• Leon de Leeuw

Not an easy year to travel. Or at least, not when you don't want to dig in and do some research. There has been plenty of travel possibilities, at least from Bulgaria. First of all, within Bulgaria itself. Because it's some of Europe's most diverse. Within a small surface, you have it all. But I did manage to pack in international travel as well. If only a bit later in the year. Normally, even winter has some trips. But 2020 had my first international trip in July. This has enabled me to save significantly and pay off my student loans (nearly, almost there)!

This proved me that I spend a significant amount of time and money on travel. And I'm not about to change that. First things first, with the international travel, I respected absolutely every rule. I was not about to sneak into a country through a third one. It's against my princinples. Laws may be broken, but you better live with the consequences. I would prefer not to, especially when governments take the measures very seriously.

But in my view, we can't let the travel industry crumble apart. It would lead to closing of business, many employees without any income. These employees are typically lower educated and would not get any other prospects. Especially because it's a large industry. Getting these people jobless, with the prospect of a crisis, will lead to health problems, divorce, loss of homes, depression, alcoholism, suicides. And I can say that because I've worked in the industry and I've lived on the edge. Income is too low to keep afloat. And I worked in hospitality in a first world country, can you imagine.

Now I can support myself financially, I choose to support the travel industry. Not as an employee, but as a big spender. Italy was my trip in July. Southern Italy to be precise. Then, I finally got to visit the Netherlands. For my mum's birthday. I couldn't be happier. Eventually, I flew to Switzerland and my brother and father came by car. We spent a grand week touring the mountains and consuming schnitzels and cordon bleus with beers. Awesome. I couldn't get enough and booked another weekend in Switzerland. Toured from Basel to Locarno, Lugano, past Lago Maggiore, Lake Lugano, Lake Como and Lake Garda. Visited Brecia. Milan. Flew back from Bergamo. All that was in a weekend, all with public transport. It was not even hurried. I hope the vlogs are up soon.

To conclude, I'll visit Warsaw in October and London in November. If all goes well. And if the restrictions still allow me to go. I come from this industry and will not let its people delve into despair. And not only that, travel is a significant investment in one's self development. See it as mental exercise and you get to relax at the same time. It is a priority. Especially if you've worked hard for it. Stick to the rules, be safe, but do not lay under the bed. Mental relaxation and sunlight are much needed. I hope the industry will be saved. Although I'm afraid we won't get to see it as it used to be for some time.

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  • Leon de Leeuw

For a long time I was fascinated by Berlin. I visited in 2001 and loved how free it felt. I went back many times. Basically it's a true metropolis. A city that shows that time heals all wounds. Is it one of the world's most intriguing cities? For me, yes. I love to visit. But I wouldn't live there after seeing beyond the pretty picture. Only when I started reading more into the city and its current state I found out more. Well, Berlin is basically bankrupt, in tons of debt, has high crime rates. It is in many parts worn down and stinks. Berlin runs on a lot of low-paid jobs, social housing. In nightlife I saw a many people reliant on hard drugs and alcohol, big time. Young and beautiful people. I wasn't judging, just observing. Economically, the city is largely kept afloat by the rest of Germany. Which is still the economic powerhouse of Europe. Berlin is fun to party and live for a while, it has some large companies, tons of different people, nobody will judge you. But it’s not where the big money is made generally speaking. Salaries are lower than in let’s say Munich but cost of living went up fast. Then again Munich is boring and basically an old people’s city. There’s no perfect city.

One might say there's a lot to do in Munich as well. But there are hipster places and cool things to do from Turku to Alicante to Plovdiv to Gdańsk nowadays. A party capital where there are practically no limits to anything and any time is not Munich, but Berlin. Of course, Munich has a better quality of life, better family life, more wealth and jobs, and perfect infrastructure. If you're 35+ in general it's more attractive to live in Munich. But then why, if Berlin is far from perfect, does it just have that better nightlife? The free spirit? It's because the city attracts exactly that. It already had the reputation since its rough and divided history. And it's kept attracting like-minded spirits. And these are not typically the bankers attracted to Frankfurt or the pensioners living in the southern border areas near Switzerland.

Like attracts like. And that catalyzes similar behavior. I would move to Frankfurt for a high-paying job, to Berlin for some start-up job and a good party and cultural life. Not necessarily for a great career. I'd already know what to expect. And I moved to Sofia for a laid-back life, professional opportunities in IT, nature all around me. Does it have the perfect infrastructure, the Frankfurt salaries, Munich family life, the Berlin nightlife? No, but it does offer me something not too far off. That's what it does offer to me. If only because the taxes are a lot lower, it's developing quickly, and has the positive mindset of change that Berlin used to be known for. Is Sofia perfect? Anything but. Is Berlin perfect, or Amsterdam? No. Perhaps I like it everywhere and I just can't make up my mind. Perhaps I'll grow to dislike everywhere once I'm there long enough. But that doesn't matter. I have the critical view. I like looking at differences between countries and cities. This post might be very rambling and irrelevant, but it's just some thoughts. Like attracts like. Perhaps you like reading this, I don't know.

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  • Leon de Leeuw

Since the Corona crisis, there's been a discussion on cheap flights across Europe. The air now is cleaner than ever. Flights have been cancelled at large. Vacations are cancelled. Now that's all valid because of the virus. But the discussion is about the flying at large. For when this is over. So forget about the virus, that's not what the article is about.

If you scroll through some Dutch comment sections, on websites such as Nu.nl, there's many in favor of stopping cheap flying altogether. They look with disdain on people flying to Lisbon or Barcelona for cheap. And for short, because these are often weekend trips. You'd nearly be ashamed to take a flight at all. There's a lot of thought police going around. I'm for the principle of Live and let live. Do no harm onto others and stay out of other people's business.

Now I understand this clean air and less traffic on the road is all great. But when you want to halt flying across Europe, you immediately interfere with the free market. And I bet many are in favor of government regulations in this matter. I strongly disagree. Supply and demand dictates the market. As such, when there's enough demand for that cheap flight to London, it will be full. You dictating the market on your personal beliefs is not immediately changing the demand. Indeed, traveling by train for distances under 500 km is friendlier for the environment. Beyond that, it's flying. And many companies could shift from plane to train rides for Amsterdam-Paris or Rotterdam-London. Or do meetings remotely only. Lots of fat to trim in the business world. In fact, if those who can continue to work from home, there'd be so little traffic on the road we can all afford to fly to Rome once or twice a year.

I'd prefer no market interference from the green parties or the government. When there's enough people not willing to fly, the planes will be half empty and airlines will immediately reduce the number of flights. It's called voting with your wallet. What annoys me the most is that many of these environmentally conscious people dictating others to adapt their lifestyle, probably fly themselves as well. For that one wedding in Southern Italy, or that one trip a year. And of course, then the tickets better be cheap. But hey, THEY fly for a good reason AND only once a year. All OTHER people fly for no reason and just for fun, making that immediately illegitimate and unnecessary. What these people do is voting with other people's wallets instead of their own. This world can only be improved starting by cleaning our doorstep. Disagree with cheap fares and frequent flights? Don't fly. Have a civil discussion about actual facts on the environment, ask your boss if you can't do that meeting online or hop on a train to Munich for that conference. And all other people, well, they will vote with their wallets once the time comes. Because if there was no desire for such flights in the first place, they wouldn't have been there.

Set a good example, make a register for non-flying virtue signalers. Be on the board. Sign up yourself. I bet the register will remain empty, because you actually have a good reason to fly to London while all other people don't. And if you stay home and never fly, that's great. But perhaps water the plants instead of limiting other people's freedom of movement, willingness to live life and keep the economy going. Are low-cost airlines unfair in regards to their personnel? Most definitely. But that's a whole other discussion. And indeed we can vote with our wallets again. Perhaps KLM does better in that regard. But let me guess, apart from business travelers there's very few willing to spend extra for fair treatment of staff, right? While you're at it, look up the salaries KLM pays out for short and long-distance flight crew. The same salaries, both abhorrently low. This is the free market. If flight staff chose the better airlines such as Emirates and Etihad, they would be better off. If there's no positions open with these airlines, guess what principle applies? The free market. Instead of becoming a pilot, go in the trades or do something else that there is demand for. Yes, there should be strict government regulations on treatment of staff. But within these lines, there's nobody who's been forced to go work for Ryanair or others. Supply and demand applies, always. And I'm happy that's the case. Keep flying safe!

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