Jason Santos on tapas, a good plane Bloody Mary, and the beauty of a travel credit card


Celebrity chef Jason Santos is so busy running his five Boston-area restaurants — plus appearing on Fox TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and Paramount Network’s “Bar Rescue,” as well as stints as a guest chef on other shows, including NBC’s “Today” and “The Talk” on CBS — that he doesn’t have much time for travel. But when he does, it’s Thailand that beckons the 45-year-old blue-haired chef. “It literally will change your life,” he said of the Southeast Asian country in a recent phone call from Los Angeles, where he was filming seasons 21 and 22 of “Hell’s Kitchen,” on which he is one of Gordon Ramsey’s sous chefs. Santos said season 21 should air in the late summer/early fall, “but with COVID, the TV schedule has been a little off.” Season 9 of “Bar Rescue” will air in February, he added. Santos said he is especially excited about his newest eatery, Nash Bar, which opened earlier this month in the space that housed his former restaurant Abby Lane. “It’s super cool, with an open kitchen and a griddle behind the bar so the bartenders can make late-night grilled cheeses,” he said. “There’s also live music and eventually we’re going to have a roof deck.” His other restaurants are Buttermilk & Bourbon in Boston and in Watertown, Citrus & Salt in Boston, and B&B Fish in Marblehead. We caught up with the Melrose native, who lives in Woburn with his wife, Thuy, and their two Shiba Inu pups, Miso and Kobe, to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination? Thailand. I went there nine years ago and liked it so much that my wife and I went there on our honeymoon three years ago. The people are so incredibly sweet, nice, and genuine, the landscape is absolutely stunning, and the food is on a different level. I can’t get enough. It literally will change your life. I try not to visit to the same place twice, but this is the exception. Vietnam is a close second.

Favorite food or drink while vacationing? Don’t judge me, but there is something about being on a tropical beach and drinking really sweet crappy frozen drinks that just gets me every time.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? Barcelona. There is something about the passion for food there that I find mesmerizing and would like to explore firsthand. Also, I want to eat tapas until I can’t eat tapas no more.

One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? My wife.

Aisle or window? I weirdly am particular with this. If it’s a shorter flight I like the aisle — I think in my head that I can get off the plane quicker — and if it’s a long trip I like to have a wall to lean up against.

Favorite childhood travel memory? My parents and grandparents would book a summer lake home every single year in either Maine or New Hampshire. My mom still does it to this day. As a child, I felt like we were driving across the world. My family would pack up the car super early on a Saturday morning with groceries and we would head out.

Guilty pleasure when traveling? I love a good plane Bloody Mary. I generally don’t drink a lot or drink on a plane at all, but for some reason when I am going on a legit vacation, I like to kick it off with a Bloody Mary with a packet of lime.

Best travel tip? Get yourself a travel credit card. It will change the way you travel — from waiting for your flight in a great lounge or an upgrade at a hotel. Want my referral link for a platinum Amex? Just kidding … sort of.

JULIET PENNINGTON



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Buying Travel to Impact Social Good


When
Siemens U.K. travel commodity manager Emma Eaton visited Business Travel Show
Europe in London earlier this year, she stayed at a different hotel than the
other hosted buyer visitors. Eaton checked herself into Good Hotel London, a
property she had recently added to Siemens’ preferred supplier list not only because
it meets the company’s quality and price standards but also because it is a
social enterprise.

Social
enterprises are businesses that allocate at least 50 percent of profits for
philanthropy, such as training and supporting disadvantaged people. In most
cases, including Good Hotels’ parent Good Group, the figure is 100 percent. All
Good Group profits fund Niños de Guatemala, a foundation providing education to
500 children in Central America. Good Hotel London also provides a training
program for long-term unemployed people in Newham, the borough where it is
located and one of the poorest in the U.K.

What’s a Social Enterprise?

Good
Hotel London

Marten Dresen
created the charitable foundation Niños de Guatemala, which runs three schools
in the country, after doing volunteer work there. The schools not only educate
children but feed them and provide psychological support.

Frustrated
by hustling constantly for donations, Dresen created his own funding channel
for the charity by starting Good Hotels as a social enterprise. Currently,
there is one in Guatemala and one in London, with a second scheduled for
Guatemala soon. 

Good Hotel
London, which also trains unemployed local people, is a floating hotel moored next
to the ExCel exhibition centre. Good Group head of community Maria O’Connor
said the hotel’s social credentials are increasingly attracting corporate
guests. “There is a lot of momentum on the back of COP26. Businesses are
getting more engaged,” she said.

The
House of St. Barnabas

This
members’ club in the London Soho house where Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of
Two Cities
can be hired in part or full as a meeting venue. The House of St.
Barnabas operates as a charity supporting homeless people. Many become staff,
who are given eight weeks of full-time training and all kinds of other support.

“Our
corporate membership has increased significantly this year,” said House of St.
Barnabas chief executive Rosie Ferguson. “If you can spend your money on
somewhere that has a high social impact as well as being a very good venue, why
wouldn’t you? Buying social is growing.”

Eaton is
one of a tiny but growing number of travel and meetings managers aiming to buy
social, a phase she defines as “the opportunity for corporates to use their
purchasing power to do good. Instead of just using our purchasing volume
through traditional routes, it’s looking at buying from the many wonderful
organizations which exist to improve the lives of people who need some help.”

Another
convert is Faye Carter, London-based head of experiential at Deloitte. Like
Siemens, Deloitte is one of 30 large corporations to have joined the Buying
Social Corporate Challenge, which aims to get them spending £1 billion annually
through social enterprises. 

Deloitte
has already used Connection Crew, a community interest company which employs,
trains and generally supports homeless people, to build stages and provide
other support at events. It also hired Luminary Bakery, which trains and
employs socially disadvantaged women, for a virtual “bakealong” as a Christmas
staff activity.

“Our aim
is to accelerate spend with social enterprises next year,” said Carter. “Why
not spend money on businesses that maximize their impact on society and the
environment?”

A
Changing Mindset for Purchasing

It is a
sentiment wholeheartedly endorsed by Eaton. “Instead of being part of an
isolated corporate world, you’re actually doing some good in society, which I
feel with the size of our purchasing volumes we have an obligation to do,” she
said. “I see this more and more as a duty than something nice to do.”

The entire
Siemens U.K. supply chain team became engaged actively in buying social two years
ago. “I was then able to think about how to apply it to my sourcing approach
and communications,” said Eaton. “In the last six months it feels like it has
really accelerated. It’s trickling through many different parts of our
organization now, not just within central supply chain management but going out
to our divisions as well.”

Outside
travel, Siemens has replaced its global stationery supplier in the U.K. with
WildHearts Office, a social enterprise whose profits go into a foundation that
addresses gender inequality and provides entrepreneurial training for people
from deprived backgrounds. 

Social
Enterprise U.K., the body which created the Buying Social Corporate Challenge, measures
corporate spending with social enterprises in terms of the number of lives
positively impacted. “Through that metric we have set ourselves a goal of positively
impacting as many lives as we have employees,” said Eaton. “We are hoping to
achieve one-to-one by the end of 2022.”

How far
that goal can be reached through travel and meetings sourcing remains to be
seen. “For travel it’s a huge challenge,” said Eaton. “We have just two hotels
as direct suppliers. There aren’t any airlines which are social enterprises;
there aren’t any train operating companies, car hire providers or anything like
that. That makes it difficult because obviously you have the most influence
with your first tier of suppliers.”

The
situation is healthier for meetings, with a good number of venues from which to
choose (see sidebar for an example). For transient travel, according to Eaton,
buyers need to think more in terms of secondary suppliers, in other words the
supply chain used by direct suppliers. 


It’s become more understood now that sometimes to be more ethical and do the right thing does cost you more. But if goods are going to cost more, then you think more carefully about your consumption of them. So in procurement terms it’s all about demand management.”

– Siemen’s Emma Eaten


“There is
a wonderful range of social enterprises that the hospitality and travel
industry could utilize,” she said. “Even if they were just to build in one or
two, when you think of the number of chains that there are, that’s immense.”

Social
Enterprise U.K. has given Eaton a list of potential secondary suppliers,
including purveyors of tea, coffee, beer, wine, toiletries, stationery and
plants. One example is Change Please, a coffee company whose entire profits are
spent on reducing homelessness. Since 2019, its coffee has been used by Virgin
Atlantic both in the air and in its lounges.

Eaton
addressed buying social in her hotel request for proposal process for 2022. She
discussed the topic in a virtual conferencing session with prospective
suppliers and included a question about use of social enterprises in the RFP
itself. “We’re also asking if they are sourcing locally because from an
environmental as well as a social perspective that’s very beneficial and I wouldn’t
wish to discourage such suppliers on account of not being social enterprises,”
Eaton said.

Answers to
her RFP question will be material to Eaton’s property selections. “Where there
is a good choice in the market, I will definitely use that as one of my key
decision-making criteria,” she said. 

Eaton
encountered a mixed response from hotels in terms of knowledge levels and
sincerity of engagement. She also acknowledges that many hotels are struggling
simply to survive Covid. But if nothing else “it planted a seed with those
hotels and hopefully that seed will grow so that when the pressure is off a bit
more financially, it is something they can revisit,” she said.

The
Question of Cost and Other Challenges

There are
conceivable challenges to buying social beside the paucity of social enterprises
in the travel sector. Eaton deals with each of them comfortably. The first is
whether it costs more. Eaton believes this question must be addressed in the
context of the human cost when a cheap supply is built on child or slave labor
or, more often, legal but miserable working conditions. 

“Everybody
has had to re-evaluate their ethics,” said Eaton. “It’s become more understood
now that sometimes to be more ethical and do the right thing does cost you
more. But if goods are going to cost more, then you think more carefully about
your consumption of them. So in procurement terms it’s all about demand
management. 

“And it’s
not always the case that things are more expensive. If I look at the example of
Good Hotel, it’s well within our rate cap. And knowing our spend is doing some
good for society is far more valuable than swimming in a pool at another hotel
nearby.”

Another
potential worry is supplier failure. “Most social enterprises are very small,
so it is a risk,” she conceded. “You would always have a contingency plan in
place for critical suppliers, but social enterprises tend not to be critical
suppliers. They’re not producing chemical ingredients. They’re producing simple
goods and services which could be switched should the need arise.”

Finally,
there’s the question of quality. “Understandably, the terrible challenges that some
people trained by these organizations have had to work through in their lives
means they might not always deliver the same customer service as someone with
decades of experience in that profession,” Eaton said. “You need a bit of
compassion and empathy to understand sometimes it is more difficult for them. 

“There are
pros and cons to anything but if you make people internally aware of the quirks
of the social enterprises and the need to weigh up against the benefits
delivered, then hopefully there will be that level of understanding. But if
there are improvements to be made, then as with any supplier, no matter who
they are, we would work with them to communicate that and to improve.”

That said,
neither Eaton nor Carter has had any bad experiences with social enterprises.
On the contrary, because social enterprises think differently from big
businesses, they often offer much more distinctive service. Good Hotels, for
example, has no televisions in its bedrooms. Instead, guests are encouraged to
mix in the downstairs area, known as the “living room.” Eaton spent two happy
hours there during her stay making new acquaintances with whom she remains in
contact.

Likewise,
social enterprise meetings venues are often more interesting than standard
hotels. And, as a bonus, said Carter, social enterprise leaders make excellent
speakers. “Invite them to come and speak at your event,” she said. “We’ve had
very good experiences. Many of them have amazing stories to tell.”

For any
travel buyer contemplating buying social, Eaton offers encouragement. “Start
conversations with people already engaging with social enterprises,” she said.
“You’ll realize how easy it is to change people’s lives just by doing your
day-to-day job.”



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Plan B can be just as good as Plan A when it comes to travel


This week, I thought I’d be writing you a cheery postcode from Zurich, but if the pandemic has taught travellers anything, it is that what we think we will be doing, and what we find ourselves doing, are rarely the same thing. I once foolishly believed that depleted bank balances, airline tickets and booking references were proof that a thing would happen… no more! I have seen how the gods, and the Government, laugh in the face of our booking references. 

Amid the feverish flurry of travel restrictions last week, Switzerland placed a quarantine rule on incoming UK travellers, and although swiftly lifted, the fuss forced the cancellation of my two-week work project in Switzerland. To add spice to the fondue, I’d rented out my flat in Margate to a friend for December, in the blissful expectation that I would be on a holiday to Tanzania (tick!), then working in Switzerland (cancelled), then off for a family Christmas in California (TBC). Who needs a home, I thought, when you have holidays?

Me, as it turns out. So this week I found myself urgently in need of a Plan B. And I heard plenty of other people’s Christmas plans disintegrating around me, from office parties to long-awaited family visits to South Africa. One friend nicknamed it a “sadvent calendar,” a December countdown of cancelled plans, but I refuse to play this game. 

I’m writing from a lovely serviced studio apartment, the Living Rooms in Marylebone, where I’m hastily assembling a Plan B for the next fortnight. Obviously the most urgent part of the process is meeting the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs: shelter, food, sleep. This is when accommodation rental sites and apps like Plum Guide (plumguide.com) and Airbnb (airbnb.co.uk), and long-term rentals such as Locke (lockeliving.com), Sonder (sonder.com) and Living Rooms (living-rooms.co.uk), come into their own. Partly because you don’t have to speak to a human when you say: “I gave away my house, please can I have yours now?” or “I booked a hotel in the wrong Stratford, please help” or “I just broke up with my boyfriend at our hotel, and your casita looks delightful!” Digital technology has ravaged my mental wellbeing, but all is forgiven when I need to book a last-minute hotel room. 

Shelter and security are paramount, but travellers also require a dash of glamour and novelty to make a Plan B feel less like a gaping void. I was fleetingly tempted to head for familiar ground and friendly faces, and ask friends in Margate or my family in Belfast if I could crash with them for a couple of weeks… but I needed to replace Switzerland with something equally new and exciting, or risk feeling gloomy about it. So here I am in Marylebone, a district of London I always felt was the preserve of Saudi princesses. Novelty carries travellers a long way, and staying in an unfamiliar part of London lets me reframe my week as a glamorous city mini break, the sort of holiday that New Yorkers giddily dream about. 

This brings me to my next tip for maximising a Plan B break: on the long Tube trip home from Heathrow, my Swiss trip aborted, I reminded myself that what is a Plan B to me – a fortnight in London – is a gilded Plan A, a true trip-of-a-lifetime, for international visitors. Personally I enjoy the enthusiasm American tourists exhibit at the most mundane European moments, so I’m finding it helpful to channel a wealthy New Yorker, perhaps an aspiring playwright, visiting London before Christmas, to “immerse myself in culture” and fall in love with someone who looks like Hugh Grant or Benedict Cumberbatch. 

Yesterday, I took myself to the matinee of Cabaret, starring Eddie Redmayne, booked via TodayTix (todaytix.com), another favourite app of mine, that doesn’t sneer at me for not booking plays months in advance. Wearing my wealthy tourist from New York hat, I’ve planned a weekend pottering around museums, meeting friends for brunch, and even a dinner party in my faux-home, splashing out on a meal kit from Dishoom, because that is what a fancy American tourist would do. 

Trust me, this is no time to try and save money. It’s tempting, when a cherished Plan A falls apart, to give up, conserving cash and optimism. But for me, rustling up a reasonable Plan B is cash well splashed; there are, after all, other opportunities to be frugal. Because the ultimate trick to enjoying a Plan B break is to treat it like a Plan A.



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I Lost My Cell Phone Before An International Trip: The Good The Bad And The Ugly


Bye-Bye

As a married couple sharing our love of culinary tourism through our Food Travelist website, our weekly #FoodTravelChat on Twitter, and amazing publications like TravelAwaits, we are seasoned international travelers. With a sense of adventure we recently relocated to Portugal. We typically travel together and manage the details of travel with ease. But when my (Diana) father was about to reach his 90th birthday, I went back to the United States to celebrate while Sue stayed in Portugal to finish up some relocation tasks and look after our cats.

After I visited with my dad for about a week, he drove me to the airport, we said our “I love yous,” and hugged goodbye. I got my boarding passes, checked my bags, and then went to text him one last time before I went through security.

Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

But when I reached for my cell phone in the side pocket of my purse where it usually rests, it wasn’t there. Or anywhere else in my purse. Or any clothing pocket. Or my backpack. I lost my cell phone! Just as I was starting a three-flight international journey back home to Portugal my technology nightmare began. And here’s how it went from there.

Everyone Has A Cell Phone But Me

Imagine being in an airport and discovering your cell phone is missing. Is your heart pounding? Mine sure was. After no luck at the lost and found, I thought my cell must have slipped out during goodbye hugs or driving to the airport. At this airport, the payphones were gone. No loss really because the important phone numbers were in my cell phone, not my head. I asked a guard to borrow his cell to call Sue, the one person’s number that I had memorized. No answer. I left her a message to call my father about the phone. When I looked around I realized that everyone in the airport had a cell phone — everyone except me.

O'Hare Airport Interior.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

Not Much I Can Do

Before an international journey, I really rely on my cell phone. My phone had the digital results of my COVID-19 test and a copy of my vaccination card. Fortunately, some paranoia caused me to keep printed copies of both with my passport. If not, my trip home would have ended there.

My fitness watch is tied into a cell phone app so I would not be able to synchronize it for each new time zone on my journey. I could not receive text messages with flight updates, gate changes, delays, or anything else from the airline. Because my flights to get to my dad’s birthday were plagued with changes and delays, not knowing what was happening made me nervous. I sat near a departure board and checked flight status at every stop.

Aha! My Laptop

I also realized that I couldn’t call anyone else to tell them what was going on. That is until I remembered I had my laptop in my backpack. Fortunately, most airports now have a free Internet connection. Hooray! Email is not instant like messaging or a call, and most people tend not to check it as often. But it is a way to communicate. I sent emails to Sue and my father hoping that at some point someone would read them.

I also remembered that my cell had a function called Find My iPhone, which I could use to see if I had really lost my phone or it was safe somewhere in my father’s car. I found the online version and entered my phone number. Success! The pinging phone was at my dad’s address. There was a ray of hope that I and my cell would someday reunite.

Seaside cityscape of Cascais city in summer day. Cascais municipality, Portugal.
Evannovostro / Shutterstock.com

Finding My Phone Is Not Getting My Phone

My flights were largely uneventful and I made it safely back home to Portugal. I used email to keep Sue apprised of my progress along the way, though much less frequently than when I would if texting. By the time I got home, my dad had been in touch with Sue. I called him using Sue’s phone and told him that my cell was in his car somewhere. He checked but did not find it. Fortunately, my nephew was visiting and quite familiar with the sounds Find My iPhone makes. He took charge and a ping or two later, he found my cell under a seat.

Though Portugal stole our hearts, one of its less wonderful features is customs for items from the United States. Most people said that if my phone made it back to me at all, it would likely get stuck in customs and cost an excessive amount to get. They suggested that maybe a friend could bring it to me when they came for a visit.

Help Is On The Way

None of my friends or family had immediate plans to visit, but I belong to online groups where expats and locals help one another, develop friendships, and provide support. I posted a note to one such Facebook group about my situation and asked for suggestions on how to get my cell back. Several wonderful people offered to bring my phone with them on a return trip to Portugal. I was shocked at how many people offered assistance. I selected Kamruddin Shams, an experienced entrepreneur who travels frequently between Lisbon and the United States. He was returning to Portugal in about a month.

Phone Sweet Phone

My dad sent my cell phone to Kamruddin at his United States address. He received it, packed it with his belongings, and carried it with him back to Portugal. Sue and I met him in Lisbon and bought him lunch at the Time Out Market as a token. The three of us found out that we had much in common, and while the phone was the reason we got together, we will certainly see one another as friends again in the future.

Diana and Kamruddin at Time Out Market Lisboa.
Sue Reddel & Diana Laskaris

The Kindness Of Strangers

Even though it is easy to be cynical about how selfish people can be, it was a humbling lesson in gratitude to realize that so many people were willing to go out of their way to help me get my phone back safely. If you ever find yourself in need of support, consider those you may know through social media groups and other common interests. There are gems just waiting to provide help and support. Do your homework of course, and don’t just trust absolutely anyone. But don’t be surprised if you find a whole online community helping you find a solution to a difficult challenge.

Life Lessons To Share

As much as I (and many of us) rely on technology, especially our almighty cell phones, this experience taught me that some low-tech backup is a good idea. When traveling, keep paper copies of important documents. Memorize or write important phone numbers on paper to take with you. Bring a regular watch that is not tied into your cell through an app as well as your sport or smartwatch. If you have a computer or laptop, add an app that allows you to read your text messages or get your calls on it if one is available from your provider.

I also learned the hard way how important it is to double and triple-check that you have your phone and all other gadgets and items whenever leaving a car, train, plane, restaurant seat, or anywhere.

The most important lesson I learned is not to be afraid to ask for help with a frustrating or confusing travel situation. I had a challenging month without my cell phone, but thanks to a generous online community, my willingness to call for help, and a wonderful person who answered the call, I got my phone back and made great new friends in the process.

Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris, writers of Food Travelist, are frequent contributors to TravelAwaits. Check out their contributions here:



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Good news on the horizon for post-pandemic travel | WJHL


RUSSELL COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – Multiple structure fires along a road in Russell County, Virginia destroyed three different homes Monday morning, emergency management authorities say.

According to Russell County Emergency Management (EMA) coordinator Jess Powers, crews were called to the scene of the fire around 11:37 a.m. and began battling a blaze on Breezers Branch Road that had spread through three different structures.



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A trip to Switzerland in search of a good death: ‘All this instead of just doing it in Brighton’ | Assisted dying


Ann is sitting in a windowless and sparsely furnished white room with high ceilings and a red concrete floor. There is a bed in the corner, next to shelves full of medical equipment. She seems small against the large black sofa, her hands clasped together to minimise the involuntary swaying caused by her Parkinson’s disease. She is in pain, she is tired and, for the first time that day, she is getting a little anxious. She is waiting for someone to arrive with the drug that will kill her. Her fear is not of dying; she passed that point a long time ago. She is worried about the pharmacy’s supplies, suddenly scared that the people in whose hands she has put her death could let her down.

Ann Bruce, my aunt and my friend, died in Switzerland on 26 June 2021 at the age of 73. She was a quiet, intelligent woman, slender and unassuming, yet determined and plain-speaking. She started her career as a doctor, and ended it as a psychotherapist. She sang, she held legendary dinner parties, and she adored the theatre – she was the master of her successful life.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s seven years ago, and knew then that she did not want to let the disease run its full course. She told me that, for her, nothing tasted right any more, literally and metaphorically: “I can still enjoy things like the first snowdrop, bits of nature coming to life. But there’s not enough. My life is still good. What’s gone is my capacity to engage with it and embrace it and enjoy it.”

Ann Bruce as a child.
Ann as a child. Photograph: courtesy of Charlotte Naughton

As a doctor, but also as a friend and relative, she had witnessed so many people’s last days. Perhaps she had seen too much. Her parents were pragmatic people who both told her they would want to have an assisted death “if they had something nasty and incurable”. But neither got their wish. Her father died of lung cancer, and her mother died in a nursing home after a long and slow decline – towards the end, she needed help to drink a cup of tea. Ann would later lose her husband, David, to cancer, followed by her close friend Don. “Life became so limited that there was nothing for either of them to enjoy,” she said of the two men she had cared for as they died. “Even basics like food, because of the vomiting, the nausea, the pain.”

These experiences built a stark awareness of how lives can deteriorate at the end. “Although very often the actual death is peaceful, what gets lost is the last few weeks, the running up to the dying,” she told me. “Both my parents were very calm, unconscious and died nicely. But they’d had a good deal of suffering in the run-up, and suffering that couldn’t be completely managed.”

Ann wanted her death to be different. By the time she started to organise her final journey from her home in Ditchling, East Sussex, to a small village near Basel, in Switzerland, this year, she also had osteoporosis, a serious heart condition and macular degeneration. Her Parkinson’s had developed rapidly, leaving her in a great deal of pain, her dyskinesia (involuntary movements) exhausted her and she was nauseous much of the time, the sickness taking her down to 6st (38kg) as her life shrank around her. “I don’t think Parkinson’s itself is necessarily the great horror,” she said, “but Parkinson’s with all the other bits is.”

She had come to see death not as a departure, but as an arrival, a concept embodied in a poem called The River Cannot Go Back by Kahlil Gibran, about a river that ends in the vastness of the sea. “It acknowledges the fear but also the release,” she said. I told her that she gave the impression she was looking back having reached her end point, like the river in the poem, rather than feeling her journey had been cut short.

“Yes, that’s a nice way of thinking about it,” she said. “I like the idea of going back into some pool of unconsciousness that we came from, but it may just be nothing and that’s OK.”

My aunt was a very private person, but she shared her thoughts with me before she died for one reason: to help those who came after her. She didn’t want to have to travel to a different country to end her life. Her fervent desire was that her words might affect the views of those responsible for the law.


Assisted death is legal in Switzerland, as well as in several other countries including Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium. Although the details differ, the success of each system is grounded in tight regulation and documentation. In the UK, however, anyone who does anything that could be construed as “encouraging or assisting” another person to die, such as buying their plane ticket, pushing their wheelchair through an airport, or even talking about how it might happen, may be committing an offence that carries a potential prison sentence of up to 14 years. The British Medical Association recently dropped its opposition to assisted dying but, despite widespread support from the public and half of doctors surveyed personally believing there should be a change in the law to permit them to prescribe life-ending drugs, little has changed. A bill that would allow some people with a terminal illness to end their life at a time of their choosing is progressing through parliament, but is not expected to become law. “It’s unlikely to pass unless it gets taken up by MPs in the Commons and the government gives it time for debate,” says Trevor Moore, chair of the campaign group My Death, My Decision, which is calling for a public inquiry into the law. “There are some supportive MPs, but it takes up parliamentary time, and there are a lot of other things going on.”

The main opposition to change is rooted in the fear that assisted dying could be used as a state-condoned form of suicide, but for Ann it was something altogether different. She never liked the phrase “assisted suicide”.

“‘Suicidal’ has a negative feel of wanting to destroy life,” she said. “We need a new name for dying when you’re ready. For a completed life and a comfortable, assisted death.”

Ann Bruce, with her sister Jenny, left, in the 1960s.
Ann with her sister Jenny, left, in the 1960s. Photograph: courtesy of Charlotte Naughton

She knew this path was not for everyone, that many people live comfortably with Parkinson’s for years. My father, Ann’s brother-in-law, died with Parkinson’s and multiple myeloma two years after Ann’s diagnosis. As his health deteriorated, he had absolutely no desire to die, and she had admired his robust attitude to life: “I often think of Philip and his amazing capacity to carry on and do things, and not care if the dinner goes all over the floor.”

Nevertheless, Ann was determined in her own decision. Yet, because of the law in the UK, she felt very alone in that choice. Organisations such as My Death, My Decision can campaign for a change to the law, but they are not allowed to support those in Ann’s position. She was not able to talk to anyone doing the same thing, to know if the emotions she was going through were “normal”.

“I think there’s an important shift from something being a nice idea in here, to a reality out there,” she told me about her decision-making process. “And that needs a bit of working through. I feel like I’ve got through the worst of that, and I’m quite calm and together and in this more joyful place, but it might have been nice to be able to hear someone say they had similar experiences.”

The last few weeks of Ann’s life were consumed by bureaucracy. To avoid putting her supporters at risk of prosecution, she had to do everything herself: booking accommodation, flights, taxis and Covid tests; organising special permission to enter Switzerland; and wrangling over a date with an assisted-dying clinic overwhelmed with applicants who had not been able to travel sooner because of the pandemic.

Choosing when to tell people turned out to be difficult, too. Ann had thought about having a party to celebrate her death, but she was concerned that any gathering before she went could alert the police to her trip. “If the law had been different, I think I’d probably be much more into the joyful celebratory release bit of it,” she said. Instead, she went through it with friends individually, and often had to support them. “I have to recognise that their immediate reaction is grief and loss, and they’re in a very different place to me. I have to look after them a bit.”

She even found herself consoling a member of staff at her bank: “When I tried to make the first payment to the clinic, the bank queried it. When I explained to this young woman what I was doing … she became quite distressed. She didn’t know how to handle me, someone who was being very pragmatic and straightforward and answering questions.”

When someone close dies, people often don’t know what to say to the bereaved. Ann found this discomfort intensified when they were faced with someone planning their own death. People had no map, no guide for how to react. Some responded with openness, saying things they wished they had said sooner. But not always. “There was someone who came to say goodbye and, when she left, I felt there was something more she wanted to say and I hadn’t heard it.” Ann even joked about feeling a little awkward if she bumped into someone she had already said goodbye to. “I feel like one of these pop stars who keep coming back for a return concert, that goes on and on,” she said. “But if I leave it too late they don’t have time to get through that grief and be with me in something a bit more positive.”

The process would have been so much easier if Ann had been able to do it out in the open. She wondered if so many people were conditioned to oppose legalisation partly because we were kept away from death, and had so few forums to discuss it. “People tend to be very protected from it because it happens in hospital or it’s often managed off-site,” she said. There were some friends she felt she could not tell about her plans for fear of them reporting her to the authorities, robbing them of the chance to say goodbye.

Ann dreaded the journey to Switzerland, but she worried even more about the many things that could stop it happening: that she would have a stroke or a heart attack – or that Covid regulations might change. But in the end, nothing could stop her.


It is the morning of Friday 25 June, a grey but mild day in Ditchling. Ann strides out of her small flat, leaving her bed unmade and her clothes strewn around her room, with just a small backpack hanging loosely from her thin shoulders. She might have been going for a walk but for her body language – her muscles are taut, her eyes fixed on the path ahead, her mind already on the release she will find at the end of this road. Three people follow her, her friend Janet Bark, her sister-in-law (and my mother), Barbara Naughton, and me. We all know we could face investigation by the police on our return, but we understand how resolute she is and we cannot let her die alone.

As we travel, the world outside our solemn bubble carries on relentlessly cheerfully. In the taxi to Gatwick, I fail at small talk with the friendly driver, my stomach churning at the prospect of an airport interrogation that could end our journey. Ann, meanwhile, chats to him about the latest roadworks, despite her discomfort. Covid anxiety is still quite high in the UK, masks are mandatory on all forms of transport, and when we arrive at the airport it is quiet, with almost as many staff as passengers.

The plane is full, however, despite restrictions on entry into Switzerland, as few flights are making this journey; it feels claustrophobic after avoiding crowds for a year, and the cramped conditions are excruciating for Ann. We weren’t able to get seats together, but I can see her across the aisle sitting next to a stranger, eyes closed.

Ann paragliding in Switzerland in 2007.
Ann paragliding in Switzerland in 2007. Photograph: courtesy of Charlotte Naughton

We touch down in glorious sunshine and emerge into a hot and busy Basel airport. We are collected by a driver commissioned by the clinic, who cheerfully declares that he will give us a tour, then helpfully points out the casino, a medical centre and a rubbish processing facility.

“All this instead of just doing it in Brighton,” Ann muses wistfully.

We finally arrive at a small village dominated by our hotel, in which the clinic that has organised her death owns an apartment. Ann is ashen, exhausted and in pain. When we reach the apartment she collapses into a chair, with her head resting on a small table, knowing her day is not over.

She has a long evening ahead waiting for, then making arrangements with, the head of the clinic, who comes late – but seems kind, thoughtful and passionate about his cause. He talks a lot, but in gentle tones. Barbara, Jan and I excuse ourselves, retreating to the balcony to give them some space. I look back at the two of them sitting inside – Ann’s dyskinesia is so bad she can barely hold her head up, and she is swaying from side to side as she continues to discuss plans for her death the following day.

When he leaves, she asks us to fetch her a gin and tonic. She wants to celebrate: she is finally here, and tomorrow she will end her life. When I first started talking to Ann about going to Switzerland, she called it “the procedure”, but tonight she is more blase. “We’ll plan to leave the hotel about 10.30, and I want to be dying by about 12,” she announces.

On the morning of her death, Ann is calm and serene. She eats her breakfast in the apartment with the sun streaming through the balcony doors, then discusses the next steps. We make a playlist to go with her death. My mother and I go down to the restaurant to book a table for the evening, for three people. The proprietor looks at us. “Not four?” he says. “No, three.” It is hard for me to say the words.

After breakfast we are driven to the clinic, which is done up as nicely as you can do up an industrial estate unit next to a garage with few windows and the whiff of petrol in the air. Enormous ferns and white modern furniture dot the large reception area, where we are greeted by a kindly woman who speaks some English. We fill out forms, and hand in our passports for the police to look at later. She takes us into the back room away from the heat of the day, where the waiting begins. We settle on sofas and chairs and talk quietly about how difficult it must be to set up such a place; the weather; the music Ann has chosen for her last moments. But it’s clear all she wants is for the drug to arrive. She is growing impatient for the peace she has travelled all this way for.


When the drug is finally delivered from the pharmacy about an hour later, the staff get things ready, and Ann moves to the bed. She gives no indication that she feels any fear. A cannula is put into her arm, a drip is set up and it is explained that she needs to push a little wheel to release the drug that will kill her. She is asked questions about why she is there and whether she understands what is about to happen, while a video camera records her.

At her bedside, we tell her we love her, and Jan and Barbara hold her hands. Barbara reads The River Cannot Go Back. Ann tells me to write a good article. She was never interested in famous last words, and didn’t think there was anything left to say. We are synchronising the playlist with her Quaker friends back home, who are “lifting her into the light” from afar, so we message them to play the music and start it in the clinic. She pushes the wheel, she thanks the staff, she says goodbye to us, and then, in seconds, she is gone. Forty-five seconds. For her, even then, it is a long time.

Ann Bruce in 2005.
Ann in 2005. Photograph: courtesy of Charlotte Naughton

Even after so much preparation, there is suddenly, almost violently, a huge gap where she had been, in the room and inside me. For some reason, I hadn’t been expecting to feel so low. I think that, through her serenity, Ann had convinced me of the joy in this moment – but now she is gone there is only loss. We hug each other and sit with her for what feels like a long time. Then the police come.

The clinic’s operations are legal in Switzerland, but a woman has died, and some formalities must be observed before we can leave. We move back to the waiting room, leaving an officer and photographer to document what just happened. I am yearning to be released. I don’t want to be perched uncomfortably on this white sofa, sitting with this hollow feeling, exchanging tearful glances with Jan and my mother as the clinic staff work at their laptops and chat in Swiss German. I don’t want to have lost Ann. I want us to be four again. I want to be anywhere but here so I can work out how I feel and start to mourn. After a long hour, the police come back into the room and address the clinic staff. “Alles ist tip-top,” is the only phrase I catch. I take that to be a good sign.

When we get back to England, the first thing we do is contact the British police. I am interviewed under caution on 14 July – a gentle questioning by a sympathetic officer, who does her best to put me at ease.

Then we wait to hear whether it will be taken any further. Two months later, on 7 September, the officer calls to say the case will be filed. The police have chosen not to refer the investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service, but it was a possibility we had all had to face, and my tearful relief when the call finally comes shouldn’t take me by surprise. I wish I could tell Ann.

Not long before we made the trip, I asked Ann if she had any regrets. She confided that she would have liked to know what happened next in The Archers. I told her she would have to create her own ending, and asked her about stories in real life that she would not see completed. She was sad not to see what her best friend did next. “She’s at quite a crossroads in her life, there are loads of possibilities. And I’d like to know what happens with the family, with you.”

Her biggest regret, however, was not having children. But her work as a doctor had involved visits to struggling new mothers, and she wasn’t sure she would like it. “The picture of endless nappies – I somehow hadn’t got a very good image of what it could be like to have small babies around and enjoy them … I think looking back I could have done it and I wish I had, but we make these decisions as best we can at the time. I guess it gave me freedom that other people might not have had.”

I asked her if she had perhaps seen the worst side of chronic illness in her work, too, and whether she might end up with a different view of dying naturally if she didn’t go through with this. She looked at me aghast. “What, plodding on until it gets me?” She would never have regretted her decision to end her life.

Not all of us are ready to hold a party at a deathbed, but perhaps we can at least listen to people who are desperately ready for life to stop. Ann felt that in England we had got dying wrong by avoiding discussion and focusing too much on extending life at all costs. She was sad for what she had lost, but she wanted to be in control, to make her own choice to die, not be forced to live in suffering. She felt she had reached her river’s end and wanted to join the sea. But she had to travel too far to find it.



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Is Putting Hotel Luggage in the Bathtub Upon Arrival a Good Idea?


Since at least August 2021, online advertisements have displayed a photograph of a purported hotel trick regarding placing luggage in the bathtub. The ads appeared to promise to explain why suitcases would need to go in such a seemingly odd spot. For example, this ad appeared next to an article on the 10news.com website. It read: “Hotel Tricks: Luggage Goes in the Bathtub ASAP.”

An ad promised a hotel trick for luggage going in the bath tub ASAP.
This ad was hosted by what is known as the Outbrain advertising network.

We clicked the ad. It led to a lengthy slideshow article on the Definition.org website about supposed “hacks” for hotel rooms. The headline read: “The Ingenious Hotel Hacks You Need To Pack In Your Bag.”

The story never ended up mentioning anything about placing luggage in a hotel room’s bathtub. We clicked through 30 pages of nonsense so our readers wouldn’t have to. It was nothing but clickbait, just like another ad we reported about that involved an empty toilet paper roll.

While the 30-page article mentioned nothing about luggage in a hotel bathtub, a little bit of research led us to find out that it can have a legitimate purpose.

Educators at Penn State University, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, and The University of Maine, all recommend placing luggage in the bathtub when checking into a hotel room. Some suggest it’s also fine to temporarily leave the suitcases in the hallway.

The reason given is simple: bedbugs.

 
The experts on bedbugs that appear in videos like these don’t necessarily recommend that all hotel guests always put their luggage in the bathtub. Rather, if guests are fearful of bedbugs, it’s a safe place to store suitcases, purses, and other belongings, while they search the room for pests. An infestation can prove to be quite the costly situation.

The chances of a hotel room having bedbugs is small, just like the size of the creatures. According to Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an urban entomologist at Cornell University, “public awareness skyrocketed” to levels beyond the actual chances of experiencing a bedbug infestation. This appeared to be due to a surge in news reports, which perhaps made the issue look like a larger problem than it actually is. Gangloff-Kaufmann was cited in a 2013 story from National Geographic.

The unsanitary nature of placing suitcase wheels in a place where people are meant to bathe themselves may not sound like a good idea. However, fearful hotel guests can simply bring a large trash bag when they travel, so they can lay it down in the tub to keep the surface clean for several minutes. Many brands of trash bags can be torn open on both sides to completely open the plastic, resulting in a longer plastic surface for the bathtub.

An ad promised a hotel trick for luggage going in the bath tub ASAP.
A bedbug. (Courtesy: AJC1/Flickr)

Once guests have checked the room for bedbugs, including all around the bedding, mattress, box spring, and frame, as well as under and around the straps on luggage racks, it’s recommended to place the suitcases directly on the rack. It is not recommended to keep suitcases on the floor or the bed. Multiple pest control articles have mentioned that placing luggage on the hotel room’s floor or directly on the bed could result in bringing home a bedbug infestation, however minuscule the chances of such a thing might be.

The idea of placing luggage in a bathtub wasn’t the first time we saw what, at first, appeared to be odd hotel “hacks” and “tricks.” For example, an ad claimed that there was some grand reason why hotel guests should “always” put coins in the bathroom sink. We also reported on an ad that purportedly revealed an important tip on why guests should “always” put a towel under their hotel door.

For a full rundown of how to check for bedbugs upon arrival to a hotel room, check out a full guide from BobVila.com.

Note: The bed bug photograph is credited to AJC1 on Flickr.

Snopes debunks a wide range of content, and online advertisements are no exception. Misleading ads often lead to obscure websites that host lengthy slideshow articles with lots of pages. It’s called advertising “arbitrage.” The advertiser’s goal is to make more money on ads displayed on the slideshow’s pages than it cost to show the initial ad that lured them to it. Feel free to submit ads to us, and be sure to include a screenshot of the ad and the link to where the ad leads.



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