Paperless travel? It is finally here!

It doesn’t seem that long ago, when we watched science fiction, we all talked about the day that our cars would fly, and everything would be communicated via the airwaves, with no paper involved. In my own field, whenever someone talks about the electronic medical record eliminating paper, I practically convulse with laughter. Has there been a reduction in the paper used in medicine – somewhat, but there is not an elimination of it by any means.1256

However, on a recent trip to Anchorage, I finally managed to travel without a shred of paper. For years, I have had my boarding pass on my phone. At first, the novelty was intriguing, and while I still see plenty using the old-fashioned paper when boarding, many are now using their phones. It has been a great help in reducing the amount of items needed in hand when getting on the plane, plus my phone is generally easier to read than some of the wrinkled, smashed passes of yesteryear.

My itineraries I have forwarded to Evernote allowing me to access the necessary confirmation numbers and addresses when necessary, eliminating several sheets of paper via this route. My hotel receipts are emailed to me as are my car rental ones, so I have managed to add paperless options to my organization along the way. I check in online for my flight as well as my hotel, eliminating the need to stand in longer lines.

The final step in this process was achieved at my hotel – I was introduced to the Digital Key, an option offered by Hilton hotels. When I checked in online, I was asked if I wanted to use the Digital Key option. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I hastily agreed to that request. I was told that I would not need to go to the front desk to check in or get my key because I had done both of those before ever leaving for the airport.

When I arrived at my hotel, I glanced over at the front desk and made a dash for the elevator, lest anyone stop me en route and keep me captive at the registration desk. As I got off the elevator, I opened my Hilton app on my phone, and beneath my registration, it said “Digital Key requested”. I was afraid that I would have to return to the desk, but soon after pressing the app, this is what appeared on my phone:IMG_0982

It seemed promising, so I held my phone near the slot where I would normally insert my room key card, and then I saw the screen that said:IMG_0979

It seemed too good to be true, but the next screen told me that my room was unlocked, and it gave me the option to hide my room number from the screen. Like a child with a new toy, I was anxious to try it out in other situations. I was able to open the outside doors previously accessed with a room card. I could open the fitness center and the laundry. Gone were the times that I have left my room card in my room and having to go to the front desk to get another one – like many, I almost always have my phone with me, so it practically negates ever having to go to the desk again for a key. In the past, I have put my room card in the same pocket with my phone only to have my phone erase the room card’s memory – especially frustrating after getting to my room and having to return to the desk because my card would not work.

When I checked out of the hotel, I was happy to tell them to email my receipt – save the paper – you don’t need it to travel anymore!



On the road again – in a car! Three apps to try

282By now, some of you know that I travel often. In fact, in the past few months, I have used all manner of transportation for my various assignments and missions including airplane, bus, ship and ferry. It may come as a shock that I have actually been using a car in the past several months for my current assignment.  Having been used to rental cars for the most part, it has been somewhat of an adjustment to drive my own car.Waze

Recently, one of my brothers introduced me to an app that has been invaluable with all of the driving, especially with the various addresses in several states.  The app, Waze, is a GPS app which differs from the usual in that it is kept up to date via its own users.  In the early days, when I bought my first GPS unit, I thought I was ultracool having such a gadget, but my initial glee turned to glum when the thing would take forever to come online and would lose “satellite reception” even on a clear day!

Waze has seldom lost its connection – it does occasionally, don’t get me wrong, but compared to previous models and apps, its accuracy has been much more promising. As routes are kept more up to date, the lane closure that GPS models would have never acknowledged, are noted by your fellow Wazers, and if need be, you are routed around the obstacle.  Using Waze and reporting on incidents accrues points which move you up in the Waze family of avatars.

One feature that has been useful, albeit with occasional glitches, is the Send ETA button.  When you have put in your destination, you have the option to send your ETA to someone at that destination.  That way, they can track your route and are updated if there are any changes in the ETA along the way.  I have used it many times, but have had problems with my designee being able to track my route the entire way, but they are usually notified of my arrival time.

A newer feature of Waze is the Planned Drive option.  Need to be somewhere by a certain time and don’t know when to leave? Give Waze the information, and it will notify you when it is time to leave! It takes current and anticipated traffic into account and even adjusts on the fly if you need to go any earlier.

Of course a large part of what makes Waze so useful is the ongoing reporting by Wazers including traffic, police traps, cars stalled on the shoulder, etc.  Waze has a simple screen for reporting these and even offers the ability to use voice commands to communicate these facts – keeping you hands free while directing you along your route.

Naturally not all drives go off without a hitch, but that is why many of us belong to AAA.  I have been a member for almost thirty years and have found it useful on so many occasions that I have never questioned whether I get my money’s worth each year.AAA

Now I have even more reason to celebrate being a AAA member – their mobile app. Not too long ago, I found myself stranded early in the morning en route to an assignment. I had downloaded the app and used it once when our car battery was dead, but that was broad daylight, and we had plenty of time.

This time was different.  I clicked onto the app and pressed the roadside assistance button.  It asked which type, and within seconds, a service ticket was issued with the number appearing on my phone.  Within a matter of minutes, I was called and told when my service agent would arrive.  When I looked at my phone, there was the route that he was taking with the estimated time of travel.  It updated until he arrived. With that information, I was able to call my assignment and give them my arrival time.  Since I had used the app, there was no need to give additional information or payment.  I was soon on my way, arriving only a few minutes later than planned, thanks to this brilliant app!

Lastly, have you ever been in the situation where you landed in a town and did not have a reservation?  Perhaps you have been driving all day and are ready to call it a night but you do not have a place to take care of that rest.  Enter the app, Hotel tonight, hotel tonightwhich searches in your area for unsold hotel rooms, giving you a photo of the place and allowing you to book your room, solving your problem with ease.  Unlike Waze and AAA which can work almost anywhere, Hotel Tonight only works in certain cities, although the list that it accommodates is growing (of note, it even offers this assistance in foreign countries, including Europe and South America).






Get out of your rut and on the road!

1164Get out of your rut . . .  we’ve all been there.  One day when I was working at my local hospital, I was preparing to do a spinal when someone asked me how I wanted to position the patient.  I said, “Sitting – that’s how I’ve always done it.”  As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a chill go down my spine.  Those words, “That’s how I’ve always done it” gave me pause.  I had always sworn that I wouldn’t get wedded to one way of doing things or simply doing it because that was how So and So taught it.  The rest of the day I thought about how in a few short years, I was becoming one of “them” – the dinosaurs that I had mocked and derided because of their death-like grip on the “way things were and always should be”.

As the next few days passed, I thought about the rut I was in – getting up each day, driving the same way to work, and doing my job – adequately by all accounts, but I had to face it, I was getting comfortable with the routine.  Now, we all develop routines for a number of reasons – safety, security, etc.  But when the routines become sacrosanct with no apparent reason, therein lies a danger.  

“The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.”

The days passed into weeks, and soon I began to feel more restless.  It was time for a change, but what and how would this change manifest?  I was a physician, and for decades, physicians had been known to settle in a community and stay put until retirement or death.  I didn’t relish the idea of job hunting, and there would be my house to sell, and so on.  A chance encounter at a meeting introduced me to a fellow physician who did locum tenens work for half the year.  I was intrigued, and the more I learned, the more interested I became.  At the end of that year, I resigned my full-time job and entered the locum tenens life.

Soon after starting my locum tenens career, I went on my first medical mission.  If you want to discuss a way of getting out of your rut, going on a mission is one incredible way to do it.  Out of your comfort zone?  Try having little or no comfort!  At the same time you are expected to do your job and do it well. Developing a fresh perspective is a prescription for “derutting” your life.  Now over a decade later, I have written a book about my experiences and created this blog to highlight aspects of this lifestyle as well as a few other tidbits.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to get back on the road . . .