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Travel reminders

During the past couple of weeks I’ve done a lot of traveling. I usually don’t travel much, so spending more time on the move is a different experience for me, and I’ve certainly enjoyed some time away doing something different.

As always, packing for trips can be the most challenging aspect of one’s trip. My most recent journey took me to Utah for the National Conference of Undergraduate Research, meaning more specifically that I would be flying. Because of the new strict regulations on what can be brought on planes, I would have to leave my giant contact solution and toothpaste bottles behind. Instead I’d have to brave the travel size aisle at Target and then cram all of these items into a small quart-size bag. Challenge accepted.

Since I was little, I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of travel sized products. Growing up I’d love going to the dentist, not because I enjoyed having a strange person poke, prod and drill into my mouth, but rather because after the arduous procedure I’d get small tubes of promotional toothpaste and floss. For some reason in my seven-year old mind a tiny Crest toothpaste was always infinitely more effective than its normal sized counterpart. The feeling has remained the same ever since.

Flying has always seemed like a magical and technological feat (probably because I don’t fly much), but in my mind “traveling” has always been synonymous with road trips. With rest stop breaks, fast food dinners and books on tape, traveling by car will always be my ideal way of getting from place to place, seeing the country firsthand as I race along the endless stretches of prairie. Air travel with its high ticket prices, required special travel-sized products and long, arduous lines to get through security seems filled with excess and waste, something that is growing increasingly. It is prohibitively expensive, making it even less appealing compared to hours in the car.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve always preferred driving. Although driving across country does require more of an investment in time resources, its costs can be relatively minimal. No baggage fees, security checkpoints, or unfriendly gate attendants to worry about. My only costs would be filling up the tank and my limits would be how much I could fit in the trunk and how long I’d be willing to sit behind the wheel. Being a good American, I love my car and I’d do anything for it. But a recent trend is causing me to think twice about my use of it.  The trend is probably obvious, and no, it isn’t bad drivers texting while on the interstate. You guessed it; I’m all about gas prices.

Being an election year, hot button issues like our already elevated gas prices have risen to the forefront of the political debate and public discourse. Blame seems to be pointed at almost everyone from President Obama to our ideologically gridlocked Congress. With the talking heads on cable news channels spewing everything from impending economic disaster to a call to colonize the Middle East once and for all, needless to say this issue hits home for many of us. While I don’t typically subscribe to these doomsday prophecies, I can’t deny that I too have felt pain at the pump.

However, I have to ask: are high gas prices really all bad?

Sure, one could argue that being a staple of the American economy and society, having unpredictable and unpleasantly high prices for oil and gas are probably not good in the short term. But looking long-term, I see that there could be some inherent good for this situation. Maybe, just maybe, high gas prices will help us to finally shake this sauce and look for something else to power our society, change our lifestyle and help us move toward a better tomorrow.

While I’m a staunch environmentalist and card-carrying, bleeding-heart liberal, I’ve always found our capitalistic market an ideal channel (other than direct government intervention) to explore new industry, products and lifestyle options. Perhaps then it can help us locate something more sustainable to provide power. Maybe those high gas prices will deter us from taking pointless trips, inform better vehicle choices and finally make the SUV obsolete.

High gas prices? Bring ‘em on. Let’s show the world that America is capable of moving on to something bigger and better.

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