There were so many questions about our column two weeks ago that we thought we had better continue the subject a little this week. We mentioned that our family is a bit travel-addicted, but that we justify it by its educational and perspective value and by the apparent compulsion we feel to be together.
We have just returned from a RTW (round-the-world) trip that took 18 days and had stops in Los Angeles, Honolulu, Shanghai, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Moscow, Zurich and New York. We gave some speeches and saw five of our kids and their families on the way around. Flying west and doing it with this many stopovers virtually eliminates jet lag because you can always fly during daylight, and as you gain time by setting your watch back, you have a few 28- or 29-hour days that make you tired enough to sleep soundly each night.
RTW fares are a genuine bargain and often cost less than a simple round trip to an overseas country. This recent one was $2,500 for each of us. If you Google RTW fares and let experts have a crack at your itinerary there can be big savings. Mid-day flights during the week are the least crowded and most comfortable, most likely to be on time and are boarded when airports are the least crowded. We keep it simple by traveling light and not checking bags. The frequent flyer miles pile up and multiply even more when you purchase with airline or bank credit cards that give bonuses and double and triple miles for travel.
We are lucky here in Utah to have an outstanding international airport with more non-stops to more places than most other cities our size. When we tell people in Europe or Aisa that we can drive to our airport from a world-class ski area in a half hour, or get to the terminals from downtown in a quarter hour on the train, they are amazed.
Not that it’s always pleasant — airplanes are fuller, leg space is shorter, service is spottier, but as we mentioned in the last column, airfares are often lower than they were decades ago if you shop around online and book early. With websites such as Kayak, Expedia and others, you can book your own trip and shop for the best prices. Flying without bags and with a boarding pass with pre-check on your smartphone, the hassle is cut to the minimum. And if you want the flight time to pass fast, bring something to work on — a journal, sketchbook, calendar, letters or emails. The more productive you are the faster the flight time flies. We often look at each other as our plane begins its descent and say “Oh no, I can’t believe we are landing — I still have so much to do.
Most flights have internet access now, but we rarely use it because flight time can be the one time when no one can reach you and where — if you choose not to browse or play games or watch movies on the smallest possible screen with the poorest possible sound — you can isolate your mind and your creativity and your attention to things of real value. (A good book will also pass the time, but why not use that rare, uninterrupted time to create or produce something?)
And the older we get, the shorter the flights seem to be.
We don’t like to schedule every minute on trips. Leave some “serendipity time” when you can just wander (or jog) around wherever you find yourself, seeing what you see and watching and hearing what’s new. When you visit family, don’t expect them to disrupt their regular schedule too much to be with and do things with you. Instead, live their schedule with them, tagging along and watching and learning and helping out where you can and taking off on your own now and then.
If money is a little tight, like it is for most of us, think about your spending and saving priorities. And don’t believe the reasoning that says “If I use money for travel, I have nothing to show for it like if I buy something with it.” What you have when you spend money wisely on travel is memories and relationships made or renewed, and those things usually last longer than “stuff” you might buy.
If you are parents, consider how much a little travel can enhance the perspective and education of your children. If you are grandparents, consider that the money you spend now to see kids or travel with them may be better spent than the money you leave to them after you are gone.
We admit that we may travel too much, as evidenced by the fact that we are both approaching 2 million frequent flyer miles on one airline alone, but every time we take off, we feel a renewed perspective, the anticipation of renewed distant relationships, and even an increased appreciation for the home we just left and will soon return to.