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Yesterday I noticed a lot of tweets and blogs sending their traffic to an article on Slate titled The Recline and Fall of Western Civilization. The article asserts that we as a society are broken because we recline our seats causing those behind us to suffer. It then takes the utilitarian view that reclining seats should be completely done away with. The first thing that came to my mind was, “are we really that bothered by seats reclining that Slate needs an article about it?”. Then I started thinking about the subtle “me, me, me” that was going on here cleverly disguised as “it’s for the greater good”.

Obviously, everyone on the plane would be better off if no one reclined; the minor gain in comfort when you tilt your seat back 5 degrees is certainly offset by the discomfort when the person in front of you does the same.

This quote in particular stood out. Unless you are a very tall person the amount of discomfort one receives from that same 5 degree seat recline is minimal as well. Sure, you may not be able to use your laptop on the tray table anymore, but the idea that you will be “uncomfortable” is a stretch. I am on an airplane a good chunk of every week and there are a lot of other things that are much more annoying and inconvenient than the guy in front of me reclining his seat.

Sure, I think it is annoying when a person reclines their seat right after take-off, or even better, the guy who does it on the ground after the flight attendants walk away, but I see some value in seat recline. I have had a few instances of back pain where I needed some recline to help relieve that pain and that 5 degrees made a difference. If we’re going to ban reclining seats then should ban all items that make trash (people litter), people who sit with their legs open on the subway (takes up my space), and so on.

Maybe what the author really wants to see is a seat like what ANA has installed on their Dreamliners, essentially a seat where the seat back is a shell, the bottom cushion slides forward, and the back cushion slides down. Such a seat gives a recline, but does not infringe on the space of the person behind.

I will say this. No matter how tall you are, products that keep the person in front of you from reclining, such as the Knee Defender, are not the answer. In the end air transportation is similar to a bus. If people want the experience of how nice commercial travel was in the 1960s then we’ll need to bring back regulation, make air travel unaffordable for a section of the population, and close a few airports… No? But it means a “better” travel experience for those traveling.

One of the travel issues that I have been struggling with is internet access while in foreign countries. As some of my travel destinations become more obscure, access to the internet becomes more difficult. Do I absolutely need internet when traveling abroad? It is definitely one of those items that would be nice to have if I encountered problems with flights or travel in general and if for some reason I need to do some work or access a file back home having the access would be welcome.

I have been looking at items like this Unlocked WIFI Mobile Hotspot and I thought it would actually fit the bill until I saw that it wasn’t actually 4G. I have heard from a few friends that it is possible to get a real 4G device unlocked from stores in England. Then it is as simple as getting a data SIM card from a local carrier in the country you are in and presto, you have internet access. Of course these devices are fickle and in some cases it is hard to find a data SIM but for most scenarios, the process should work as advertised.

With all of that said, is internet access really necessary? I am sure that if the circumstances were dire, I could find an internet cafe or pay for an international phone call. Internet is really just a “nice to have” item. During my recent trip to Budapest, the internet in the hotel was as slow as molasses and having an alternate connection would have been very welcome. At the same time, travel is opportunity to disconnect and focus on the trip. By not having that internet connection overseas, it is a motivator to get out and see things rather than try to keep up with what is going on on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

If you have actually found a 4G device that works well overseas, I would love to get your thoughts on it.