Worst time of the year for travel

I imagine Australia doesn’t have the same problems we do here in Minnesota — the major artery to Morris is a sheet of ice right now, with drifting snow blowing around — but still this is a bad time to travel, as FDotM illustrates.

Trains? We ain’t got no stinkin’ trains. They even discontinued the bus service, and we have to somehow get ourselves to a town 45 minutes away to get a shuttle. My choice is the first one: stay at home with the pigs and chickens…only in this case, it’s a cat and a lot of spiders. My wife and I will be spending Christmas home alone in a small snowy midwestern town.

So what are you doing for the holidays?


  1. drsteve says

    Today is my first day of holiday vacation and I’m literally riding Amtrak this very moment. . .

  2. chigau (違う) says

    Last year I was in a hotel because my apartment building was out of commission.
    This year I hope to be in my apartment building Lego.

  3. Ed Seedhouse says

    I will be in my co-op unit nice and toasty unless the electricity goes out. Trying to find something interesting to watch on the Youtube an cursing the fact that all the watchable T.V. show are on vacation for the “holiday”.

    We have no snow here on southern Vancouver Island, at least if you are reasonably near sea level.However the government weather forecast is for “Periods of snow” on Tuesday.

    Other than that, just being an ancient retired unpartnered boring senior citizen.

  4. says

    In Australia long distance train trips can be more expensive than a plane trip so the cost rating is off. As for Christmas we are having the family around. My son works for a company that gives him a meal allowance to spend at the company cafeteria. He worked from home due to Covid and still does most days after restrictions were lifted. To keep itself going the cafeteria switched to online ordering and deliveries. However he didn’t use that service and his allowance accumulated instead. For the past two Christmases he used that allowance for a big order of roast lamb and chickens with all the trimmings and invited our extended family to Christmas lunch. We will do the same this year. One of the few positives from Covid.

  5. robro says

    We will be here in partly cloudy California. Maybe it’ll rain. Maybe not. We are far from the snow country. “We” are three and fairly near each other. My partner has virtually no surviving family. My family is far away and I don’t communicate with them a lot. Just as well as the holidays are stressful enough. Perfectionism is an ugly bear, and nothing brings out the perfectionist like a holiday.

  6. billseymour says

    I don’t connect with any of my extended family here in St. Louis because they’re mostly Trumpistas.  Also, after my mother and one of my cousins died, I became basically the crazy uncle who shows up when there’s food, and that wouldn’t be right even if we kinda liked each other a little bit.

    I’ll be spending my time alone in my apartment, but I’m not a particularly sociable person, so that’s OK.  I’ll be perfectly content reading FtB and other things in print.

    drsteve@1:  what train?  I’m an Amtrak riding geek myself, and I’ll be taking the Empire Builder to Seattle in February.

    And PZ is right to say that there are no trains that serve Morris very well.  All the Builder’s stops within about a two-hour drive are served in the wee hours of the morning; and only Fargo, ND is staffed as has checked baggage service.  If I lived in Morris and wanted to take the train, I’d probably drive to St. Paul.

  7. moarscienceplz says

    On Christmas Eve I will be telling old people why we have fewer calendars, dictionaries, and road maps for sale than we did the last time they visited our store in 1998. I will also be telling old people that if they had a cell phone with email, they would be able to find out when their grandchildren’s Dog Man books will arrive.
    I will be telling everyone that the books they reserved are waiting for them at the checkout counter just overe THERE, and not HERE, because HERE is the information desk. Then, I will be telling them that yes, I AM sure about that because I work here.
    I will be telling twenty year old people that laying flat on the floor in a high traffic walkway is a barrier to everyone else, so please stop it. I will also be telling them that if all our outlets are already full of other people’s chargers, there is nothing I can do about their dying laptop. Also, if they forgot to bring their chargers, we do not provide loaners.
    On Christmas Day, I will be in a coma.
    On Boxing Day, I will be helping hundreds of people return the books their relatives gave them, while they tell ME that they really aren’t that much into reading, rather than just telling that to their relatives and thus avoiding this whole ritual.

  8. wajim says

    Rule #1: Never, ever travel on/over a holiday/holidays. Just no, nopity, nope, nay, not, et alia. Rule #2: While pigs are lovely and graceful huggers (if clean), chickens are not ever, nor ducks, geese, or condors. Cats, sure, but most loath hugs, get all annoyed, pissy and scratchy. Kids are best, ’cause they’re suckers for hugs, but if you don’t have one or two available perhaps one of the fine inflatable sexy Christmas elves available on the intranet. Barring that, just scowling out your windows at passers by seems to suffice

  9. mordred says

    Depending on the weather I’ll either hike the local woods with my camera or cuddle with the cats all day. Been generally ignoring the holiday for some years now, as does my immediate family.

    The train travel is better here in Germany than in the US, I suppose. Though the delays and cancellations sometimes reach ridiculous levels. Converting the state run service to a private company (owned by the state) years ago somehow did not solve all problems.

    Anyways the small line here in my rural corner was closed down nearly 30 years ago anyway. At some point, someone stole the rails…

  10. says

    I have a friend who is moving to Minneapolis early in January, with her cat, so I’ll be hauling boxes and furniture and then hitting the road. Perfect time of year to travel!

  11. says

    PZ (and 1st dog on moon) accurately described the ongoing horrible deterioration of this most powerful, yet pitiful third-world country (u.s. not us). We will be hunkering down in the rubble of a violent society trying to celebrate the winter solstice. I don’t put people or causes on pedestals as heroes. However, if you read all the comments here, you see it is a decent community in itself.

    Thank you PZ and commenters. Stay safe. You have our wishes for a healthy and prosperous season.

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    So what are you doing for the holidays?

    Working, which probably isn’t going to be an issue for much longer. It seems that my mental health issues are finally catching up with me and I likely going to be fired really soon.

    Since I’m nearly 50, there isn’t going to be another job after this. The only consideration left for me is either which brand of appliance box am I going to have to move into or which method of suicide should I use to avoid both destitution and my father’s anger?

  13. says

    @13 Dear Akira, I am saddened to read your comment. Please know that if nothing else, you are valued here. We all face desperation in one form or another at one time or many. I feel powerless to help, But, please find an alternative to suicide. Your life is very worthwhile even if things seem bleak.

  14. silvrhalide says

    @13 FFS Akira, go get a federal job. usajobs.gov.
    My coworker was gone for 2 years for medical (which includes mental health as medical excuses/exemptions) and her job was waiting for her when she came back. Also, the health insurance, including mental, is fantastic. (Not as fantastic as it used to be, but that’s another story.) The pay scale sucks though.

    Also, no age limit because that would be ageism, which is a protected form of discrimination. There are a few jobs that have age and physical limitations (smokejumper, Navy SEAL) but most of them don’t.

  15. says

    Akira, If this society has any decency left, there must be resources that could help you. What about a suicide crisis hotline? I know the gov’t has a bad reputation for not being substantly helpful, but I hope that maybe something like that might offer resources that would help you.

  16. billseymour says

    Akira, I agree with shermanj.


    The train travel is better here in Germany than in the US, I suppose.

    In my experience, trains anywhere in Western Europe are very much better, at least if you can get where you’re going in a day or less.

    But I hear that overnight trains are coming back.  I’ll be heading to Varna, Bulgaria in June, which will certainly take more than a day.  I like to cross the Pond on Icelandair, precisely because I get to stretch my legs in Keflavík, which means that I’d be starting my European train riding in either Berlin or Frankfort.  Any suggestions on taking the train to Varna, including a segment on an overnight train?

    Though the delays and cancellations sometimes reach ridiculous levels.

    I’m guessing that delays of fifteen or twenty minutes are considered ridiculous. 8-)

    In the US, corridor trains are considered “on-time” if they reach their final stop only fifteen minutes late.  For long distance trains, that’s half an hour.  Even with lots of padding in the schedules, very few of our trains are on-time.

  17. silvrhalide says

    @16 Or just get a federal job, take some time for medical, collect temporary disability to get by, come back to federal employment when you are better. You are unlikely to get your perm papers right out of the gate, so temp disability will be an option. Most federal jobs have a year of jeopardy (you can be fired for any reason or no reason) but the union will shit a brick if you try to kick someone for medical.

  18. unbelievingdwindler says

    I’ve spent the last year travelling for work.I am going to be spending time with my family at home here in Edmonton.

    Today is my first day off. I plan on playing video games and cooking for my wife.

  19. anat says

    Got back from a 3 week vacation a week ago, so now I am ready to work during the holidays. It will be fun to be at work at the most quiet time of the year.

  20. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 16

    If this society has any decency left, there must be resources that could help you.<>

    This is the United States of America. There has never been any “decency” in this capitalist. Christian shithole.

    @ 15
    I’m looking at the USAJobs site and it doesn’t appear that I’m qualified for anything they’re offering. I have a useless Journalism /Mass Comm degree and my previous work experience is mainly in call center work. I don’t have the training or experience to be an air traffic controller or a human resource specialist.

  21. says

    @Akira McKenzie: check the IRS and see who they are hiring. Are you able to study up on a field prior to applying for a job? If you lose your gig at the call center, you could try to crash-qualify for something. Journalism/mass comm isn’t great right now, it’s true but employers will look for a degree and “comparable experience” – if you find yourself unemployed perhaps some of us here can help tide you over while you do some crash study.

  22. silvrhalide says

    @22 If you have any college degree you are qualified to be an HR specialist. Check some of the more data-driven agencies, like Treasury or FBI. You don’t have to do the main job, you can do a support job. Also, lots of federal agencies are still working from work-at-home orders because Covid 19 is still killing people, so check out what remote jobs are offered. The only time I’ve put on actual clothes in the past week was to go see Avatar (with a KN95 mask–for 3.5 hour, damn that is a long movie) yesterday. If you have call center experience, go answer the phones for the IRS or the FBI. From home.

    Fair warning: working for the federal government closely resembles the movie Brazil.

    When you went to the website, you put your zip code in and accepted the default, which I think is 25 or 50 mile radius, didn’t you. Set it for anywhere and see what pops up.

  23. euclide says

    Going to see my mother. Took a suburb train to go to Paris proper, then a metro, then a 200mph train

    There’s no more plane on the route a take, 500 km is too short for plane to compete with high speed rail (airport security + the fact that going to the airport and back from the arrival airport pretty much cancel any speed advantage of the plane).

    There’s a bus (that’s the cheap option, but it take 5-6h instead of 2 by train, and I can afford the price.

    The more I read about the US, the more I’m happy in my socialist hell hole

  24. Rich Woods says

    If you have any college degree you are qualified to be an HR specialist.

    Fucking hell, I think I’d sooner slit my own throat. That, or if I was in a really bad mood, use my new-found job superpowers to drive other people to an early death. I could organise a Myers-Briggs oh-so-fun self-discovery jamboree for each and every department. Again. Or I could encourage teamwork by getting people to build the tallest Eiffel Tower from straws and jelly babies. I could overpay a consultant to give diversity training to the exact same group of highly diverse people for the ninth year in a row. I could teach Agile. Or I could just slit my own throat.

    I only came here to say I had no particular plan for the holidays, other than eat what’s in the fridge and drink what’s in the wine rack. Now look what you’ve done to me.

    (PS. All the HR examples I gave are from real life, except I was on the receiving end.)

  25. whheydt says

    Christmas? Not planning to do anything. If my wife were still alive–and hale, but that’s separate issue–I’d drive her to her choice of church.

  26. R. L. Foster says

    We did our required family visits over Thanksgiving. Not taking to the skies, roads, rails, or sea lanes until after the new year rolls around. I intend to cook a lot, eat a lot, drink a little, smoke a lot of weed, watch whatever streams my way, and bitch about everything. In essence, I’m going to do what a retired liberal usually does.

  27. R. L. Foster says

    We did our required family visits over Thanksgiving. Not taking to the skies, roads, rails, or sea lanes until after the new year rolls around. I intend to cook a lot, eat a lot, drink a little, smoke a lot of weed, watch whatever streams my way, and bitch about everything. In essence, I’m going to do what a retired liberal usually does.

  28. silvrhalide says

    @26 And that is why I told Akira he was qualified to be an HR specialist with any college degree.

    Jesus, if only ours understood math. I’ve certainly considered slitting my own wrists after dealing with the little morons for several hours. On the plus side, after the third attempt to reason with HR morons, I can file a legitimate complaint with the union and have them deal with it. So much bullshit to deal with what should be a relatively straightforward problem to fix.

  29. says

    @Akira McKenzie – with a marketing degree you are qualified to be a political operative. Maybe one of the republican campaigns near you is hiring. You could then take their money while laughing up your sleeve. Some of the republican operatives seem to pay themselves a whole lot.

  30. birgerjohansson says

    I sadly have no relevant advice for Akira, being a furringner. You are living 42 years into the Reagan nightmare, and the remains of the New Deal are gone.
    About travel, I like the point furter down if you open the link. “If you have the middle seat, you get both armrests. It’s the law”.
    Laughter is the best medicine- to give you some distractions from the horrors of Trumpland, here is a link.
    ‘GAM382 Dxxx Suddenly ”
    It is hilarious, but I must warn you of some gross elements – the pseudo-science was cobbled together by embalmers.
    Alternative title “Six Feet Blunder”.

  31. Akira MacKenzie says

    I’ve never had a job I liked. Ever since I got out of college, I’ve had to take jobs out of necessity not because I actually wanted to do them. Sooner or later I always end up getting fired for some reason and have to go scrambling for another which turns out to be more of the same.

    Why is that? Because I’m a useless moron who is too stupid to qualify for any career that interests me. I have no marketable skills or talents. My math skills are terrible and I can barely string a complete, coherent sentence together. I hate people and I can’t stand to be around them. I don’t have the money to go back to school, not that I’d pass. I’m not at all creative. I’m just a fucking sub-moron reject from “special education” with delusions of mediocrity. My entire existence is a waste, but sadly my parents were too Christian to abort me and I didn’t have the guts to commit suicide as a teen when the evidence that I was a going to be a failure of a human being was, in retrospect, pretty obvious.

    I should have just let the kidney cancer kill me.

  32. birgerjohansson says

    Akira while my circumstances have been different, they have, at times, seemed equally dire. Yet I made it through thanks to people around me.

    Guys are there any of you living nearby Akira? I think he needs more moral support than online texts can provide.

  33. birgerjohansson says

    I am planning to visit my sister ‘s family and her kid’s families , three hours away by train, the favv transport of the marsupial. We are close to the Arctic circle, but will have enough daylight to visit bird-feeding stations at the coast and maybe see some cool animal tracks.
    To cheer you up here is an old classic.
    “God Awful Movies 50: Day (sic!) When Sun Rises In The West. Film That Shock The World”
    Seriously, just get some popcorn and forget your sorrows.

  34. Alverant says

    Why does a train have a lower environmental impact than a bus? Trains are designed to go long distances on little fuel because metal on metal friction is so low. Is it because they need tracks and not using existing roads?

  35. Walter Solomon says

    I’m pretty much in Akira’s shoes, probably worse off in many measures, so I can empathise with what he’s going through. I didn’t even get a degree because of my social anxiety and lack of direction. I’m not going into it but my life has gotten much more complicated and difficult in the last 6 years or so.

    My only advantage, at least compared to Akira, is that I’m over a decade younger. That’s not saying much either.

    BTW, Akira the line “delusions of mediocrity” is a clever phrase. I even chuckled admittedly. I might have to borrow it.

  36. mordred says

    @17 15 minutes delay is not considered on time with the German railway, but nothing I’d find unusual. Sadly longer delays happen a bit to often…

    As to your travel plans: No idea, never travelled that direction ;-)

  37. silvrhalide says

    @36 Seriously, same thing I told Akira. The job market is brutal to anyone over 35, ageism is a thing. I hate my job but also take comfort in 1) having decent healthcare for the first time in my life and 2) the newfound ability to actually retire, without worrying about running out of money, thanks to federal pensions. Retirement from a federal job also means never having to go on Medicare–you get to keep the federal healthcare insurance. Medicare, the federal insurance program for senior citizens whose real message is “hurry up and die already”. It pays for next to nothing and you have to buy supplemental insurance policies to make it work at all. The federal pay scale is crap but the benefits really do make up for a lot, especially as you get older.

    *Retirement is defined as “able to live in a state with actual municipal services and a standard of living” as opposed to “waiting to die in a third-rate trailer park in Arizona where it will be three weeks before anyone notices you are dead.”

  38. lochaber says

    you have my sympathies, Akira, and I hope something works out in your favor soon.

    I was in a pretty bad situation a few years back, my job became unbearable, and I quit without something else lined up. I figured twixt what I had saved, final paycheck with vacation days paid out, income tax return, etc., I could survive for about a year, and figured I’d be able to find another acceptable job. And if not, well, I was at the point I would rather die (literally), than keep working in that environment. And, I almost did.

    I was down to a month left, and was purging/selling off my possessions, trying to pare down to what I could carry on a bicycle with a trailer, and planning on going on a permanent backpacking trip.

    Got a job offer at the last minute, and managed to juggle some financial stuff around to make it to that first paycheck. I got really lucky, and I actually like my job and my coworkers.

    Some stuff still sucks though, after a lifetime of working shitty minimum wage jobs, retirement or property ownership will never be a possibility for me, so I’m going to work until I die (or, more likely, die when I can’t work anymore). And a lifetime of struggling in survival mode has left me with some not very healthy coping mechanisms and patterns. And, I’m bumping up against the life expectancy of someone with a lot of my characteristics and history, so…

    Sorry I don’t have any great advice or help, but I think I can sympathize with the trouble of finding work – most of my jobs were a pretty niche skill-set, so while I was doing some difficult things, none of it was seen as transferable to other employers. I hope you find some way into a better situation.

    Good luck.

  39. whheydt says

    Re: silverhalide @ #38…
    Medicare isn’t completely useless… My wife spent 2.5 weeks in a neurological ICU just before she died. Medicare paid all but about $1500 of the $121K bill for that. And since I haven’t seen a bill for any of the balance–getting on for 6 months now–I have to presume that her medigap insurance covered the rest.

  40. Ridana says

    I like how the prospect of falling from the sky is 1 (most likely) on a plane, 5 on a train, but only 4 on a bus.

  41. gjm11 says

    Akira, if you graduated college then you are not a moron, and unless someone else is writing your comments it’s Very Untrue that you “can barely string a complete, coherent sentence together”.

    (I realise that none of that actually helps with putting up with your current job or finding a new one if this one fires you, but it makes me sad to see people saying things that aren’t true and you were saying things that aren’t true.)

  42. ockhamsshavingbrush says

    @ billseymoure #17
    Welllll…..it’d take some time but from what my google-fu could summon, there’s this:
    – Berlin to Budapest – 11 hours, 4 times daily or nighttrain EN 40457 bookable via https://rail.cc/night-train/berlin-budapest-en-40457/53 (no affiliation)
    – Budapest – Belgrad traveltime ??, bookable via https://jegy.mav.hu/ there’s supposedly a nighttrain too G341
    – Belgrad – Varna, there seems to be a direct connection sometimes 11.5 hrs, if not that’s gonna be a drag to go via Nis and Dmitrovgrad and all the state rail websites are unfortunatley in cyrillic

    For holyday plans: da trophy wife an I will go visit my mother and brother via rail. ICE to Nuremberg and then local trains, uggh. The ICE does not necesitate switching trains but the local trains do and the connections are really shitty, so if you miss one of them, the next one will be running in 2 hours.

    In the summer it took me 13.5 hours for 320 km/200 mi using only the local connections due to a special ticket for 9€/month where you could use only the so-called RE (regional express) and IR (inter-regio) Had to change trains 3 times and i caught NONE (in words:0) of my connections, so there’s that.

    Seriously, this sound like a serious depression in dire need of treatment .I’ll assume that your insurance (if any) does not cover that but at least call a helpline a.s.a.p. I was told by a friend who was also close to offing himself that they provide at least an initial lifeline and sometimes can referr you to some free treatment if available.
    Oh, and I concurr w/ silvrhalide..just throw your application on the website and see what happens. I mean, as a journalist/communications major you obvs can string words together so I guess public relations might be an option. On a sidenote: a fellow student at a tiny college in the Finger Lakes region was an English major and the last time I heard he was running a water treatment plant in upstate NY.

  43. silvrhalide says

    @44 Right idea but that listing is internal to the agency–you already have to be in the agency to apply for that particular job. That said, just type in “dept of the treasury” or “irs” or whatever agency you plan on applying to to check for any and all listings for a particular agency. Once you’re employed in the relevant agency, you can apply for ANY job in that agency. And sometimes, out of the agency, people switch departments and agencies all the time.

  44. silvrhalide says

    @40 I’m glad things worked out for you regarding the medical billing but it sincerely pisses me off that Medicare doesn’t pay for glasses or hearing aids or everyday medical care that can be quite expensive but is necessary. (Well, it’s necessary if you want to see and hear like a normal person. If you’re fine with seeing the world blurry, then yeah, it’s not a problem.) If you are a senior citizen, you are almost certainly going to need one or the other or probably both at some point in your life. The whole point of Medicare was that senior citizens would have health insurance in retirement. Who gives a crap about having health insurance if it doesn’t actually cover anything useful?

  45. whheydt says

    Re: sivrhalide @ #46…
    Agreed on most of those points. However, one of the major vision things that Medicare will cover (and is damned useful to the older population) is cataract surgery. If that’s done right, any glasses you need after that are cheap, drugstore/Costco readers.

    IIRC, dental coverage has been added in the recent past and–to the best of my knowledge–full coverage for all vaccines kicks in come January 1. (I will finally be able to afford the shingles shots doctors have been bugging me about for the last 5 years as there will no longer be a $175 co-pay for each of two shots.)

  46. StevoR says

    @31 & 13. Akira MacKenzie : You are NOT a “moron” or “useless”* and you have my respect even although we don’t always agree.

    You have my sympathies and I think you deserve a lot better. You also write really well and powerfully and can absolutely string a complete, coherent sentences together and also mor ethan that you can and do make reasonable rational and good arguments and write well. I would miss your insights and commentary if anything happened to you and wish you all the best. I hope you stick around and things really dramatically improve for you. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help here.

    The very idea that human (or animal or plant ) lives have to be somehow “useful” (to whoem? In what ways?) to be worth living or keeping alive is one I’d strongly disagree with ethics~wise and is of course subjective. people have, dare I say, a right to live. (No, “people” here does not include fetii or mere clumps of cells.)

  47. StevoR says

    ^ Case in point, you string coherent complete sentences together a lot better and make a lot less spelling errors and typos than me. Low bar but still.