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Everything is Amazing & Nobody is Happy: 5 Ways Points & Miles are Turning You Into a Non-Contributing Zero

The point of travel has become lost on some people. I’ve noticed great travel writers who have stopped writing about the experience and instead focus on “the product” – the planes, the indistinguishable lie-flat seats, the fancy hotels, and of course everything that wasn’t up to par about the experience. As Louis CK put it, “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.” Seriously, watch this video (skip to 2:40) – it will not only make you laugh, it will set you straight. Quick.

I’ve certainly been guilty of it myself. While chasing and reading about luxury travel is great escapism, it can also make you vapid and shallow if it’s done in excess. Here are five ways the points and miles hobby and constant, pointless travel, may be turning you into a non-contributing zero:

1. You can’t appreciate what you’ve been given (free). The flight attendant didn’t bow after she handed you your chardonnay. The front desk agent didn’t explain all the free stuff your elite membership gets you (even though you have them memorized and will fight to the end to maintain them), and the suite you shamed the agent into upgrading you to didn’t have the high thread count and designer bath products you’re used to. Look outside your window and you may notice a row of homeless people sleeping in the alley across the street. That’s something to complain about (for them, not you) – not how your free hotel room isn’t up to your country club standards.

Think back to a time when travel was simple: You saved up and bought yourself an economy ticket to somewhere. You stayed at cheap hotels and ate at moderately priced restaurants. You had a great time and wished you could do it more often. Then came points and miles and turned you into a “non-contributing zero.” Dial it back, be grateful, and remember that while all the material aspects of travel are great, it’s the overall experience that should be treasured.

2. You are constantly complaining (for free stuff). The airlines suck. They take olives out of our salads to save money and make us pay to take our luggage with us on vacation. It probably won’t change. Lower your standards or buy a private jet. If you’re not an elite whose given years of business to the airline, try to let some things go and don’t milk every inconvenience for more freebies.

Wanting the maximum return for minimum investment is part of what makes us tick. However, some people feel genuinely entitled to things they do not want to pay for. They think because they got status matched to Hyatt Diamond, hotels should bend over backwards to accommodate them. They want upgrades and nothing short of a suite will do. They complain constantly (almost professionally) in order to get free stuff. Because that’s what seems to be what this hobby is focusing on: Stuff. The stuff you get when you’re on the plane, at the 5-star hotel, from the hotel when your toilet doesn’t flush in the right direction, etc.

3. You are spending exorbitant amounts of money on upgrades. There was a time when most of us wouldn’t consider paying $300 per night on a hotel room, let alone on an upgrade. Yet the longer we entrench ourselves into the shallow aspects of this hobby, the more we’re willing to pay to maintain them. It’s very easy to lose sight of reality and think of pricey upgrades as “good value.” They’re not.

4. You don’t want to talk to actual people. Even the ones whose countries you are visiting. You prefer enjoying that hotel suite you embarrassed yourself over, and besides – talking to the hotel staff counts, right? You don’t speak their language and have no interest in learning it. Why can’t everyone learn English already?!

5. Apathy. You stop watching the news and caring about the world around you. After all, it’s so much more fun to watch Youtube videos of a faceless person eating a 5-course meal on the Emirates A380, than to watch another news report about children dying in illegal drone strikes. This hobby distracts us, and who wants to give that up for the bleakness of the real world?

We all want a comfortable place to sleep, a nice meal, and a bed in the sky, but when the only reason you’re traveling is to hole yourself up in a cocoon of luxury, you’re missing out on the most amazing part.

My advice? Go back to the basics. Go camping for a weekend, maybe even take a drive to a shady part of town and get some perspective. Watch the news for a little bit. Talk to people who aren’t like you. Then come back and tell me these experiences weren’t more meaningful than sipping champagne on an airplane for 14 hours.

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Ariana Arghandewal

31 Comments

  1. AWESOME post. Completely agree. Well-written, well-said, and clearly well-lived! Here’s to shoestring travel, being grateful for what we’ve got, and enjoying every minute of it.

  2. Great Post! I am guilty of some of the things you have mentioned in here. Will remember this post next time on a trip.

  3. Take a drive thru the shady part of town? Some of us still call that “going home” every day. After working. In a non air-conditioned or heated building. Know what? I appreciate the shit out of all of my flights, hotels, upgrades and credit card points. Especially the points. Are you kidding me – Chase gave me 298,000 points this year for USING a few credit cards when I was going to spend the money anyways?

    • That’s great, Graydon. Too many people don’t appreciate it and have no empathy for those “in the back of the plane.”

  4. Well said! In fact with all the complaining about the devaluations and loss of airline and hotel upgrades – I was just on twitter and saw several bloggers worrying about some changes @United that could mean 100K flyers might get a lower status in 2014 – and I had a thought that maybe the folks who won’t travel unless it is in a flatbed with champagne and the best amenity kit will find a new hobby, making it more pleasant for the rest of us who would love to see more emphasis on real travel and savvy ways to earn points with fewer pics of hotel bathrooms and lounge hors d’oeuvres!

    • Saw that too. 🙂 Personally, I don’t see much value in status. You can get much of the benefits (free checked bags, lounge access, priority check-in) from credit cards. As for upgrades? Those are becoming sparse. Might as well use miles.

      • There’s definitely a value in status, especially if have a family or you travel a lot.

        Having status means I save money on bag fees, award fees, upgrades, etc.

        Those all add up when you trying to get a family of 4 somewhere. 🙂

        • There are definitely perks to it, but it may not be worth it for everyone. There are people spending $5k+ per year to get status and I’m not sure they’re getting $5k worth of value out of it.

  5. Great post! I have found myself getting caught up in the “how you get there” over the “you’re getting there.” With a family of four, I always dream of business or first class, but when it’s time to book it, I’m in the back of the plane. Because I can take 4 trips in economy or 1 in first. And I know what’s most important for my family. Signed, Never Sat In A First Class Seat And It’s OK.

    • I love the signature – more people need to realize that. I’m sure when the kids grow up, you’ll make it to First and appreciate it that much more.

  6. The video is awesome! Thanks for making me laugh this morning. I am spending so much time planning my next trip with luxury hotels that I can use a little perspective. Miles and points saves a lot of money but I have to remember that the destination should matter more.

    • I’m glad you were entertained (Louis CK always makes me laugh) and I hope you enjoy your trip!

  7. I love the post and often thought of those that are running to the Maldives like Lemmings and bragging about the best deal they received for their points. How many of them actually dive or actually swim 😉

    • I may be one of those lemmings one day, so don’t judge me too harshly. 🙂 While aspirational travel is a nice treat from time to time, I think it’s a mistake to think those trips should be the only way to redeem your points.

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