Storylines about anniversaries, birthdays and “top 10” lists apparently sell publications.
Today I’ll bet you a dollar (or some exotic foreign facsimile of) that is true.
Pick up just about any magazine and you are likely to see the cover hyping some list of “The Top 10” whatevers.
I am not sure about the psychology of the phenomena, but apparently it succeeds in getting a few more issues sold in an evolving media market that is seeing the old print media go the way of the VCR (look it up, kids).
Another technique in pushing the printed page is an anniversary or birthday of this or that, which must make us feel festive and put us in a reflective and reminiscing mood.
So, in my attempt to attract more than my normal three readers (which includes my sister–who apparently likes to find and point out the plethora of grammar and spelling errors I litter the page with; the guy I promise a beer if he will “click in” to get me the blog stat hit; and myself–because by the next day, I forgot what I wrote the night before) I attempt to employ the “Top 10” list or some anniversary/ birthday event storyline whenever possible.
Today, my shameless attempt at reader attraction is my reporting of the 10th anniversary of the creation of the euro.
For those unfamiliar, the euro is a form of currency that allows you to feel all worldly and well-traveled but at the expense that your old, greenback dollar is now only worth 70 cents.
Through the magic of currency exchange, you get to witness the shrinking value of your money that happens somewhere during the flight between Pittsburgh and Paris while you were enjoying your $2 bottle of water, your $10 sack lunch, and your $5 headphones for the in-flight movie that you were trying to watch between the cracks of the seats in front of you.
Originally, 11 countries abandoned their own form of what looked like funny money to us, to adopt the common currency.
Among many reported and hoped for advantages, this change eliminated the need for exchanging currency–and paying exchange commissions at every border crossing.
For us occasional tourists, the frequent money changing events were not a big deal and gave us colorful, but basically worthless bills once we get home; great to create scrapbooks or framed collages.
But for the frequent European traveler the euro was a good deal.
Back a few years ago, my wife and I took a trip that had us traveling through many European countries; from Spain to Sweden and from Germany to France (after a stop in an Amsterdam coffee shop-wink, wink ).
I was actually looking forward to the many border crossings so my hoped-for, well-stamped passport would give me the travel cred that a professional global adventure humor writer, such as myself, requires.
Color me surprised when the multi-country border crossings were almost less hassle than having to stop at the agricultural “bug” inspection stations between many U.S. states to make sure I don’t transport any wily worms.
Just before our transatlantic trip, I picked up a book titled The United States of Europe for the plane ride over. I thought the book would give me some good background research information for another good travel story that I have yet to write and submit to a mainstream media travel publication.
The title just caught my eye in a local bookstore, but the book ended up being an excellent explanation as to the formation of the European Union, and hence the euro currency, and interestingly, how they interact with America and our economy.
Really–it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds. And Amazon now lists used copies for only 46 cents.
Since 1999, four more European countries joined the euro club.
A few countries seem to have placed national pride or possibly skepticism ahead of the reported and purported advantages of the switch to the euro, including Sweden and Denmark–which caused us to end up with Danish Krone and Swedish Krona, which had no value anywhere else on our trip (but look great in a scrapbook or framed collage).
Another holdout has been Great Britain, for which until very recently, has had the pound at a higher value than the euro. (But in yesterday’s paper, the euro and the pound are now, in essence, identical.)
For those of you who are true vagabonds and for those of you planning your first trip to somewhere beyond the U.S. shores, be prepared for all the money exchanging–with the requisite commissions, most of Europe, notwithstanding.
You would think I have traveled enough to have the process down.
On my recent dive trip to Indonesia, we stopped briefly in Hong Kong and spent one night in Singapore.
On the way back I got a little confused as to which country I was leaving and entering.
At the airport–in whatever city I was in–I ended up exchanging my money to the wrong currency and I had to go re-exchange the money I just exchanged, thus paying commissions, not once, but twice in short order.
I am not sure how many border crossings it would take, but if you exchange your money enough times, eventually you will become commissioned-out to the point of insolvency.
At some point we all seem to get to the point of frustration where we just hand over a fistful of funny money and hope for the best.
Chalk up any discrepancies as part of your adventure but try to at least remember what country you are in!