There has been much talk lately of how everybody except big oil is in a major downturn. Housing stinks, Wall Street geniuses are looking for work and while some manufacturing is up, you better be prepared to get a new job if you work for a domestic auto company and our import/export deficit can't keep up with the long term price of oil. And how will the consumer keep up, now that the housing ATM is shut-off?

Yet, my vacation found a much brighter picture. There is a buzz around the farm communities that hasn't been there for years.  Commodity prices are swinging, but most have locked in healthy profits.  There finally is money in the bank, or at least a healthy balance sheet,  to upgrade the house, buy those acres the old neighbor's son had been renting to them or buying the equipment that they needed.  Single mansion sized houses are going up in a sea of  corn.  Much of the heartland is springing back to life.

On the ship to Alaska there were many Aussie, Asians and Canadians aboard.  Still plenty of free spending USA citizens.  To get the best views at supper you would request to sit with other couples or families. Each on hearing my profession, asked my opinion on the subprime mess and when the banks would recover.  However, each talked glowingly about their local economies and jobs. In no particular order I meet a nurse that coordinates Canadian health care, a retired merchant marine, a retired naval man, a retired dock worker, a Las Vegas golf course lawn care pro, a semi-retired air force pilot, a director of a drug rehab facility, a couple of tax preparers, a personal trainer/rehab for a nursing home, a nurse, a ski resort masseuse, a few small business owners.  Not only did their jobs seem to be in high growth economic areas, their communities invariably did also.

It may have been that this was my first vacation starting from a west coast  cruise, but I only meet one guy that sheepishly admitted that he was a stock broker during the early hay-days of the 90's before starting his own business. The makeup of who are taking these luxury vacations seems to have completely changed from the 90's.  While there where many foreigners it seemed that their make-up has changed to much more European.  There also were considerable more Asian. They too seemed to be a different group than the technology smart group, hip youth who planned on making USA their permanent home.  Now many foreign tourists seem to be much more broad professionals group, with family in tow.  All seemed willing to spend freely.

The staff was composed of almost all foreigners.  It appeared that the ship was able to pick the cream of the crop.  And on talking with the staff, reinforced this assumption. From the lowest cabin maid to the first mate besides being well groomed, they were bright, spoke great English, eager to please and were very friendly. Many nationalities where represented. From First World to Third World all seemed glad to be on a vessel touring the USA.

While such a census may be simply be descriptive, not predictive, sometimes carefully watching for who is prospering and inferring the future paths can be helpful. It would seem the old definitions hold: recession — when your neighbor loses his livelihood; depression — when you do.


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