Thoughts Upon Circling The Globe

I’m sitting back in Panama City, back in my usual routine – for a Sunday morning that means enjoying a cup of coffee (or three) at my favorite local coffee shop. It almost feels weird after having been used to every few days finding myself in a new country and flying thousands upon thousands of miles. So, it seems like this would be the perfect time to sit down and reflect on the initial thoughts that have entered my head since I’ve completed this journey and before I sit down to start cranking out the full story (which, I promise, I will be completing in a much more timely manner!).

For starters…I survived! I think considering all that I could have been potentially exposed to, all the time spent onboard aircraft, the changes in climate and so on, it feels like I should have caught some bug along the way that would make me temporarily miserable. I’m very much thankful that did not happen, given that my average time in a destination was around 3 days. Also a good thing that nothing major happened, because this was one trip where I was going to buy travel insurance, but I forgot to actually purchase it…

On Economy Class
It’s amazing how much of a difference Economy Comfort / Comfort+ on Delta can make when you’re stuck in the back of the plane. Obviously having been Platinum for almost four years before just getting the downgrade to Gold back in March of this year, the majority of times I have flown in Economy over the past several years it has been in the Economy Comfort / Comfort+ sections with the extra legroom. There is nothing that makes you appreciate those few extra inches of pitch like sitting on an aircraft for nearly 16 hours (~15.5 hour flying time + time on the ground). In comparison, the trip that first got me to Medallion status on Delta, back in 2010 to Sydney was a lot more miserable due to the fact that on my return flight I could not recline and my knees were right up against the seat in front of me. Actually this is what it was like on a large number of my flights on this RTW trip – Vietnam Airliens A330 being quite possible the worst.

Next time (well, who knows when that would be since RTW awards do not exist anymore), I’d definitely do a Business Class award. In fact my next overseas trip will most definitely be a Business Class award. Like how I usually do it…

Why Haven’t I Done This Before?
That was probably the biggest thought in my head here. Granted feeling like I could take three weeks off from work has always been something that I’ve struggled with and was probably the biggest obstacle to overcome. Part of that was the fact that I’m still relatively early in my career (8 years of working at my company and 5 years since I graduated with my Engineering degree) and making sure I was doing everything that would put me on a solid track at my company. I mean, I travel for weeks on end for work, but personal trips it had at most been where I might take slightly more than a week off. Heck most of my trips throughout the year are quick weekend trips. It’s not exactly unheard of me to fly to Seattle on a Friday afternoon and then back to Florida mid-day Sunday. And then the one time I went to Alaska, I only did it by taking a Friday and a Monday off for a long weekend.

Then there was the thing that had confronted me since the end of 2014 – “use or lose”. Basically, given the number of hours I had been working I was having to take time off for example when I would return from work travel just to ensure that I wouldn’t lose any of my PTO hours. Actually, even with trying that I still lost a number of hours. In the end I rationalized it with this three week trip would make up for it all.

Considering that I have spent hundreds of thousands of Delta SkyMiles over the past 5 years (I think it stands at around 750,000 miles spent on various award tickets), I’ve had plenty of the years to burn on either Economy or Business Class RTW awards. One thing that did probably hold me back is that my account, under the now old SkyMiles earning rules (distance-based with %-based bonuses for Medallions) resulted in my account usually hovering around 200,000-300,000. I never really wanted to drain my account with the 280,000 SkyMiles required for the Business Class RTW (which so totally would have been worth it), despite the fact that it was “easy” then to keep replenishing my account. Now under the new SkyMiles program, I’m earning on a per dollar basis with multipliers based on Medallion status and on average for a transcon itinerary, I am only earning 60% of what I used to earn. This means I’ll accumulate fewer miles and it will be harder to do as much award travel as I have previously. And then there is the whole thing about the RTW Award being discontinued (in fact I had one of the last-issued tickets, mine having been booked on New Year’s Eve at around 7PM after having been on the phone for 9 hours).

Or perhaps, that despite being well traveled and nearly the majority of my trips ex-US being multi-country trips, perhaps I had not matured enough in a sense to be ready for a trip like this. Which, even just a few years ago even with multiple trips under my belt around the world, I may not have been. I mean, when I was last in Japan back in 2011, you wouldn’t have found me in a basement karaoke bar like on this trip.

But here is what I do know. Mentally, it’s like I crossed a line that I didn’t think existed. You see, I thought the line had been crossed a decade ago in 2004-2005; this is the time frame where I feel that I can trace back to where I really caught my wanderlust and started seeing travel as a necessity in life. Certainly that was the initial line, but now it’s like that I’ve traveled so far past that initial line that I can see other lines in front of me. Going around the world had to be one of those, because it’s hard to kinda one-up a trip where you do that. Granted if I had months on end available to me to do exactly that, that would have been wonderfully fantastical. Again, I feel like I fall back to the comment about maturing. It was in the waning months of 2014 that I set myself up with a new travel goal: Antarctica before I turn 30.

While this trip isn’t what led me to this goal, now that I have been to six out of the seven continents, this is the definite next line in the sand. How I will go about reaching and crossing this next line will be interesting. There’s obviously the cruise option which is expensive taking the trip from anywhere from $7,000-$15,000 or there’s the option that I like to flirt with: working in Antarctica. Granted, I kinda like my current job and the work that I do, so I don’t see myself exactly going that route. But you never know where life might take you!

So basically to answer the original question, I had a line to cross and I just wasn’t ready to cross it.

The time that I picked for this trip probably was not the most optimal. I had been initially eyeballing going in March which would have put me in South Africa in late summer, Dubai and Bangkok in comfortable temperatures; the Seychelles seem to be 87F and Sunny year round. That right there would have been perfect versus my June trip which put me in South Africa in Winter, Dubai while it was an oven and Bangkok with the hot and humid (to be fair, I’m from Florida, so not that bad). It was a good thing I did not go in March in the end as I was needing to be on the road for work the majority of that month, but when I booked this I didn’t know. Perhaps I lucked out with my decision to with June as compared to everything else, June was otherwise planned to be a quiet-ish month for work.

The challenge though is when you are traveling around the world and jumping between radically different climates though is packing all the right things. I really should have packed a fleece jacket in my bag for South Africa, however it would have just become extra weight for the following two weeks. If I do this again, I would definitely try to either travel in the more of the shoulder months if bouncing between North and South or potentially sticking more so to one side of the equator.

On Lodging
It’s not secret that I love luxury hotels and I love not having to use real money for them (hooray, points!) and that I have elite status in a few hotel programs. But, with that comes with the feeling that I maybe have strayed from my original travel roots. I’ve never really been one for hostels, even when I went to Europe those two spring breaks at UCF, but I used to stay at a lot of smaller hotels/guest houses/etc versus say a W or Conrad hotel. You definitely get different experiences, and despite the fact that I love big hotel rooms and upgrades to awesome suites, perhaps I need to find that balance to take me back to some of those smaller more intimate hotels in my future travels.

So there, those were some of the thoughts that I had whilst out there in the world on travel. Now, I just need to start working on the roughly 70GB of images I took and 200GB of video from my GoPro. I’ve got a lot to sort through and edit, but once I get that started I’ll start working out the posts for here too. I should have the first post or two up later this week!

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