go to Wall Street and follow in my parents’ footsteps,” he said. “So, I decided that I would drive my Jeep out to Utah, where I had been two or three times before with my family, and ski for the winter while staying with my brother, who was a graduate student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. When I got there, I said to myself, ‘You know what? This is nice out here. ’”

Mike Coronella in Capitol Reef National Park, from the third time hiking between Arches and Zion national parks in 2005. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Mike Coronella)

Mike Coronella in Capitol Reef National Park, from the third time hiking between Arches and Zion national parks in 2005.
(Photo: ~Courtesy of Mike Coronella)

It’s been 26 years since then, and Coronella hasn’t come home yet. Nor does he have any intention to.

He said that he hasn’t been back to New Jersey in about 20 years – he doesn’t remember the last time that he was here. Following his parents’ move to Phoenix three years after he arrived in Utah – making him the most eastbound one in his family – he had no reason to.

“I couldn’t even visit New Jersey comfortably now,” he said. “It would be very repressive to me. Fanwood is about one square-mile and it has 10,000 people. My county is 2,600 square-miles and it has 8,000 people.”

When Coronella first relocated to Utah, a world away from New Jersey, his family and friends weren’t thrilled. “My folks thought I was nuts, but they saw that I was happy with what I was doing,” he said. “I was paying the bills, and even though I had roommates and old junky cars, I had a smile on my face all the time.”

Arches National Park. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Mike Coronella)

Arches National Park. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Mike Coronella)

To make ends meet, Coronella held a slew of odd jobs, including a bartender at high-end ski resorts and a community college photography professor. This gave him time to do what he really wanted – ski, backpack, hike, raft and play.

He said, “Even after two years there, my friends would ask me, ‘When are you coming home?’ And I would just tell them, ‘When I’m done exploring.’”

After those initial two years of settling in, it finally occurred to Coronella that he would stay in Utah for good. His long-term relationship with a woman from New Jersey was over, and he found himself with a new love – Moab, Utah, which is where he lives now.

“I visited Moab with a friend and I was blown away by what I saw,” Coronella said. “I said to him, ‘How am I going to go back east?’ And my friend said, ‘Why would you?’”

Canyonlands National Park. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Mike Coronella)

Canyonlands National Park. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Mike Coronella)

After Coronella decided that he was in Utah for the long haul, he made another long haul after eight years in the state – one from Arches National Park to Zion National Park, which are on opposite sides of the state of Utah, since he said he needed “40 days in the desert” to revamp his life. After walking for 520 miles over a 94 day-period, Coronella and a friend reached their destination – and landed themselves in Backpacker Magazine.

Coronella’s “40 days in the desert” soon turned into much more. Looking at a long distance trail management map, he and his friend noticed that there was a vacant hole in the desert southwest with no trail. Two years later, the pair created one based off their original route – this time, after 650 miles and 101 days. They called it the Hayduke Trail, named from a character in the novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” which is about a mystic crew who decides they will defend the desert against development by any means necessary.

The trail, which is an 850-mile backpacking route, winds through public land with back-country, the Grand Staircase and six total national parks.

Around the same time Coronella founded the Hayduke Trail, he also had another life-changing experience, that led to creation of his own guiding company, Deep Desert Expeditions, in 2010.

Coronella on the San Juan River during "the early days." ~Courtesy of Mike Coronella

Coronella on the San Juan River during “the early days.” ~Courtesy of Mike Coronella

“After I had a heart attack and a triple bypass, I said to myself, ‘I don’t have enough time to work for someone else anymore,’” he said.

Relying mostly on word of mouth, he said that business has been doubling and he expects to guide around 2,000 people this year, partially due to his newly launched Mighty Five Tour.

Deep Desert Expeditions, beginning in June, will bring groups of six people through guided hikes on a 10-night, nine-day journey or a six-night, five-day journey from St. George, Utah for $7,800 a person or $5,200 a person, respectively.

Guests will visit Utah’s five “Mighty Five” national parks while staying in the region’s finest hotels and eating at the best restaurants, making for a backcountry expedition with a luxurious twist.

“It took me a few years of working the rat race until I realized that it wasn’t really interesting to me,” Coronella said. “I finally found that I didn’t have to follow the footprints that were expected of me.”

For more information on Deep Desert Expeditions or the Mighty Five Tour, visitdeepdesert.com

How the Irish in N.J. celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day and on various days prior, I will do my duty and cheer alongside parade routes, head to local Irish pubs, drink green beers and paint shamrocks on my face.

However, I do not have one hint of Irish in me.

Obviously, I’m not the only one, per the popular adage, ‘everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.’  But have you ever wondered how the real Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

“St. Patrick’s Day is kind of an American happening,” said Chris Flynn, owner of Hailey’s Harp and Pub, a Metuchen Irish pub that will receive around 1,000 visitors on the holiday, a huge upswing from their 200-person onslaught on a normal Saturday night. “However, the day is still about having ‘craic,’ or a good time, no matter where you are on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Ken Gardner, president of American Irish Association of Woodbridge who is mostly Irish, said that he believes that St. Patrick’s Day is “somewhat different” in Ireland, but in his position, he has had the opportunity to meet the Ireland’s ambassador to the United States and the counsel general and they have expressed their appreciation for the Americans’ keeping the St. Patrick’s Day traditions alive.

A celebration at Hailey's Harp and Pub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Heather Lee Photography)

A celebration at Hailey’s Harp and Pub.
(Photo: ~Courtesy of Heather Lee Photography)

At home in New Jersey, Joan McNichol, president of the American-Irish Association of Central Jersey who is mostly Irish, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day for the entire season.

Wearing green on the day of my interview with her on March 10, McNichol said that she has been listening to Irish music to get into the spirit. On the holiday itself, she will bring in Irish soda bread to her workplace and listen to the Willie Lynch Band play later in the evening, a local Irish band, as well as eat corned beef and do traditional Irish dances such as Stack of Barley.

“This all just amounts to a typical Irish celebration,” she said.

The American Irish Association of Woodbridge, which was founded in 1966 and has over 400 members, held their two-mile parade Sunday, which they worked to organize for the entire year prior. It was made up of 10 bagpipe bands, area high school bands, fire departments, VFWs, sports leagues and other community organizations.

For this reason, St. Patrick’s Day is the association’s chance to have a day of relaxation and a good time to celebrate another parade – this year being their forty-third.

A celebration at Hailey's Harp and Pub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Heather Lee Photography)

A celebration at Hailey’s Harp and Pub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Heather Lee Photography)

“On St. Patrick’s Day, we meet up at a local establishment that supports the parade each year,” said Gardner. “Since we work so hard before the parade, we’re a little tired by the time we get there, but we’re still up for a good time.”

The American-Irish Association of Central Jersey, which is three years old and has about 20 families in its membership, marched in its third parade on Sunday in Somerville.

Flynn celebrates the holiday by taking his family and management team out to New York City to visit Irish pubs, listen to live Irish music and enjoy some authentic fare, one week after St. Patrick’s Day.

“On the holiday itself, I still find it fun to be out celebrating with people,” said Flynn. “How great is it to go to a parade, watch the pipe bands march, see the Irish girls dance and see people with shamrocks on their faces?”

In order to spread out the holiday cheer, Hailey’s Harp and Pub has been hosting Irish events since Saturday night and will continue to do so each night until Friday.

“Come the other five nights because then you’ll experience more of the Irish,” said Flynn. “Plus, we’re also an Irish pub the other 364 days of the year.”

The American-Irish Association of Central Jersey in the Somerville St. Patrick's Day parade. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Joan McNichol)

The American-Irish Association of Central Jersey in the Somerville St. Patrick’s Day parade. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Joan McNichol)

On St. Patrick’s Day, Flynn describes the pub as a “large house party” with people cocktailing and having a great time.

So what do these Irish-Americans think of those who are not Irish celebrating the iconic holiday?

“From our organization and personally, we work hard on the parade for our entire community – we know that not everyone is Irish,” said Gardner. “We all have a great day together and support the culture and homeland.”

Flynn said that just as he celebrates Cinco de Mayo when he is “110 percent Irish,” he appreciates that everyone can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. However, he also encourages people to visit local Irish establishments throughout the year when they’re doing other events as well, rather than solely on St. Patrick’s Day.

First Woodbridge Parade Chairman Justin McCarthy, who later became an announcer and director, and Ken Gardner, president of American Irish Association of Woodbridge. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Ken Gardner)

First Woodbridge Parade Chairman Justin McCarthy, who later became an announcer and director, and Ken Gardner, president of American Irish Association of Woodbridge. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Ken Gardner)

McNichol said that she “loves it” when she sees non-Irish celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

“Our motto is that we are open to the Irish and everyone who loves the Irish, which should be everyone,” she said. “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”

She said that there was never a St. Patrick’s Day growing up where she wasn’t surrounded by culture, food and parties. As a child, her family would pile in the car and head to Newark, which held one of the only parades at the time.

“There was a certain feeling in the air that I knew that this was my culture,” she said. “You stand a little taller when you hear the pipe bands play when you’re Irish.”

Hostels aren’t just for kids anymore

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com on 2/24/15

George Finn, who is in his 50s and general manager of Hostelling International USA, is not a hosteller by nature.

However, the manager of the American arm of the nonprofit organization that hosts a network of hostels became one rather quickly once he spotted an unlikely exchange taking place between two people during his stay at a hostel in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Finn had been taking a stroll on a Tel Aviv beach and, upon leaving the area, discovered that a bomb had been fired from the Gaza Strip right around the time that he had been on the beach. As pandemonium ensued and people evacuated the immediate area, Finn hurried back to his hostel.

“In the dining area, a Palestinian and an Israeli were breaking bread together,” he said. “They were discussing, very calmly, that they do have differences and they had to recognize that.”

Finn saw, through that exchange and many other hostelling stays since, that hostels, through their no-frills dormitory-style accommodations focused on culture and experience rather than luxury and comfort, could help travelers connect with one another much deeper than a typical hotel would allow, regardless of their age or background.

In a hostel, including this Generator Hostel, four to 20 travelers sleep in rooms of bunk beds and share a communal bathroom with other floor mates in major European and American cities for $15 to $40 a night. (Courtesy of Generator Hostels)

In a hostel, including this Generator Hostel, four to 20 travelers sleep in rooms of bunk beds and share a communal bathroom with other floor mates in major European and American cities for $15 to $40 a night. (Courtesy of Generator Hostels)

When thinking of a hostel, many Americans are brought back to the 2005 horror flick “Hostel,” in which three backpackers are kidnapped and tortured after staying in a Slovakian hostel.

“A hostel isn’t about the movie. You’re not thinking, ‘Ew, I don’t want to get murdered,’ or stepping over junkies or seeing a bunch of people sleeping on one bed. That’s not what a hostel is,” Finn said.

In a hostel, four to 20 travelers sleep in rooms of bunk beds and share a communal bathroom with other floor mates in major European and American cities for $15 to $40 a night. Many hostels also have private rooms with private bathrooms. Bed prices sometimes include breakfast, and guests are also welcome to use a self-service and fully equipped kitchen.

Besides the free Wi-Fi and breakfast, the chief difference between a hostel and a hotel is that hostels are social by nature, while people tend to retreat back to their hotel rooms at the end of the day, a “complete change from the often lonely experience that you can have in a full-service hotel where the only people who talk to you are staff,” said Carl Michel, executive chairman of Generator Hostels, a European hostel chain.

Hostels may have originally catered to young backpackers because of their price and friendly fixtures, but “there’s a reason that these days, they’re no longer referred to as ‘youth hostels,’ ” said Marc Desmarais, president of Apple Hostels Philadelphia.

Twenty percent of Apple’s visitors are over 30.

Hostels often feature modern amenities and designs, including this Generator Hostel. (Courtesy of Generator Hostels)

Hostels often feature modern amenities and designs, including this Generator Hostel. (Courtesy of Generator Hostels)

“Hostels aren’t just for the young anymore,” Desmarais said. “No matter your age, if you enjoy meeting people from around the world with different interests, religions and political views, you’re going to love hostelling.”

Sissel Garnes, a Denville native, stayed at several European hostels in the mid-90s because of their price and said that, at that time, 90 percent of her fellow hostellers were in their 20s. However, she had no issue connecting with others.

“Even then, everyone was interested in everybody else and was open to learning about other cultures and lifestyles,” she said.

The average hosteller is between 18 and 26, but more and more hostels are seeing older guests, especially at Generator hostels.

“Ten years ago, Generator was a party hostel and the demographic was younger. Today, we are the leading design hostel in Europe and offer great service, great atmosphere, great events and, of course, a great night’s sleep,” Michel said. “As a result, the age band has broadened — 10 years ago, 95 percent of our guests were under 30. Now, it’s more like 80 to 85 percent.”

Even more of the visitors at St. Christopher’s Inns, a European hostel chain, are over 30. Robert Savage, public relations manager, said that 35 to 40 percent of visitors over the past 12 months were over 30, “myself and several other board member included.”

“We even host a gentleman in his 90s who journeys over to Paris from Australia every year, and very much likes the private en-suite dorm rooms at the 550-bed St. Christopher’s Gare du Nord hostel,” Savage said.

Hostels commonly offer private rooms, including St. Christopher’s Inns, for a slightly higher price than dormitory-style rooms. (Courtesy of St. Christopher’s Inns)

Hostels commonly offer private rooms, including St. Christopher’s Inns, for a slightly higher price than dormitory-style rooms. (Courtesy of St. Christopher’s Inns)

Savage said that the recession brought in business travelers, who, after the recovery, chose to remain with St. Christopher’s Inns because of the price and modernity. Loyal customers, backpackers by nature, “are the intrepid bunch who took no note of the recession and traveled in greater numbers than ever.”

Finn said, “When older people come and stay here with us, we know that they are diehard and seasoned hostellers. They are in the breakfast room with millennials, making better world citizens out of themselves, exchanging ideas and gaining a better understanding of the world and its people.”

Desmarais said that there is no better way to get to know an area than by staying at a hostel because of their use of common areas and various activities such as city tours and game nights for guests. Activities offered at other hostels include comedy nights, pub crawls, open mics and Salsa, often involving the surrounding community to connect travelers to the city.

St Christopher’s Gare du Nord in Paris provides free breakfast to its guests, a prevalent hostel feature. (Courtesy of St. Christopher’s Inns)

St Christopher’s Gare du Nord in Paris provides free breakfast to its guests, a prevalent hostel feature. (Courtesy of St. Christopher’s Inns)

However, prospective hostellers need to keep in mind that hostels are not out to cater to the feel-good, Finn said. “If you are looking for fluffy towels and room service and eco-green soap, then stay at a four- or five-star hotel because we don’t have that kind of service here,” he said. “You serve yourself. The kitchen is kept clean, but you bring your own food and cook your own meals and, hopefully, you cook a little extra for someone else to try it.”

According to Finn, the kinds of people who would thrive in a hostel environment are those who are open to learning about other cultures, as well as creative types such as artists, writers and chefs who work in professions that “transcend all boundaries.”

However, it’s also important to recognize that even though some hostels, because of their updated fixtures and interesting design, may look like hotels, they are not the same because a hosteller trades his privacy for a chance to try life simply and communally.

“When the day is over,” Finn said, “you need to be the type of person who has an understanding that if you didn’t like a person, it was because they were rude, not because they had a different skin color or an accent.”

If you are interested in booking a hostel, visit hihostels.com to find international hostels that meet assured standards.

How far did we travel for the holidays?

It’s a normal quarterly five-hour journey for Plainsboro resident Samuel Rosado to drive to New England to see his family for holidays and other special occasions, but that doesn’t mean that the trip has become any more pleasant.

“It is a struggle,” Rosado said. “The road trip through Connecticut isn’t fun, nor is the traffic. It can wear both myself and my car out if I do this too often. ”

Although he calls the trip a “chore,” he said that it is worth it for him in the end because he doesn’t get to see his family as often as he would like. Plus, he knows that “considering the traffic,” he isn’t alone in the holiday travel season — Christmas Eve to the Sunday following New Year’s Day this year.

Rosado is definitely not alone. The American Automobile Association (AAA) projects that 98.6 million Americans trekked more than 50 miles from home during the year-end holidays, an increase of 4 percent from last year. According to Sue Madden, specialist in Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic, this is a pretty significant upsurge — it’s the highest holiday travel volume on record (since 2001) and the highest growth rate since 2009.

So what brought about this dramatic increase in holiday travel, in which the average American went 275 miles?

“The biggest factor that impacts the amount of holiday travel is money,” Madden said. “Now, thankfully, the economy is picking up, unemployment rates have decreased, and low gas prices are giving folks extra cash in their pockets, making them more likely to put that money towards taking vacations that were out of reach in years past.”

More people traveled this holiday season than any other year on record.

More people traveled this holiday season than any other year on record.

The average price of gas in New Jersey during the holidays was $2.45 a gallon, 74 cents less than this time last year and the lowest level in five years. This has provided more disposable income for families, enabling them to set aside money for holiday travel.

The second reason for the surge in holiday travel is the calendar, said Cathleen Lewis, regional director of public affairs and government relations for AAA New Jersey Automobile Club. Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fell on Thursdays, creating a longer holiday travel season — the longest since 2008. This enabled people to make a long weekend without taking multiple vacation days.

However, weather was one factor that wasn’t exactly on travelers’ sides. David Robinson, state climatologist at Rutgers University, said that rainfall hit 1 inch to 1.5 inches over most of the state for Dec. 23 and 24, although there was no snow or ice. He said that this led to several travel issues on the road and in the air.

Weather was one factor that led to about 790 traffic deaths and 84,200 injuries across America during the holiday travel season, according to the National Safety Council. Generally, the number of travel injuries and deaths increases 23 percent during the holidays. AAA came to the rescue of 1.1 million motorists from Christmas Eve to the weekend following New Year’s Day, with the primary reasons for breakdowns being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.

To no surprise, visiting family and friends is the biggest reason that people travel during the holiday season, accounting for 43 percent of travel plans versus only 24 percent during the rest of the year.

Lindsey Guerra is another one of those people. She traveled 785 miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Long Valley, New Jersey, for the holidays, a trip she makes about five times a year. Because the airport is about two hours from her home in Chattanooga and she is a recent college graduate, the trip is one expensive chore yet one she plans to make in the future.

“It’s an inconvenient trip for me, plus the last thing I want to spend my paycheck on is a flight home,” Guerra said. “However, I will make this trip in the future because my family and friends are here and they make all the travel nightmares worth it.”

Written for MyCentralJersey.com

What does the future of travel look like?

Throughout the last few winding weeks of 2014, travel lovers have been fantasizing about all of the enthralling destinations they will visit next year, prepping their calendars and their wallets.

Skyscanner.net, an international travel comparison search site, took travelers’ imaginations to new heights by publishing a report on what they deem to be the future of travel in 2024.

To no surprise, Skyscanner said that within 10 years, technology and personalization will advance our travel experiences by reinventing hotels and customer service, our desired destinations and how we book travel.

However, how will our Central Jersey tourism tools stack up against travel of the future? The Bernards Inn, the Central Jersey Convention & Visitors Bureau and Liberty Travel Succasunna weighed in on the report to share their plans for evolution and their views on the future of travel.

Skyscanner said that travelers will have “no need to encounter a single human being” for hotel stays. These hotel rooms of the future will be completely personalized through mobile devices, including being equipped with interactive walls that display high-definition images of our families and holographic personal trainers.

Although Joshua Barbee, director of sales at the Bernards Inn, believes it’s foreseeable for guests to not need to encounter one human being upon entering a hotel in 10 years, he believes that they will still want to, especially at upscale properties that differentiate themselves by elevating personalized service through interaction with a guest service agent.

The Bernards Inn is a historic Central Jersey hotel.

The Bernards Inn is a historic Central Jersey hotel.

“Can automation ever replace a welcoming smile and greeting from a guest service agent, concierge, bellman or housekeeping staff member when arriving at a property?” Barbee asked. “The importance of putting a ‘face’ to the property should never be overlooked or underestimated.”

Barbee said that the Bernards Inn also pays close attention to emerging technologies and looks to integrate them while maintaining the Inn’s “Old World charm, stylish sophistication and modern luxuries,” which will set the stage for the Inn’s future.

“It is important for any hotel and property to keep an eye on and plan for the future, especially in regards to emerging technology. Being complacent can leave one very vulnerable,” he said.

Barbee continued that the Inn ensures guests will easily find that the amenities they see at modern properties can also be found at the historical hotel, which keeps the property competitive with other hotel options.

According to Skyscanner, travelers will have no desire to head to the Jersey Shore for a weekend when underwater resorts, space travel and other “forbidden destinations” will be easily accessible and mainstream. Travelers will finally have the opportunity to venture to former troubled regions of the world, featuring unparalleled and brag-worthy experiences.

However, Lina Llona, president of the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that there are plenty of exceptional travel experiences in Central Jersey, as well, that will always be enjoyed by out-of-staters, even though many Jerseyans take them for granted.

At Duke Farms in Hillsborough, fields around the Farm Barn teem with colorful wildflowers and butterflies.

At Duke Farms in Hillsborough, fields around the Farm Barn teem with colorful wildflowers and butterflies.

Llona referenced a particular example she noticed recently during a meeting at Duke Farms. She said, “Many of us don’t think of Duke Farms as unique since the majority of us are very familiar with it, but an outsider wouldn’t know its history or the beauty of its gardens.”

She said she doesn’t believe that smaller-scale travel will ever be replaced by the wonder of faraway destinations because there is room for both, especially for Jerseyans who only have a few days to get away and don’t have the time to get on a plane.

As for out-of-staters, the Convention and Visitors Bureau knows that there are many who come for events such as Big Ten football games, so the Bureau wants to showcase other attractions that visitors can enjoy while they’re here.

“We want them to stay here, not just come here and then head back to New York City, because there are so many interesting sites right in our own backyards,” Llona said.

The ease of booking travel online has outplaced many travel agencies, but according to the future of travel report, it seems that travel agents are back in business — digital travel agents, that is. Skyscanner said that artificial intelligence devices will scan online searches and cross-reference vacation, food, travel and hotel searches while using predictive algorithms to make suggestions tailored to desired price range, peer and gender needs.

Competitive with Internet bookings, travel agencies such as Liberty Travel do not charge any fees to their clients, plus they have a price-match guarantee that matches any price customers find online. Deborah Geiger, Liberty Travel Succasunna travel consultant, said that booking on the Internet lacks several factors that travel agents possess, including personal customer service.

Northlandz in Flemington, the largest model train museum in the world, is an attraction that is unique to Central Jersey.

Northlandz in Flemington, the largest model train museum in the world, is an attraction that is unique to Central Jersey.

“As travel agents, we have been to these places that we are recommending to our customers,” she said. “We give personal feedback on what these resorts and beaches are like, plus we can make all of their stay, golf, spa and dinner reservations for them.”

Geiger also said that unlike an Internet booking, human travel agents are there for their customers before, after and during their trip, which comes into play when customers need to voice their grievances about a destination or when things go awry, such as during superstorm Sandy.

“During Sandy, we were there for our customers helping them rearrange their flights or arrange a stay if they were stuck so that they didn’t have to stay on an airline hotline for four or five hours,” she said. “Only a personal travel agent can do that for you.”

Although the future of travel is bright and full of innovation, emerging technologies and fresh destinations, it appears that there will always be a place for travel that is local, personal and traditional.

Jenna Intersimone’s “Life Aboard The Traveling Circus” column appears Tuesdays. Her “Life Aboard The Traveling Circus” blog is at MyCentralJersey.com, as well asLifeAboardTheTravelingCircus.com. Tweet her at @JIntersimone or email her at JIntersimone@MyCentralJersey.com.

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/29/14

The Realities of Work Travel

There’s work travel and then there’s work travel.

When we think of travel, we generally think of an undeniable, animalistic excitement – that which stinks of newness and possibility. For me, it’s that feeling that keeps me getting on plane after plane, punching in my credit card number several times a year.

However, travel isn’t like that for everyone. Some of us don’t get to get home because travel has forced us into a whole new one.

My friend was employed by a large sales company near our hometown following graduation, a great company at that with awesome pay and killer benefits. When she earned a promotion, she was informed that following a few months of training, she would be assigned a territory and she would have two weeks to move.

Upon moving to her new city, she was given a phone, an iPad, a laptop, a car, gas money, grocery money and a hotel to stay in for a few weeks until she was able to find a place to live. After a few weeks, she settled into a cushy luxury apartment in the city where she received her assignment. She has a walk-in closet and very impressive adult furniture. Not too shabby, right?

To me, her life is dreamlike. To be sent to a new, exciting city where one has no lingering ghosts. To make an enviable salary and live in a beautiful apartment. To buy your own groceries and make as much noise as you want and come and go as you please.

To someone who lives in a boring town without the means yet to move out, this is truly otherworldly.

Being as loudmouthed as I am, I eagerly conveyed my excitement to my friend. She couldn’t wholeheartedly agree.

“It’s kind of exciting at first,” she says. I listen to where she goes with this and I start to think. My friend can’t just pop over to a new, cool restaurant because she has no one to go with. There are not yet bars to frequent, friends to see or parties to go to because my friend doesn’t know one soul in the city. 

Any semblance of a life that she once knew is now gone, replaced by possibility, yes, but nothing solid in sight. In the long run, I’m sure it’s great. But when you’re bored on another Saturday night at home, now apt with possibility does this really feel?

This is true work travel.

And it also didn’t really occur to me when I was busy dreaming of what it would be like to go somewhere cool and nowhere near anyplace that I had ever been.

Travel is exciting. It’s fun and new and cool. But when you can’t go home, because you have been relocated in your travels, the novelty can wear off before a comfortable sense of familiarity can seep in.

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The Triton, Micronautix’s Luxury Aircraft Masterpiece

Written for Luxe Beat Magazine on 5/25/14

During the golden age of commercial flight in the 1960’s, airline travel was a luxury in itself. Surrounded by beautiful blonde waitresses, well-off clientele dressed professionally and enjoyed top-shelf drinks, plus an experience not offered elsewhere.

However, the 2000s have been cruel to the extravagance of commercial airline travel. Instead, we are shoved into sardine-sized cabins next to strangers in sweatpants, our elbows banged by passing carts serving tap water. With the unveiling of the Triton, a luxury aircraft concept designed by Micronautix, a Templeton, California-based company, at the 2014 Aviation Summit presented by Lift Event Management, those days could soon be over.

Instead of peering through about 15 x 11 inches of window on a 747, the Triton offers panoramic, breathtaking views, making for a distinctive flying and sightseeing escapade. On a normal commercial flight, passengers count the minutes until their plane lands in the destination, however on the Triton, passengers will get unsurpassed views of their favorite mountain ranges, beaches, and landmarks. “The Triton will provide panoramic views and luxury car-like accommodation in a fighter jet-like environment that sitting in the back seat of today’s average GA aircraft just can’t provide,” said Charlee Smith, founder of Micronautix.

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Marco Parotto, President of Lift Event Management, added that in terms of well-being and relaxation, “The goal is to make the passengers, many of whom will be taking their first flight in a small aircraft, as comfortable as if they would be sitting in a $40,000 mid-size sedan.”

Usually, these types of views are only afforded to single-seat high performance aircraft and military pilots. The model could be a huge hit for owner-flyers, air taxis and air tour operators.

Equipped with three accommodated cockpits, the Triton houses one pilot and passenger in the center cockpit, and is then surrounded by up to two passengers in each of the two side cabins, similar to a sidecar on a motorcycle. The aircraft uses a sleek, aerodynamic design which doesn’t stray too far from a typical model, so that issues such as balance and CG control (which is caused by varying passenger loads) can be managed appropriately.

With a wingspan of 42 feet, the Triton is powered by a 450 horsepower turboprop, swinging a large prop at lower RPM for reduced noise and added comfort. Given that the aircraft was created for these luxury purposes instead of speed, Micronautix gave the Triton a cruise speed of about 193 miles per hour and a range of 932 miles, with an empty weight of 2546 pounds. The company plans to offer several models, including an amphibian and electronic hybrid, “which will ­provide up to 20 minutes of near silent flight over noise-sensitive areas,” such as national parks, said Smith and reported by flightglobal.com.

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Micronautix, which includes Smith, Parrotto, and Brian Reed, a contractor who created the computer aided design, developed the Triton as a result of the obvious hole in the aircraft marketplace. Being that airplane simulators and video games still maintain high popularity, it was clear that the urge to be in the air still existed, yet an aircraft that offered an unparalleled view was lacking. Even in popular flight sightseeing, passengers remain behind the pilot and their only opportunity is to view scenery from a side window, giving obstructed views that lack interesting angles.

Micronautix believed that a safe and quiet design such as that of the Triton would present a spike in sightseeing passengers, looking to fly over beautiful destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, and Key West. About ten years later, the idea and configuration evolved into a stunning design and was then refined into what is now the Triton.

As of now, however, the Triton remains a concept rather than a production. Micronautix has approached several original equipment manufacturers, including General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Extra Aircraft and Aurora Flight Sciences, but the feedback insists that they would be happy to assist but first, Smith needs to come up with millions to finance it.

To further purify the engineering and have an outside company construct the tooling and produce a full-size flying prototype would require a $5 to $7 million investment, said Parrotto. This would depend upon whether it is equipped with a fixed or retractable main landing gear and the level of avionics. Smith said, “I would be willing to hand over the design rights to the most suitable company, just to see the Triton become a reality.”

Triton Neb

Since the design is complete, the next step is to find a reputable aerospace firm that understands the hole in the marketplace for luxury flight so that engineers can bring the Triton to life. Fittingly, a one-sixth and one-tenth model will be unveiled at the 2014 Aviation Summit from October 31 to November 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center, where 10,000 international pilots and industry experts will attend to learn about new products, receive technical advice from manufacturers and participate in hands-on demonstrations.

Besides the significant sums required bringing an aircraft to fruition, Smith understands the other challenges faced and the possibility of failure, but he isn’t giving up yet. He said, “Aviation history is filled with failed concepts that designers have attempted to bring to market by themselves. I feel the positive impact the Triton can have on aviation is more important than my own personal gain.”

Smith sees the greater good in his design and is hopeful and positive about its creation following the 2014 Aviation Summit. He said, as reported by Scott Oxarat in Aviation Digest, “Most people who experience flying in a Triton will feel the magic of flight and want more. Many will be inspired to work toward becoming a pilot because of this.”

According to Parrotto, the Triton’s key impact will be the end of today’s trend of most people being content with virtual flight experiences beyond flying an airliner from one point to another. He said, “The average person on the street will say ‘I want to fly in that airplane,’ which will be an experience that will be the seed to the revitalized growth of general aviation.”

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