What can the world of film and television teach us about getting out of our comfort zone?
Today’s episode is a little bit different. Instead of discussing a specific points topic, I’m sharing a recent conversation I had on the Analyze Scripts podcast. Analyze Scripts is hosted by Yale-trained psychiatrist Katrina Furey, MD, and psychotherapist Portia Pendleton, LCSW, analyzing the depiction of mental health in TV and film.
In this conversation, we discussed the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and what we can learn about ourselves and travel from the characters in the movie. Katrina and Portia are also exploring the world of rewards points themselves, so there’s something in this episode for everybody.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a movie about a group of people with a different financial stories who all decide to take a trip to India, but when they arrive, they realize what they’ve booked isn’t matching up with their expectations. How they deal with the hiccups and unexpectedness is fascinating.
Tune in this week to discover what we can learn about ourselves from the characters in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, why this movie is a great insight into the reality of getting out of your comfort zone, and the huge impact that travel can have on our lives.
Welcome to Point Me to First Class, the only show for employed professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners who are looking to optimize their higher-than-average expenses to travel the world. I'm your host, Devon Gimbel, and I believe that your expenses are your greatest untapped asset if you know how to leverage them. Ready to dive into the world of credit card points and miles so you can travel more, travel better, and travel often? Let's get started.
Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. Today's episode is a little different from my usual podcast episodes because I'm not going to be talking about a specific points topic today. Instead, I want to share with you a conversation I had where I was the guest on another podcast, the Analyze Scripts Podcast.
Analyze Scripts is a weekly podcast hosted by Yale trained psychiatrist Katrina Furey MD and psychotherapist Portia Pendleton LCSW that analyzes the depiction of mental health in TV and film. In this conversation, we discussed the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and what we can learn about ourselves and travel from the characters in the movie. I hope you enjoy it.
Katrina: Hi, welcome back to another super exciting episode of Analyze Scripts because we have Devon Gimble joining us. She is a double board certified physician, and founder and owner of Point Me to First Class, a business that helps employed professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners with high personal and/or business expenses earn tons of credit card points to travel the world in luxury.
If you're listening to this episode, you might be traveling because it is the week of Thanksgiving, you know the busiest travel week of the year. If you're not in luxury, maybe you'll learn some tips for next time. Devon believes that your expenses are your greatest asset if you know how to leverage them. She's on a mission to change the face of first class travel and help thousands of women travel more, travel better, and travel often using credit card points. So super cool. Thank you, Devon, so much for joining us.
Devon: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here today.
Katrina: So I first you know learned about Devon by joining her Facebook group, the Point Me to First Class Group. I have started my points accumulation and journey. I haven't like redeemed anything yet, but do you want to just give Portia a little update, I guess? Because Portia, I don't think you're quite in like the credit card points game the same way I'm trying to enter.
Portia: No, I'm like a baby in it.
Katrina: You're a baby. Okay, you're in your infancy.
Devon: Yes. Well, it's fine. Everybody starts somewhere. I started, I tell this story in my own communities where I for many years was terrified of credit cards. I didn't have a single credit card in my teens, my 20s. Even into my late 20s, I was very scared of credit cards. I'd always been told that they're dangerous, you can get into debt. The whole situation around that really frightened me. I had no money growing up. So I was like well, I have no money to spend.
Devon: If I had a credit card, I don't know how to pay it off. So I avoided credit cards for a really long time. It was only after I'd actually completely finished all my medical training, finished my residency, finished my fellowship that I started to just educate myself about personal finance in general. Just how can I be responsible financially? How do I make that transition from being a forever student, a forever trainee, into having a grown up job and being able to make really responsible financial decisions around retirement and savings, and all of these things you deal with.
Katrina: They don’t teach you that.
Devon: That they don't teach us, at least not when I went through school. No one talks about any of that stuff. I didn't have a personal familial kind of background in education in that. So it was all personal education. In learning just about basic personal finance, as one does, you go on the internet, you end up going down all these different rabbit holes, following all these different links.
I started falling into these travel blogs and points blogs where people were talking about how you can responsibly and really strategically use credit cards to earn points and then redeem those points or use them to fly domestically or internationally, use them for hotel stays, and that you could actually save a significant amount of money. Not just a hundred dollars every few years, but a lot more than that.
I have had a lifelong love of travel, but not the first class travel budget to send myself to all of these places. So it seemed like this perfect match between here's an opportunity, again, very strategically and responsibly, to leverage this spend that I was doing anyway to run my life and to run a business and all of these things.
To turn that into an opportunity to travel without having to spend cash on it so that I could actually use my disposable income towards other things like paying down my student loans. Saving up for a house down payment and all of those things. So that is really kind of the short story about what credit card points are and how they can actually really be used to enhance your travel and your life experience without compromising you financially.
Portia: I love that. I'm in my baby phase, but I will say I'm very pro, of course responsibly, but I'm always like telling my mother in law and other people like stop using your debit card when you're at the grocery store. Use your credit card. You're going to get 3% cash-back on that card, like difference of points. But I just think it's so funny to like if you have the means right to pay off the credit card, if you're using it almost as cash, it’s such an unknown, I think, wonderful resource to be use those.
Devon: 100%. You really need to hit the nail on the head that it really is a hobby to get into once you're already in a place in your life and in your finances where you are comfortable and able to pay off your credit card statements in full every month. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense. The math doesn't math in terms of getting value out of doing this.
But I think it's something that anyone can learn about. Then you can take baby steps into this hobby based on what your comfort level is, again, where you are financially. But to not even know about this as an option is one of the things that I'm trying to get rid of.
I think in the personal finance world, there are a couple things that I think people just really accept to be true nowadays. Like most people would not just leave a lot of cash in a bag in their house, right? Maybe for safety reasons, but also because it's going to lose value over time, right? You move up a step from that, most people also wouldn't leave all of their liquid assets in a savings account in a bank, right? Because, again, over time with inflation, you're going to lose value on that money. That's why we have these different vehicles to allow our money to grow over time, right?
There's the stock market. There's real estate investing. There's traditional retirement accounts. There's all these options. I think in the world of personal finance it's now very accepted that we would want to take our money, our saved money, and allow it to do some heavy lifting and grow for us. Right?
I don't think yet the same conversation is being had around our expenses. That, like you said, to pay things just with a debit card or just with cash. Of course, that's a very responsible thing to do. If you can also leverage something like a cash-back credit card or a points earning credit card responsibly, to me, that's the same thing as really leveraging your money to grow for you on your investment side.
Portia: You might be able to go to India with your points.
Devon: Exactly. There's so many places you can go to, but I think today we are going to talk about India in particular.
Katrina: Right? So have you been there Devon?
Devon: Yes, I have. Actually, I have been to India twice. I've never actually been to India using points. Because the two times that I went to India, the very first time was when I was in medical school. We had not a long break, but we had sort of a traditional winter break in medical school around at the end of December. I remember I think it was my second year of medical school, they had given us this offer. Where whatever module we were learning, I think it was like female reproduction or something like that, where if we studied ahead or we took the test early, we could actually have an extra week of winter break. I can't remember exactly what it was. I just remember thinking yes.
Katrina: It probably was female reproduction. They're like come on. Let's hurry up. Let's get through this. We don't need to know that much about object.
Devon: Right. It’s a subject that’s vitally important that most medical schools ignore or don't pay very much attention to. Let’s just cut that one short, right. But I remember thinking that well, yes. Because if I can have an expanded break, this is going to be great time for me to travel. I had always loved travel and international travel. I had just done it on the most shoestring of shoestring budgets possible. That was absolutely true in med school as well. I was on complete student loan support when I went to medical school. So I had.
Katrina: Preach, preach, preach. I hear you.
Devon: I didn’t have a ton of disposable income, but I could make it work. So I ended up having a three week winter break in my second year of medical school. I knew I wanted to go to India. I'd never been before. So I went to India by myself for three weeks. It was absolutely amazing. But I flew the economy of economy classes, took three different busses around. It was amazing and incredible, but I didn't know anything about points in medical school.
Actually, the second time I went was years later, I actually went in early 2016. So I had my first child, my son, at the end of 2015. When he was around three months old, I was like I need a break. Like I need a solo vacation. Like I need to be somewhere that's just not kind of the routine of having an infant at home because it's very, very challenging and stressful. Like I said, travel has always been a really important part of my life. I didn't do a lot of travel the whole year that I was pregnant with him.
Katrina: Sure, sure.
Devon: So I went back to India. Actually, I took my mom because she had wanted to go and didn't really feel comfortable doing a lot of solo travel. So I was like this is great. Let's go to India together. I've been there before. We'll go to some places I've been, some new places.
I knew about credit card points at that time, but I had not yet really developed my redemption abilities, my ability to find really great flights using points. So I remember this too because I had been out of training for a couple of years. For me, this was a huge splurge because we bought the tickets using cash. I bought, it was the first time in my life I bought an international flight in premium economy, which was like such a huge upgrade to me compared to flying in economy for 12 or 15 hours.
Katrina: that’s really good.
Devon: It was way better than being in economy. I still remember though on the flight home, there was still the traditional three seats together. I always pick a window seat. I'm a window seat person, and my mom had an aisle seat. This really polite, nice Italian gentleman was in between us. So like the whole flight home my mom and I are flying in premium economy there's this very nice Italian gentleman in between us.
I just remember, I distinctly remember thinking one day, like one day, I will be able to take this type of flight in business class. That is actually exactly what points have done for me. So that actually may have been the last time I flew a long haul international class in economy or premium economy because since then, I have only used points to fly internationally.
Being able to do that and, like I said, really kind of developing my redemption skills, learning how to leverage those points to book business class internationally has changed my entire travel experience.
Katrina: Oh my God, I bet.
Devon: The flight, for me, always used to be like the thing that you tolerate to get where you're going, right? The destination is the point. Ever since I learned how to use points, now actually, the flight itself is part of the journey. It’s actually an enjoyable part of the journey, which it never was for me for many, many years.
Portia: That’s such a good point.
Katrina: Oh, nice, nice word choice Portia. As we were starting this podcast, we started thinking about okay so what are our delusional goals for ourselves? Mine is that one day, maybe we won't even need this if we get so good at using our credit card points. But mine is one day we'll get like one of those sponsors that's a lay flat airline. That's my dream is to lay a lay flat area. I always say I don't even have to go anywhere. Just take me up, circle around, and come on down. But I bet. I bet that just makes that long haul so much better. Then you start your vacation feeling like excited and good and not like in back pain.
Devon: Absolutely. That has been a big thing for me. I'm not that old. I'm in my early 40s. But I have noticed even from when I used to do I mean these ridiculous long haul flights when I was in my 20s. I remember when I was in residency, there were two years in a row where I was joining projects that were happening in Vietnam.
I remember distinctly flying from Boston where I was doing my residency, of course in economy, to Vietnam. Where between the time changes and stuff, it ends up being like two days later from the time you left to the time you land. Being in Vietnam for three days, getting on the airplane, coming home, and then coming back for residency, like your rotation Monday morning.
I remember at that point in my life flying literally like around the world in a week, it was a little tiring, but the jetlag didn't really hit me. Physically, it was a little uncomfortable. It wasn't that bad. But as I've gotten older, and I think especially just the physical toll of the work that I was doing, which was not as laborious as being like a surgeon, which I think is a very physically challenging medical profession to be in.
I'm a pathologist, but literally sitting at a desk in the same stature for eight, nine, ten hours a day for years and years and years. My body, now especially if I'm sitting in a really, really cramped space for a prolonged period of time, my whole body just starts hurting. I think a lot of people can probably relate to that experience. Certainly people who might have chronic medical conditions or other physical conditions with their bodies, it can be very, very hard to sit, especially in those shrinking airline seats that we have now that are smaller than I remember them being when I was in my 20s.
To do, again, like a ten, 12, 14 hour flight, it can be really, really prohibitive to people physically. So yeah, being able to be in a business class seat where you actually have space. You can actually put your feet up, your legs up. It makes a world of difference.
I think one of the things that continues to shock me even though I've been doing this now for so many years and really being able to leverage points and flying so many places myself that what you end up paying out of pocket when you book a business class flight using points, because you still have to pay some taxes or fees for the airline. That amount of money ends up still being so much less than the cost of an economy ticket.
So the fact that using points you can fly, especially international business class, for significantly less than the deals I used to search for in economy. It still kind of boggles my mind. This is real, and it's legal, and it actually works.
Katrina: Yeah. Again, you're accruing the points by just using the cards smartly for your everyday expenses, which is just cool. It’s like why not get a benefit for living, I guess?
Devon: Yeah. To me, it's like solving a puzzle, which I think some of us really like that. Whether you really like word puzzles or number puzzles or whatever the case may be. To me, the whole points game is how can I figure out how I can earn the highest number of points, again, for this money I'm spending already. I'm not talking about spending extra money. But we're all spending money to run our lives.
Those of us who also happen to run businesses spend money to run our businesses. So it's the puzzle of how can I figure out how to earn as many points as I can for this money I'm already spending, and then I get to trade that in for something that's really amazing. It's just a fun puzzle to solve. Then the prize is you save money, and you get to travel and have these amazing travel experiences that, again, are things that I otherwise probably would not choose to spend cash for the equivalent type of travel.
Portia: I'm just thinking of Sonny, our hotel manager in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. If he maybe had used points, right. So he has this business, the hotel. Because he like paid for their airfare, right, to come down. It could have been paid with points. I'm sure it wasn't because he seems a little scattered. Katrina, do you want to intro a little bit?
Katrina: Yeah. Great segue Portia. So today, we're going to be talking about the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which came out in 2011. It's a British comedy drama directed by John Madden with a screenplay written by Ol Parker. It was actually based on a book, the 2004 novel These Foolish Things by the novelist Deborah Moggach. I'm probably not saying her name correctly, but it's a really fun movie. I hadn't seen it before, but I thought it was really fun.
You see a great cast of British actors and actresses, like every single one, I was like oh my God, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith. Just an all-star cast of retirement age folks who seems like are kind of in a financial pinch for all their different reasons. One's daughter's sort of invested all their retirement savings in a startup that didn't take off the ground. Another one's husband died leaving all this debt she had to pay off. Everyone has like their different story.
So they all find themselves going to India to stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Then in like teeny, tiny letters, it says for the elderly and beautiful. Then, of course, the whole point of the film, I think, is that they find themselves at this hotel, which isn't how it looks online. I think a lot of people traveling in Airbnbs these days kind of find themselves in that situation.
Then they're totally in this like cultural shock. You see how each of them copes with that. You see their stories play out. It's a really interesting take on traveling, I think, internationally and seeing how different personality types like cope with the hiccups and the speed bumps and the unexpectedness that comes with traveling like that.
Portia: I'm just thinking of Jean. So that's the wife of Douglas, who's just really pessimistic the whole time.
Portia: So probably not someone you'd want to travel with. Probably is choosing, I'm assuming, not to travel typically. But I thought when you were talking about first class, right? She's so excited that she can afford a first class. I think she says turning right or.
Katrina: She’s going to turn left.
Portia: Which is just like she paid full price because she just came into some money. It sounds like, but I just was laughing kind of thinking about using points for this. But oh, she was rough to kind of watch. Just so negative.
Devon: Yeah, I think this is a movie I was telling Katrina earlier. That I'm the type of person where if I find a movie that I like, I will very easily watch it I mean, literally ten times, 100 times. Don't even ask my husband how many times I've seen this movie. I mean, I probably have it on in the background like every other week. It's one of my favorite movies to travel with. To just load up onto my iPad and just watch little bits and pieces of because I know the story so well.
I think one of the things that, to me, I think there's so many interesting and compelling points of this movie and the different characters. But speaking specifically about that one character that you're talking about is I think that she is such a sort of an archetype of what I consider to be the type of person who travel could really benefit. But they don't have any sort of ability to receive that, to be able to go into a place that is very different from what they're used to.
To also use that experience to say what is, for me, here, right? I think about all of the different options that are available to us when we travel. People, of course, have so many different types of preferences. Like the places they like to go, the type of travel they really enjoy. I think one of the things that resonates with me about this movie is that even though I had no background as a child growing up of traveling the world or people really educating me about the differences that the world holds and all of the different people that populate this world, right, and all the amazing enrich cultures and histories that come from around the world.
I think one of the things that I've always loved the most about travel is going to places that don't seem familiar to me, that don't seem like a replica of where I grew up. I actually grew up in Southern California. So that was kind of the center of my universe for the first 20 years of my life. It was that was what was my frame of reference.
So when I travel now, and even when I started traveling as a late teen and early in my 20s, I was never really drawn towards places that I think are sort of American peripheral I think.
Katrina: Like London.
Devon: Exactly. I think I mean is London amazing? I'm sure it is. I've never been there not more than for a layover. Again, do Western countries have rich cultural histories? Yes, absolutely. I was never that drawn to going to places that were going to be very similar to the States. I was always really drawn to there's so much more out there. So I think that's one of the reasons that I love this movie is because it shows so much about what some of those differences are.
I have such an affinity for that. Like the scene where they finally land. They take this long international flight. They finally land. The ride that was supposed to pick them up from the airport to take them to their sort of retirement hotel community isn't there. So they all have to get on a local bus and take a local bus to the city. The scene where, there's just so much about that, honestly, that I love and can relate to.
Because I remember the very first time this happened to me. The very first country that I traveled in, lived in for a short period of time way far outside of North America was actually Kenya. I lived there for a summer when I was an undergrad. They have these minibuses there. I can't remember the name of them off the top of my head. I should have looked it up before we did this episode.
But I can just so remember literally his picture of me standing on the road waiting for one of these minibusses to come, and it pulls up. I think this is such, such a North American way of looking at something where you look at a minibus, and you can count the number of rows that are in it. Your head kind of does the calculation of, okay, well there are nine seats in this minibus.
So you look at the line of people, and you think oh, the first nine people are going to get on. We're all going to sit like in our little designated seat, and we're going to go on our way. I remember the very first time that minibus came and 32 of us get into the minibus. Where it’s like you get in, and the nine seats are full. Then it's yeah well, there's more people, right? So let's make some room.
Katrina: Let’s squeeze them in.
Devon: Then there's like a couple little kids, they fit on our laps. That's great. Some people, the door of the little minivan isn't going to close all the way. There's places where people can hang on. It was the same thing with that scene where everybody piles on, and there's all the stuff that's tied to it. The driving, right?
I think this is one of the things that cracks me up so much about seeing, especially seeing North Americans when they travel outside of sort of North American or Western countries for the first time. Some of the things that work very differently in seeing their reactions. Driving is one of those things that in North America like we have a way that we drive, right. We love our lines. We love our rules. We love like the stoplights. Everyone kind of knows what to expect.
That's not the way that driving is done in a lot of other countries. It still works, and it's very efficient, right? So when they're in the bus, and the buses are in the “wrong side” of traffic to go around other buses. There's two lanes that you see that are drawn on the road, but maybe there's five lanes worth of cars, and they all know how to navigate around each other. So it works. Right? So this is efficient, and it works.
But you can see the reactions of very kind of traditionally North American or European people who are like what the hell is going on? We're all going to die. This makes no sense. But it does make sense, right? I think that's one of my favorite things about travel in general is getting so far out of your comfort zone. The way that you think things are supposed to work. Yeah, maybe in one place that is how they work. It doesn't mean that's the best way for them to work.
Portia: Right. I think we see an interesting comparison between Jean and Muriel.
Katrina: I was just going to say that.
Portia: Muriel comes in ha. No, no, no, no, no, no. Then she is able to receive right, and really she's racist at first.
Katrina: I know. Quite racist.
Portia: Kind of one you don't like to like at all. Then it’s like her and Jean switch. Yeah.
Katrina: Right. I was Professor McGonagall, like no. What are you doing being so racist? That was so interesting to me. I think this film does such a good job exploring that through these different characters is I wouldn't have thought she'd be the one given what we saw from her to really open up her mind by the end and actually come to work at this hotel and work with the team and be really open, even to the woman who was like delivering her food. I did not see that coming. That she would be the one to really open her mind based on those early depictions of her.
Devon: Yeah, and I think that that's something that is a really good reminder for some of us. I think that when we travel, we're always going to be confronted with some challenges, at least that's been my experience, right? Not everything always goes according to plan. Or sometimes you live in a place where some things just don't make sense to you, right? Or they really make you question wait a minute, why are things done so differently here than what I was expecting? Why am I having a problem with that, if I am, right?
To be able to have an example of, and these are all obviously fictitious characters, but I think that example of saying okay, so maybe you have an experience where you're not interested in kind of opening up your mind to a different place or a different way of doing things.
At the same time when you are willing to do that, I think that is one of the biggest impacts that travel can have on us. I think that for better or for worse, all of us, to a certain extent, we're a product of our environment, right? Like we were all born somewhere. We were all raised somewhere.
We were all sort of exposed to certain messages, whether they were implicit or explicit, coming from our families of origin, our communities of origin. Our schools, as we, I don't know. This is a personal opinion of mine. If you are educated in the public school system in North America, you're not exactly given a completely unbiased view of the world and of history.
So a lot of us carry around these things that we don't even realize that we were taught about just how places are and how the world works. When you travel, I think it's such an amazing opportunity to really confront those things sometimes for the first time. What was I taught? Or what have I been told to believe about different places or my place in the world.
To be able to confront that and then actually look around you and look at what you're seeing about wait a minute, I'm in this place that on the surface doesn't make sense to me because it doesn't resemble where I came from. But what is actually true about this place? What is true about the way that people relate to one another, about the way that people love one another, or take care of one another? I think at a very basic level, to me, travel is really about experiencing that level of humanity wherever you are because I have never been to a place where people were not just genuinely humane. Do you know what I mean?
I don't speak any languages other than English. So that's my inability sometimes to communicate with people. But think even when you go to somewhere where you have not educated yourself about how to speak the language of that area, you still have that opportunity to observe just how do people treat one another? I think that there's just conserved, again, humanity, no matter where you go in the world.
I think that when you're able to kind of see that and latch on to that, it can really help you to begin to understand that oh wait a minute. Maybe some ideas I had about this type of place, or I had about this area of the world aren't actually that true or that relevant. The invitation to be able to drop some of those preconceived notions, I think, is one of the really powerful impacts that travel can have.
Katrina: Right, if you're open to it. If you're like one of these characters who wants their boiled chicken and rice and their little cookies, and you're not open to trying the new food or the new drinks or sort of being open to the culture then it's going to be like really hard for you, like we see with Jean. But I think you are so right Devon, and this film does such a great job of also depicting just such common experiences in humanity and how we all experience it, no matter what culture we're in or where we find ourselves. Like grief, aging, love, loss, like all of that, that we see depicted in this movie in such a beautiful way.
How even the crop of British characters, like they don't know each other. So they're also like getting to know each other, like making friends. At that stage in your life and how do you deal with it. Then we see, especially with Graham, who I just loved his character. Seeing the way his sexuality affected his life in both of these cultures and how it was dealt with or not dealt with, and how he's coming to terms with that at this phase of his life and reuniting with his old partner and just how beautiful that was.
Portia: I think about like travel and intent with travel, right. So I think even thinking about moving or traveling for a shorter time period, I like to remind clients that wherever you go, you take yourself with you. So keeping that in mind some just thinking of like travel tips, right? So if you are someone who's more anxious, it's okay how can you do things in preparation for this trip to make you have a better experience? So maybe you have to plan more, and you have some backup plans. Or if this goes wrong, this is how I'll handle this. Or making sure you take your medications with you extra in case you're there for longer.
So I think it's just like even trying to know yourself as a traveler can help prepare you. So it's like Jean, I think maybe I'm leaping here, but seems like she doesn't have super great self-awareness. But she also just doesn't want to be there. It's not like a fun experience for her. It's oh, this is what we're left with.
But then if we see Evelyn who is grieving. She had some significant like negative stuff to deal with, with learning that there was all this. She is going there, taking herself and her grief, and established kind of a home. She feels more secure despite grief and other challenges versus just to handle travel, I guess I'm trying to say.
Katrina: Yeah. She really like gets her feet on the ground. She gets her first job. Both her and Jean are dealing with financial catastrophe that led them into this situation, but they handle it so differently.
Devon: Yeah, and I think one of the really fascinating things about travel. I think back on just different trips I've taken. Different types of experiences I've had, and especially when I was younger. So sort of the first couple times I really had an experience, again, to leave the United States and to visit places with very different histories and very different current situations than the United States.
I think one of the things that I really noticed for myself was sort of this opportunity, like the opportunity to hang on to what you know and the way that you're used to things being. Whether or not you were going to let other places being different than what you were used to.
Is that going to be an opportunity for me to get really anxious, for me to get really frustrated, or for me to try to impose what I'm used to on a place that has no interest or no need to be what I want it to be? Or can I really kind of walk into this scenario and say wait a minute, this place works very differently than what I am used to. What can I do with that? What opportunity is here for me?
I really remember when I was in, I took an extended period of time off, at least for a traditional sort of educational pathway. I took about two years off in between being an undergrad and going to medical school. Even though I knew the whole time I was an undergrad, I wanted to go to medical school. I also knew that once I started, I probably wasn't going to have the opportunity to take a lot of breaks, to go around and travel around the world for an extended period of time until probably traditional retirement age.
So I deliberately took a couple of years off so that I could go and really kind of wander around the world. I spent a couple of months living and traveling around Southeast Asia. I just remember kind of the way of traveling then. It was, for me, a very nostalgic time. It was still kind of pre-digital era. Like the internet existed, but everything was still dial up. There were internet cafes. No one had cell phones where you could basically just walk around with Google Translate and Google Maps and all of these things. It was very much more of a nomadic kind of time for travel.
I remember that we would just sort of make plans on the fly. You hear about a place that someone had just come back from that you hadn't planned on visiting, and it sounded amazing. Maybe we should take a bus there overnight and go and stay in this place for two or three days. Never kind of really knowing what to expect.
Again, I consider myself very typically North American in my love of schedules. Like if someone says that a flight is leaving at a certain time or a bus is leaving at a certain time, I'm standing there at that time thinking okay, where's the bus? Where's the train? Just kind of learning how to be very flexible around concepts of things like time that not everybody has the same worship of time and schedules as we do here in North America.
Really kind of saying wait a minute. I can come in here and get super frustrated that the way I thought something was going to unfold isn't the way that it's going to unfold. Sometimes I did, right? I mean I'm a human being. There were a lot of times I was confused or like I don't know what's happening here.
At the same time, I remember coming home from that specific trip where I spent a couple months traveling and living in different places in Southeast Asia. I remember just thinking to myself I have such a greater capacity to be flexible now. That is one of the things that that trip really taught me was just the benefit of letting go of that.
My experience was so much better when I finally was kind of able to embrace that invitation to just be more flexible, be a little bit less uptight about every single thing. Honestly, I don't know if I would have learned that in the same way if I never had taken that trip. If I had stayed at home and worked a summer job like I normally did you know or something like that. I don't know that I would have gotten that same lesson.
Katrina: Oh, that's such a good point. I think like a beautiful way of experiencing something we talk, probably Portia you do too, a lot about in therapy with patients is like knowing yourself and knowing what are your personality traits or quirks that are a positive and a negative? Like that rigidity, that planning on the one hand probably made you like such a good pathologist and doctor, and probably makes you so good at this like credit card point stuff.
But on the other hand could be an impediment when you're traveling, and you need to be more flexible. But what a great way to learn how to do that without also losing that other part of yourself that helps you in these other areas. How can you marry those two elements of your personality and learn like how to foster that skill, that cognitive flexibility?
Devon: You know, I think that that's also reflected in the movie. You kind of touched on the character Evelyn where it wasn't actually her plan initially to go and live in this retirement hotel in India. She did it, like you said, because her husband passes away. She's left with a lot of debt. So it's not she jumped in with both feet thinking oh, this is going to be just an incredible experience. You see her, and how adaptable she is.
I think, especially for someone, again, I feel one of the things that was kind of like more a common message when I was growing up than it is now is just sort of like you are the way you are. Especially the older you get, the less likely you are to be able to change and adapt.
I love seeing examples of people in their 60s or 70s, whatever, doing these brand new things and adapting, and then getting to a place where they're actually thriving even more right after that adaptation. I think that's one of the reasons that I really love her character is that at the end when she's on the motorbike with Bill Nighy’s character, and they're just like driving through the streets of Jaipur.
She has really kind of undergone that that adaptation, and I think that that's a really nice example for us to see. I think, especially again to see that not in someone who's five. I expect kids to be really, really adaptable and flexible, but to see that in an adult who can really kind of take on that unexpected challenge and then become.
Katrina: Grow from it.
Devon: Yeah, exactly.
Katrina: Yeah, it's such a great depiction of that human capacity for resilience. If you're open to it and you have those tools in you to be able to do right, and I'm sure she kind of like, her and Douglas kind of drew from each other's strengths, right. Whereas like Jean and Douglas, his wife, just wasn't interested. She just wasn't. she wanted to go home. Fine, fine. That's her prerogative.
But it was really interesting to see that. I think as we're thinking about travel, I think some of what we're talking about can translate from international travel to get in the car and going to see your in laws for Thanksgiving, right? I think even something like that small can be stressful for a lot of people. Right?
Portia: Yeah, picking up your stuff. I mean, family dynamics, just getting everything in the car, forgetting things. I think what's nice now just to keep in mind too is that if you are going for, I guess, like a couple of days, and you're not going into the middle of the forest I guess. Like we have Amazon or there's stores. Like we can get things that we forget.
But I think Katrina and I had talked about, and it's coming out later in more of our holiday season. Just like setting boundaries for yourself, knowing your limits, having outs. I think that can be applied right to like travel for pleasure and just traveling maybe an hour away to see family or friends during this crazy busy time.
Katrina: Yeah, it's normal to feel stressed even if you're super excited. If you're someone like me who like gets such a dopamine hit and such a thrill from like planning a trip. I feel like part of the fun for me with vacations is like planning it and fantasizing about it and thinking about all the different options. Like I love to do that. Even if once we get there we don't follow the itinerary, we just do whatever we want, but I still like love it.
Like I don't know. I just love that part of it. I think because I am such a planner that it just like does something for me. But yeah like even traveling more closer to home, you can use some of those tips.
So I think we were kind of laughing about even just our own travel experiences. So I, for the first time ever, I'm a very anxious traveler. I'm very interested in going places. I'd like to be open to them. But I had never gone to Europe or anything. Like I went to Hawaii but nothing else like off the continental U.S. Only last summer I went to Italy and Greece. Ended up at a wedding. So that's kind of why we went.
I was laughing when you were talking about the driving because, especially in Greece, like we're going like 90 miles an hour. Our luggage is like tied to the top. We couldn't figure out how to get a cab. It was just like chaos. We were all grinning. I had a great time but even just noticing like where my anxiety would kind of peak, or where I was very like surprised and proud of myself for managing well.
I will say that I did walk away with more confidence. So I do feel like I can do it again. But I think it's just like taking that first step and doing it. Maybe starting with a more like similar place, at least if you're like me is really helpful building confidence to now go to Europe, to now know that I can manage my way through there. So.
But something that I was laughing also about the movie and I wanted to just bring up is their little quick depiction of them all going to the bathroom like many times after starting just like to eating the food. I think that's something that is, I guess I’d say common with traveling. Like we get used to where we are, our guts. So when we introduce something new, it doesn't mean it's bad or unsafe. It's just like different.
Katrina: Different. Yeah.
Portia: Our bellies are a little slower to adapt.
Devon: Yeah, I mean, I think, again, especially if you're going to be traveling internationally to a lot of different places, something is oftentimes bound to happen. I mean, I'm pretty careful in terms of drinking water. I think when you're traveling internationally, I think it's always a good idea to drink bottled water just because that's usually the kind of like the most reliable source.
But with food, I've seen so many things happen. I've seen people get sick eating at really “high end” restaurants. I've seen people get upset stomachs from eating things that they can pick up street markets and street carts, which is like amazing food oftentimes.
So I think, yes. If you go in there, I think one of the things, for me, again, just having had the experience of traveling to a lot of different places and doing a lot of it solo but then sometimes also traveling with other people. So having that ability to see their experience and when it's very different from mine. Being oh, I wonder what's happening here. Why are we having such a different either physical or emotional experience to the same thing that's happening here?
I think, again, a lot of it comes down to expectation, right? If you have an expectation that things are going to work for you exactly the same way that they do when you're home then maybe you are going to be disappointed. Or maybe you're going to be in a situation where when that doesn't happen, you have a little bit less capacity to kind of manage that and deal with it. Because, ultimately, like I said, things are going to come up.
I mean when you walk into an international travel situation, or like you guys were saying even a domestic travel situation, and you're at least open to the possibility like oh something may not go exactly the way that I thought it would. Knowing that almost all the time, there is a solution to that, right? Even if it's uncomfortable for a couple hours or for a couple days, oftentimes there is a solution. It's really not going to be something that has just horrible impact on your life.
Portia: Yeah, that's a good point. There's another flight. There's another car service. There's another time you can talk. I mean, yeah.
Katrina: 100%. Just preparing for that. Like you said, like framing your expectations appropriately. Knowing if you're someone who runs on the more anxious side or more rigid or controlled side, like maybe work on that ahead of time. Just say okay, so what are my expectations for this trip?
Or I talk about this a lot in therapy, even with like planning a birthday party for your child if you're someone who's more perfectionistic. Okay, so these are my expectations. Let's drop it down by half and see what does that feel like to settle in with? How will I sort of cope with the bumps in the road that come along, and to just normalize that's totally normal to feel stressed or anxious in a new place, or by unexpected events or things going wrong. Just that's normal for you to have those feelings. So how can you cope with it in the moment and talking about that?
Portia: Yeah, that's a good idea to our listeners. If any of you need some extra support during this time, maybe you should talk about it with a friend or a professional. But traveling, I think it's it could be the best and the most chaotic. It's like those often come together and can be both. I do really love and wanted to point out Devon's use of and frequently. Like we're holding two things at the same time. So this can be very fun and different.
Katrina: Very dialectical. Very good.
Devon: Well, I had mentioned this to Katrina, but I do happen to be married to a psychiatrist. So while I do not have any psychiatric skills whatsoever, I do think by osmosis the fact that I've been around him now for 20 years throughout all of his psychiatric medical training and just the benefit of hearing somebody who is very skilled and very educated and very wise in terms of language and how we approach situations. I think some of that has probably rubbed off on me just like a tiny, tiny little bit.
Katrina: That's great. That’s so great. I mean I think like a theme that I'm hearing as I'm analyzing our conversation in real time is like the importance of knowing yourself, your strengths, maybe your weaknesses, how they bump up against each other, knowing what kind of boundaries you might have for yourself.
Like Portia, you were saying maybe you want to be someone who is a really adventurous traveler. Great, but maybe let's start a little smaller. Maybe go with a partner you trust to sort of have that like almost like exposure to international travel to boost your confidence, and then goes somewhere more adventurous the next time and kind of build on it.
Just learning how to use positive coping skills in these moments when things happen that are unexpected. Everything from like deep breathing, grounding techniques, meditative techniques to if you're someone who needs medication to fly, like propranolol or something like that to manage your anxiety. Great, make sure you bring it with you.
Portia: Yeah, and I think just like touching back to the movie a little bit. We see the capacity in all the characters to change. I think most people, everyone, maybe that's a little too generous, but does have the capacity. It’s like are you seeking that out? Do you want it? Do you know that you can't have it?
I think that's where it's like I think that Jean can have the capacity to travel and do things, but it sounds like at that time she didn't want to, but I'm sure she can. Now she's going to have a lovely time flying home in first class. It'll be a magical experience for her. So we've got to figure out, I guess, what works for us, but I loved the movie. I had never seen it before. It was so sweet and beautiful and touched on loss and grief and ageing and being told you can't do something and doing it anyway. The message is just wonderful. So if you haven't watched it, please do. Yeah.
Katrina: Highly recommend it.
Devon: Agree. I think it just really also beautifully highlights India and the specific city in India, Jaipur, which is just such an amazing and vibrant and incredible place. I love that you actually get to see little bits and pieces of that in the movie as well.
So even if maybe you aren't thinking of actually taking a trip anywhere in the near future, but you kind of want to live vicariously through a movie. I think this is a really wonderful movie to be able to get a glimpse of just really how rich and gorgeous another place, another culture is.
Portia: Oh definitely. I love reading and watching things about India. I've read The Perfumist. It's a good book. It's about like a woman in the early 1900s who lives in England but goes back to the become this wonderful perfumist that all these major beauty brands want at the time. She spends a lot of time back in her roots in India. Descriptions of the like flavors and colors and scents is so, I could feel it reading. The movie, I'm actually getting the visual of all the colors and scents of food. I was like oh, I really want. Can we get takeout this week? I want food. So oh, it was just wonderful. Yeah, it was great. It's great to have you too.
Katrina: Yeah. I think as we wrap up, one thing I did also love about this film is like sometimes I think maybe even with traveling, I haven't done a lot of international travel. But I think this concept of like cultural tourism is interesting. I feel like in this film, it could have gone that way. They could have gotten all these elderly folks on a van and gone to like all the major sites and stuff, but they didn't. It's like they really, whether they wanted to or not, kind of got immersed in the culture they were in.
You saw how some of them, like Evelyn, wanted to immerse and really live in it. Sometimes they would drive, and she'd be no, I'm going to walk, or I'm going to do this. I just think that's an interesting way to think about it rather than just like plopping in and taking everything from the culture. Really trying to make it more of like a two way dynamic. I would imagine just makes it all the richer all across the board.
Devon: Yeah, I agree. I mean, that's a topic, honestly, there could be hours and hours of conversation about that, but I agree. Especially in countries that have a history, a very strong history, of colonialism, of very imbalanced power structures. When you are someone who maybe is North American by descent or European by descent, being very mindful of those histories and thinking about yes I think it is important to go out and experience the world. Also how can we do it in a way that is less extractive? That is less about our going to place and what do we get out of it?
Because I think that is, honestly, something that those of us who are North American like we are just implicitly raised with that kind of behavior. I think that we have an opportunity to really be mindful and deliberate about when we want to go out, and we want to expand our own experiences in this world, how can we do that in a way that is incredibly respectful of the places that we're going? That also gives back right to those communities that isn't just completely extractive by nature.
I think that that is a topic that deserves, again, I mean, so, so more time to get in. But starting from that place of really saying, like you said, what is it like to actually be immersed in a place versus just kind of landing there and then just kind of like picking and choosing what's going to be useful for me.
I think especially now, one of the things that I really appreciate about travel when I think about it now compared to travel that I experienced ten years ago, 20 years ago is I do think there are more conversations about how can we be responsible in the ways that we travel? How can we be more respectful in the ways that we travel?
I think that those are important conversations to continue to develop and to have with ourselves when we are going to go somewhere before we make our plans, before we decide. What are we going to do when we get to this place is kind of incorporating some of those questions into our travel planning.
Portia: I'm really happy we are touching on that and kind of like landing there. Just kind of thinking of your future travels and where you might be going and how can you protect everyone as you travel. Yourself, of course, but how can you. Even if we think about making sure you're cleaning up after yourself and you're not leaving yourself there. You're going as a guest and being respectful and mindful. I just, I like that tone with where we’re kind of leaving it today.
Katrina: Yeah, yeah. Well, again, Devon, thank you so much for joining us. This was so fun. I feel like a little starstruck because I'm like trying to get into the points game. So this is so cool to talk to an expert. I think to another woman who's used her skillset and now translated it into something totally different and fun. I just so admire it. So I'm so thrilled you were able to join us. I so appreciate it. I hope you had as much fun as we did. Why don't you just let everyone know where they can find you if they want to learn more about the points game and learn more about you?
Devon: Yeah, absolutely. First, thank you so much for having me. I love the way that you all do your show, the idea for it. It's so fun for me to have the invitation to come here and to talk about travel in a little bit of a different way than I normally do. So I really appreciate the invitation. I've loved our conversation today.
Yeah, for anybody who kind of wants to find out more about the points world or the work I do, you can find me at my website. It’s just pointmetofirstclass.com. I also have a podcast of the exact same name, Point Me to First Class. That's where I talk about all sorts of different topics and issues around earning points and using points and just the point of points travel. So you can find me in either one of those places. Just thank you so much, again, for having me here today.
Katrina: Well, thank you all so much. You can find us at Analyze Scripts Podcast on Instagram and TikTok. We are starting to release video podcasts. So if you're listening to this, please check out our YouTube channel for the video version. We will see you next Monday and hope that your travels this week and in the future go well. As well as they can, and that you sort of coast along a bump in the road.
Portia: Thanks, guys. Take care.
Thank you for joining me for this week's episode of Point Me to First Class. If you want more tips on turning your expenses into travel, visit pointmetofirstclass.com to learn more. See you next week.