Author Archives: Gayle Kabaker

tips at the register

To TIP or Not to TIP? That is the Question.

tips at the register
Tips at the register

Someone once told me that TIPS is a an acronym meaning, “To Insure Prompt” service. It’s actually a backronym! In other words, the word existed, and we gave it a retro meaning that fits the word.

Tips is an old English slang word used among criminals in the 1600’s meaning to give, to hand to pass. Nothing to do with prompt service.

tips at the register

Which brings me to present day. What is with the shaming screen! You know. I want a cappuccino and a muffin. I pay by TAP or credit card and suddenly the screen shows me 4 options. 15% , 20% or 25% or…no tip!

There’s someone looking at the screen right behind me. But hang on, there was no extra service here. It is a grab and go. I’m not sitting down and the wait person is simply enabling the machine to take my money. The TIP jar , long gone, with the zero cash world, means I have to make a split-second decision. Are you generous, slightly cheap, very cheap or a total cheapskate?

So, we all press the button that is the higher amount than we would usually leave if it were cash. And who benefits? Macro wise, the stores. They can continue to pay lower by the hour salaries knowing that wages will be super supplemented. By us!

Except, Dunkin Donuts…They never ask for a tip. Wish I liked the coffee! And neither do places in Europe. It’s already embedded into the cost.

I like to tip. But, I also wonder why I am being asked to tip on a transaction at a register. I do tip, but it seems I am being asked to do the job of the employer and get the average per hour wage up to something that looks civilized.

Hang on. I thought it was To Insure Prompt Service. Yeah right!

Peter in malta

Malta? I Missed You!

It’s been some years since I was in Malta and think I missed the whole island last time I was there. Shame on me! Holidays with the kids!  

So, we had planned a conference in Jordan but with the situation in the Middle East we had to pick an alternative.  Malta was our choice!  How serendipity works always amazes me.  What a delightful and surprising island.  Small enough to cover all the main sites and historically significant enough for us to want to go out and do what we do best and discover things we didn’t know and should know to make us better informed travelers.  This place has an incredible history.  Neolithic ruins that date back 5000 years.  

A huge slice of Roman antiquity and the influence of the Knights of Malta running through its history via crusades and Ottoman Empire to the present day.  The language gives it away.  Sounds Arabic with a touch of Italian but everyone speaks English.  Beautiful beaches, A magnificent Citadel on the island of Gozo, Baroque churches in glorious limestone colors, the silent city of Mdina and a state of the art reconstructed performance space built around the old ruins of the Opera House, courtesy of Renzo Piano .  

It has the deepest harbor in the Mediterranean in Valetta and was the staging point for the invasion of Italy in the second world war.  Because of its huge fortifications, it was never occupied during  WW2. It can be combined easily with Sicily.  Only 1.5 hours on the high-speed hydrofoil.  And lends itself to combinations with Italy and Greece. It gained independence from the Brits in 1964 and is now one of the 27 countries of the EU. Sadly Britain is not!!  It has great air connections.  Fantastic restaurants and a climate that extends summer well into the late Fall. What a delight. Recommend to avoid the heat of the summer but October is still beautiful.

Looking for something beyond just beaches. Welcome to Malta!

African American Museum

Washington…The African American Museum Blew me Away

A weekend in DC…

It’s an iconic city. The monuments and the mall. The white house. The Capitol building. I think of great iconic cities. Paris, London, Rome, Athens, Barcelona.  They all have their iconic sights. Sagrada Familia, The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Acropolis and the Colosseum.  And here I am standing by the towering obelisk of the  Washington moment. Right opposite the African American museum.

It’s a stunning building in itself to an exhausting and often unresolved history. Today I walked  the centuries. I met a neighbor of our son in the playground near his house in Mt Pleasant. She worked there. She said it would take 4 hours. It took longer. I needed the meditation room to cool off. It was the strangest sensation. I have never been to a museum quite  like this. We came up from down. From the slave galleys to Oprah Winfrey. The longest walk I have ever made. Nothing compared to the real journey and still we need to remind ourselves. Never forget!

world teachers days

ACIS| A Huge Thank you to All the Teachers

I hadn’t been to Atlanta since 2017. We had organized a teacher meeting to talk travel and get back with familiar faces we handy seen for such a long time. As always. Counting the people in the room who had traveled with us , there were so many stories. Teachers who were students of teachers who had traveled before. It’s impossible to imagine the thousands of students who had literally had their lives changed by going on an educational trip somewhere. New jobs. New opportunities. Study abroad. And in the center of this entire dynamic were the teachers. They inspire. They deal with day to day challenges and still they find time to imagine a possibility for their students.

It might be a travel program. It might be spotting a student and pointing them in a different direction. An umbrella of possibilities protecting their students from the inevitable rain shower. They inspire and help change lives. They do it every day. And students are better prepared for the world outside. They become better citizens and sometimes global ambassadors. There are 2 million teachers in the USA. It is an honor to be part of their mission.

Happy World Teachers Days!

Ukraine in 2018

Ukraine – My experience

I was in Ukraine in 2018. Of all things I want to see a champions league final game. The city was beautiful. The monastery in the old town. The people were great. Who would have thought or known that time that Ukraine would become a country under siege.

I remember we drove down to Odessa, the port city, and a beautiful city with an opera house, beaches, and a funky cable car that looked as though it was going to come off of its hinges. We did it all! The restaurants were great, and the view out to the black sea, which is now a battleground was amazing.  I think Odessa gets attacked every other night because of its strategic importance. It seems extraordinary to me .A place that we strolled around. Extraordinary to think that this place is under siege every night.

We crossed into Transnistria, a semi Russian enclave with plastic money and no real identity. We got nabbed by a Transnistrian , Police Officer for speeding on beautiful  roads with no cars!!  He charged us €50 cash and wanted his picture taken. Lenin statues, tanks and Soviet armory amidst Ukrainian heroes all around us. A place you would love to go to. But you can’t.

I think of all the people I met. Wonder where they are now. The tragedy and futility of war.

Peter on the go

Mindful Travel Reflections: Part 1

Travel is always on my mind. Jumping on an airplane. Carbon footprint. Heading into a place that is unstable. Why do we travel, however uncomfortable? Thing is. We do. Maybe because our tourist dollars are needed just as much as aid.

It’s never an easy choice but travelers are also time travelers. We head back in time. We walk through ancient roads and listen to languages we don’t understand.

We carry back stories and inspire others to go see.

Maybe that is ok. It’s a fine line. What do you think? What encourages you to travel?


I Love in London Theatres

Imagine going to see a play in London about two guys who meet in a park with their dogs. Famous actors, Ian McKellen and Roger Allam and they fall in love.

I get to have my ice cream at intermission. A thing I love in London theatres.

Ice cream is soo essential.

And at the end of the performance there were only two actors on stage the whole time. They walked out into the street to an adoring devoted crowd of fans and they can’t escape as there’s no stage door, and they were marvelous.

I love in London theatres

Took selfies. Signed programs and smiled the entire time. It was so utterly London theatre! See Frank and Percy at the Other Palace theatre near Victoria tube. 

A Trip Through the Old Soviet Union: A Nine-Day Illustrated Story

I Love British Airways

Firstly, I love British Airways.  I love the familiarity and the staff. From check in to on board service, it’s always excellent. Fact that I fly mostly out of Boston makes it even more intimate. Station managers, Nick and Carol, are simply awesome. In any service industry, staff and friendly recognition are key reasons for customer loyalty.  That’s what you get from the Boston team.

They have a new fancy lounge at BA in Logan. It’s nice and offers easier access to the plane but unless you’re desperate to save money, I prefer to stay outside the lounge and grab a bite at Legal Seafoods. A nice addition to Terminal E departures.

The only gripe I have on BA is with the night flight. It’s too damn short. Tonight it logged in at 5 hours and 40 minutes. Let’s forget about food. It means after takeoff and prep for landing you can’t grab more than two hours sleep if you’re lucky. And I use all the tricks. Bose noise cancelling heads sets, eye shades and a sleeping pill. Two months ago I flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul. 11 hours. Time for dinner, a movie, and six hours of sleep. Maybe that is the way to go to get to London. A little overshooting of the metaphorical runway and a late arrival in London…but sleep! I’ll take the day flight on BA next time.

Driving to Zermatt!

The drive from Venice along the highway to Milan is fairly dull. After Milan is where the sights get interesting.

We took the highway above Lake Maggiore which was super fast and delightful. Mountains beyond the lake and the Borromean islands in the background provided for a great backdrop to our car ride. Pushing through, we started our ascent to Simplon. What a lovely day it was with blue sky and more snow than I have seen for years.

The Simplon Pass is very unique. An ancient hospice still maintained by a religious order offers basic accommodation to the devoted and dedicated skiers and kite boarders who ply their tricks on this unique snow playground. There is a great place for lunch at the top as well. Views of the boarders and surroundings provide entertainment. The descent is hair raising though!

Journeys end along the valley following the Glacier Express. We end up in a giant car park where we dump the car and hop on the train. Täsch in Switzerland is our last stop with our car. The cog train takes us the rest of the way into a dead end in the mighty valley. It’s snowing hard.


The London to Venice flight on BA is always a treat. Once you clear the cloud cover of England, you have the beautiful Alps to greet you. No matter how many times I cross the snow capped peaks, it never ceases to amaze. This year has seen tons of snow. Still, the beauty was way up high. Below it was cloud and rain and down into another gray day. But it was Venice!

I love the slow descent into the airport here. The shape of the island, the clock tower, the canals clearly visible…It’s such a strange place. Such a trip. It’s the only place where everyone on the plane looks out of the window. It’s a wow. You want it to last forever.

Venice Upon Arrival

And then the bubble burst. Immigration was a mess. There were two people for hundreds of arrivals so it took a while. It was pure Italian theater. Nobody had a clue. The immigration officers looked in no rush at all. People were getting frustrated. It was one hour before we got to our bags!

Then there was the slightly complicated journey to the motor boats. The Venice Marco Polo Airport has recently had renovations so getting to the motor boats that bring you to the center of Venice is a new experience.  It’s quite complex and not obvious to the newly arrived passengers. You have to go up the escalator to departures. Ugh. What?! And then you lose the sign. It just disappears. So, use your instincts, look for a sign, do anything. But then it pops back into view! There is a long walk along a moving escalator and down into the speedboat taxi area.

There is the usual confusion here (something’s never change!) but it is worth the wait because now it’s the greatest ride in the world. Across the lagoon and through a narrow canal and then it hits you. The grand canal. The Santa Maria della Salute, the Doges Palace, and the Piazza San Marco.

Venice in Winter

There is plenty of rain in the winter and the boards are stacked high for the Acqua Alta. In the distance the Alps beckon with snow painted across the horizon. San Marco is busy with tourists and umbrellas which always reminds me of a Prendergast painting.

I wandered back to the hotel across a couple of delightful bridges. Watched the gondola guys organizing their business and took a moment to study their technique. I tried being a gondolier once. It’s impossible! The oar, the movement, the control. It amazes and mesmerizes. Dinner later would add the final touch. Black ink squid with spaghetti.


The dreaded overnight flight dropped me into the gray skies of London too early. It was freezing. I grabbed the Heathrow Express and rushed across town from Paddington to Soho for a lunch with a business associate. We arranged to meet at the Duck and Rice on Berwick Street. Great Chinese in Soho. The dim sum are out of this world. I followed that with a quick pub visit to see a dear friend around the corner at the Lamb and Flag pub on Perry Street. I had to keep moving despite the jet lag kicking in.  Then I had a fab evening with a whole bunch of university friends over in Fitzrovia.

Got to say, London is the greatest. Stick to the areas of Fitzrovia, Soho, or Covent Garden and you can’t go wrong. They are stocked with restaurants and pubs and people.  It is just such an easy place to sort out a venue for getting together.

I left Soho House, the brand new one on Greek Street, super cool and beautifully redesigned, far too late for an early morning flight to Venice. Sleep could wait.

I’ve followed up my insiders’ guide to Ashland, Massachusetts, with a tour of my second adopted home-town: Boston!

A lot has changed in Boston over the past few years, (hello, artisan coffee and cheese) but one thing remains the same: this city dominates in athletics. Whether your an superjock or a sensualist, Boston is ready for you!

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