Michael Schottey | October 11, 2016 12:00 PM ET
Travelers Can Be a Silver Lining in Tragedy
As a travel company, it’s probably no surprise that TravelPulse employs a fair number of people who were directly impacted by Hurricane Matthew, which tore through tourism-heavy areas of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and beyond after doing much the same throughout the Caribbean.
Personally, I hail from the Midwest but currently make my home in a coastal area of Florida that is — three days after the storm went through — still dealing with large-scale power outages and massive cleanup efforts.
If you are reading this and have been anywhere near a TV in the past few days, you have likely seen videos of storm surge waves beating against a person’s windows just miles from my house or pictures of the tremendous destruction of Highway A1A in Flagler Beach. That’s not only the same beach my family has spent numerous weekends enjoying which is now dotted with pieces of road and other various debris, but it’s also the road that runs in front of businesses owned by or employing my friends.
Thankfully, my family was not nearly as impacted by this storm as many of my neighbors. We know good friends who are working on roof repairs and know plenty who are cleaning up trees that fell on fences and patios. Still, we evacuated as some of the many who packed hotel rooms in places like Atlanta and Charlotte as we waited for the storm to pass and life to return to something resembling normal.
Maybe I’m just a wide-eyed optimist, but all along our travels, I’ve done my best to find some of the positives amongst all the negatives.
No, a seven-hour drive through the backwoods of Florida starting first thing in the morning wasn’t on my bucket list, but I’ve seen small towns and areas I might have never otherwise seen both in Florida as well as throughout Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina over the past couple of days.
No, I didn’t look forward to leaving my home behind to potential destruction and sleeping in a town I’d never been in nor worrying about countless family, friends and neighbors who were going through the same. Yet, the last few nights have not been nearly as bad as they could’ve been. Hoteliers in Atlanta were amazingly accommodating both to my family as well as my mother who ended up staying about a block away from us.
Ask my two young sons (6 and 4) what we’ve been through, and they go immediately to stories of the things they’ve seen over the trip, the restaurants they’ve eaten in, the time they spent with family (and various pets owned by said family), and will say little of the stress and uneasiness their parents felt over the same time.
We were lucky, I get it. I also understand that many were not.
Yet, along the way, I saw so many travelers and travel professionals at their very best while going through the very worst.
I saw hotels fly in the face of those who might price gouge and offer extra nights at reduced prices to stranded travelers — not to mention Airbnb, which provided a place for free rooms for evacuees, which ended up housing quite a few of my neighbors.
I saw drivers on busy highways and packed backroads acting about as calm and courteous as one might’ve expected on a Sunday drive in the 1950s, but never in today’s hustle-and-bustle culture. That same courtesy extended to packed gas stations and stuffed drive through restaurants where certainly not all were patient, but the good far outweighed the bad.
I even saw waiters, waitresses, hostesses, desk clerks, gas station attendants and fellow travelers bend a willing ear to commiserate and open their hearts to people who were stressed, afraid, unsure and just looking to talk, vent or get some word that it might actually be alright.
There will always be bad in the world, but if you look for it — even in the worst of times —you can always find some good as well.
Tragedy is never a good thing, but if you’re one of the people who likes to look at the bright side, look toward the people who are being friends to others who need it most.
More by Michael Schottey
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Latest Travel News
Airlines & Airports
Airlines & Airports
Features & Advice
Cruise Line & Cruise Ship
Airlines & Airports