Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Don't take away my duty free ritual!
Apologies for the delay in this posting, folks.

The news in the Middle East has resulted in a lot of our planned shoots for Art of Life being modified to accommodate my role as anchor of CNN Today.

I was supposed to go to St. Tropez a couple of weeks ago to interview Puffy/P. Diddy/Puff Daddy. He was there to shoot a commercial for his new fragrance Unforgivable, as well as to host his annual White Party. That assignment was given to my colleague Justin Armsden. I'm trying to get him to cough up some gossip on how it went. All he will say is it wasn't the easiest of shoots. Hmm ... loaded statement, I know.

In the midst of all the activity in the newsroom about the current conflict in Lebanon and Israel, another story erupted, which was the alleged terrorist plot to blow up aircraft over the Atlantic that was supposedly foiled.

Now if indeed there was a plot, it will have resulted in a few things:
1) A thinking (or hope) that British and American intelligence is working.
2) A potentially massive disaster was averted and
3) The way we shop at the duty free stores before we board our planes may change for ever.

While the first two are good news, the third is what has me not looking forward to flying. See, whenever I go on a trip for Art of Life, I try to make sure I leave for the airport extra early just so that I can browse through the stores (and maybe pick up a few things like perfumes, make-up, and if I'm being really extravagant, a lovely handbag.) Not only that, when I'm about to go on holiday, I love just browsing the drugstores and even liquor stores for my Dad who looks forward to a nice bottle of Scotch whenever I go home to visit.

But if these new rules are here to stay, my pre-boarding ritual will be gone. Sounds selfish, I know, but I and the millions of people who travel every day are contributing to what amounts to $25 billion in global sales in duty free shops worldwide. After all, shopping at luxury stores at the duty free counter can be considerably cheaper than elsewhere.

At the time of writing this I'm hearing rumblings that some of the tight restrictions are being lifted (we all knew that not carrying a handbag on the flight would be unfeasible -- although not being able to carry any make-up still has me quite concerned). And duty free shopping after you've gone through your security check is back on. Hallelujah! OK, so I may not be able to buy perfume or make-up but I can still browse, buy books and magazines, and maybe even get my shopping fix at the designer shops at Heathrow.

By the way, the Art of Life team is planning on travelling to Indonesia in a couple of weeks for a story on an holistic resort in Bali. Hopefully by then there will be some semblance of normality at the airport. We're all going to need a holistic experience after those long lines!

Seriously though, since 9/11 life as we know it has changed. Maybe it's my generation and the ones after me that are now realizing this. After all, our parents and grandparents have been through World Wars and revolutions. Whether our realisation manifests itself in tight security at airports or an understanding that there are people out there who want to hurt others, the reality is that feeling of safety that many of us had growing up isn't really there anymore. It's not naivete to feel that only now. It's an understanding that our lives are all interconnected in ways we probably wouldn't want to imagine -- that it's about us and them.

The hard part though is deciphering who is who. I only hope that little children growing up in this world of 24-hour news channels and endless coverage of "what could happen" and what is happening will be spared that rude awakening and when travelling with their parents for family vacations, they will still have that happy-go-lucky feeling.
Posted By Leetlegirl: Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Dear Monita,
Like you, I browse during my "wait" time at international airports and usually pick up some perfume for my wife or a bottle of liquor for the cabinet at decent prices. Usually a bottle of the locally made liquor to share with friends as well.
Can I do without? Sure.
I would prefer the convenience but looks like that portion of duty free is gone for the time being, perhaps for good.
Happy travels to you.
Posted By Anonymous Matt N., Thousand Oaks, CA : 3:35 PM, August 16, 2006
I see another change coming. Already, in certain airports, they will deliver your duty free to your gate so you can pick it up. Perhaps they will change it so they will deliver your duty free to the cargo hold so you can pick it up at your destination. I'm sure this will add a bit of cost and headache (after all, lost luggage is already a problem -- I'm sure lost duty free items would follow). But when you consider $25 billion in sales, I'm sure people will be motivated to find ways to keep us all shopping before we fly!
Posted By Anonymous Sara J., Milwaukee, WI, U.S.A. : 4:48 PM, August 16, 2006
I think your comment about safety is a little extreme. If you really want to look at it, no one has ever been safe, we are just now more aware because of 9/11. There have been many terrorists attacks foiled and successful before 9/11.
I still travel quite often and with a happy-go-lucky feeling although I've always been very aware of my surroundings and would report suspicious activity if I saw it. What else can you do? Hole yourself up and not live life?
I have to say that I'm all for security, but how much do we have to give up in personal freedoms before our government quits being so inept. Well, I guess the airlines better get bigger cups because I get thirsty when I travel!
Posted By Anonymous Meg W., Chicago, IL : 4:53 PM, August 16, 2006
Hopefully, the industry of duty free sales will step up to the plate and save us! I envision sealed bags that are managed by the purser on the flight and only retrieved by us upon landing. That would be cool. I too would miss my duty free experiences! I cannot imagine that this one will be lost!
Posted By Anonymous Liz Fox, Taos, New Mexico : 5:14 PM, August 16, 2006
Hi, I just wanted to say what a breath of fresh air your blog is. Thank you for your thoughts and words that make my day a little brighter.
Posted By Anonymous Thomas, Copenhagen Denmark : 5:35 PM, August 16, 2006
I am amazed that you feel put out over some of the restrictions in place around the world.
I have just declined to fly to the U.S.A. when I heard discovered that after passing through customs and being almost strip-searched that because of a U.S. plea to the Swiss, the cafes in outward-bound locactions are now closed. I wonder why and how dare the U.S. submit others to their stupid demands. How ridiculous can the world be?
Posted By Anonymous jonathan marshall. Bern Switzerland : 5:36 PM, August 16, 2006
I don't feel these measures make me any safer. Therefore, I cannot accept the inconvenience. The rules generated by the T.S.A. are almost comical in their inconsistency.
However, I agree with Sara that when there is money to be made, a way will be found! Duty free will not go away, but I am hoping that you will also be able to pre-pay for a bottle of pre-screened water for the long eight-hour flight as well ... and that it won't cost $5.
Some of use travel on budgets. Personally, I avoid the duty free.
Posted By Anonymous Sean, Torrington, CT : 6:15 PM, August 16, 2006
Forget about duty free, they will most definitely find a way -- $25 billion is a lot of money, and money talks nowadays. What about water and medicine? Aren't they a necessity for some travelers? Have a sip of water before you board to prove no explosives, or sell bottles at the airplane gates, but don't let sick passengers die because the flight attendant is too busy to bring water.
Posted By Anonymous Ari, New York, NY USA : 6:59 PM, August 16, 2006
You are definately not speaking for yourself alone. I sincerely hope in the coming months, a little normalcy will return to the way the airport lifestyle.
Posted By Anonymous Yemi, Lagos, Nigeria : 10:56 PM, August 16, 2006
Hi Monita, I am an artist, jewelry designer and writer. I am a devotee of the Art of Life show. I have been in Bali for 20 years and would like to invite you to my studio in Sanur. You can see a sample of my work at Hope you have a moment to come for a visit.
Posted By Anonymous Shunyata, Bali, Indonesia : 4:20 AM, August 17, 2006
I enjoy watching your show. Keep up with the good job. Kudos to CNN.

Posted By Anonymous UK : 6:30 PM, August 17, 2006
Is the Internet not the best wonder of world? Just discovered your blog. Am looking forward to reading the next and the next and the next. Maybe you should even come to Kenya for a few episodes -- you will love it!
Posted By Anonymous chebet,kenya : 2:38 PM, August 24, 2006
Hello. Have you ever considered doing a piece on the independent designers based in the U.S.?
Posted By Anonymous Jeff, Chicago, IL : 8:11 PM, August 25, 2006
Hi Monita. I think you are brilliant. I love your show.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 6:53 PM, August 26, 2006
My husband and I own a small Mom and Pop software company that requires at least one annual international trip to support our dealers outside America. Over the past 10 years of travel we developed a routine to cushion the 12 or 17 long hours in a pressurized airline cabin: carry-on water, fruit and salad for our own coach meal, carry-on comfy cotton to sleep in, carry-on a clean shirt for the arrival day, carry-on a laptop to work and a PDA to play Scrabble, and carry-on a duty free gift for our friends abroad. Depending upon how the airline carry-on rules evolve before our next trip to Heathrow this October, it may be less of a hassle to invest in video conferencing next year instead.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Los Altos, CA : 5:32 PM, August 28, 2006
Great stuff Monita!! Keep it going.
Posted By Anonymous Gordon,Bangalore- Karnataka : 8:21 AM, September 01, 2006
Hi Monita. I'm a TV producer from Sri Lanka and I've found your show to be truly informative, well written and fantastically edited. Kudos to you and your team!! Great work! In fact I tell my anchors to watch the show to learn how to present a documentary because you do it so naturally.
Posted By Anonymous Romayne Sri Lanka : 10:15 AM, September 03, 2006
Hi Monita. Funny thing. I'm going to London / Stanstead tomorrow, and eagerly await the duty-free browsing. I still feel a little bit of the happy-go-lucky feeling you are talking about.. Keep up art of life :)
Posted By Anonymous Matti Richoux Oslo, Norway : 7:35 PM, September 03, 2006
I have a suggestion for the show. Why not include a section on the most expensive brands for bags, shoes, watches and designer ceramics. For example, Rosenthal with Versace. You could include make-up, new exotic designer perfumes and jewelry. Also, how about tips for the middle class as to how they can get hold of the latest designer gear and the best picks for the season.

Congrats to the entire team ... you guys are doing great work.
Posted By Anonymous Mallika, Kuwait : 12:36 PM, September 05, 2006
The problem is can the governments take the risk of relaxing the rules knowing how "innovative" the terrorists can be? A duty free buy will not be of much use if the plane fails to land :)
In fact, I don't think that even now the airlines are safe. We all are just "flying" our luck. I wouldn't mind leaving everything behind before boarding an aircraft if my luggage can be delivered to me safely at the destination even with a three-hour delay.
Posted By Anonymous bharat, winston salem, NC : 6:19 PM, September 16, 2006
Hey Monita, I've been eagerly awaiting for you to post a new blog entry. It's been a month. Where are you? Hopefully somewhere exotic! Looking forward to hearing about the past month's adventures and whether you've managed to buy any duty free lately -- and what exactly you've bought. Maybe a nice designer hangbag ;).
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Hong Kong : 11:14 PM, September 16, 2006
Hi Monita, every chance I get to watch you on CNN, I feel great. You are so intelligent and professional and motivate me. I really enjoy listening to you.
Posted By Anonymous queretaro mexico : 12:25 AM, September 20, 2006
Monita, My favourite airport duty free shopping area is at Johannesburg International, where there's good shopping for all. Inexpensive jewelry and craft items as well as fabulous gemstones and books. Also handbags, make up and alcohol - Amarula anyone? The area is small enough for easy shopping and large enough for variety. It makes getting to the airport early a pleasant experience.
Posted By Anonymous Ruth, Kitwe, Zambia : 3:18 PM, September 21, 2006
Interesting perspective.

Michael Locker MD
Posted By Anonymous Michael Locker MD, Chicago, IL : 4:02 PM, September 21, 2006
This is a really good, creative read -- and inspiring too. To those who are doing their best to give something meaningful, beautiful and useful to their society, they all need passion in their lives. Passion rescues us from the ups and downs in life.

Passion is the main tool of human nature that is playing a key role to birth of success to anyone.
Posted By Anonymous Bodh Raj Neupane ,Transit in Japan , Tokyo : 12:48 AM, September 22, 2006
Hi Monita, I'd really like to know which holistic spa you're going to in Indonesia. There are so many!
I'm hoping to spend my vacation there next year and your program will help me decide.
Posted By Anonymous Naiyan, london : 1:51 PM, September 22, 2006
Dear Monita,
As Andy Warhol once said: shopping is more American than thinking... and like any good American I just love a bargain, especailly to alleviate any pre-flight jitters. In addition to shopping, I do occasionally think, and on a recent flight from JFK to Rome it occured to me: the inadequacies of security control (that can't possibly make you 100 percent safe) should serve instead to put into perspective what is really important in life. While we enjoy a great abundance, it is not things, but people and the experiences we share with them that count. For this reason, I would like to thank every vermin terrorist for the inconveniences they create. It is a reminder to me to live every day passionately, loving my family and friends more deeply. In the meantime, No liquids, No problem. I will shop 'til I drop, or get blown away at 33,000 feet!
Posted By Anonymous Susan Corbo Rome, Italy : 5:18 AM, October 03, 2006
Hi Monita, I love your way of anchoring. I tell you, it's wonderful. I'm a journalism student, and a graphics editor. You are a source of inspiration.
Posted By Anonymous Maryline Allo, Cameroon : 9:24 AM, November 06, 2006
CNN anchor Monita Rajpal blogs about her experiences filming the "Art of Life" show.

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