MUSINGS ON MY PAST TRAVEL LIFE

I’ve been mostly off the road for five years now, and though I take a fair number of air trips every year for both business and pleasure, it’s nothing like the 50 weeks a year I traveled for over 30 years.  If you’ve read my previous blog, you will know that I wanted to spend more time with my family and was weary and shopworn after three decades on nonstop globe trotting.  It was, I am certain, a good decision for me.

So why, I wonder, have I been finding myself recently longing to go to the airport, dreaming of walking down a Jetway, recalling many enjoyable flights, remembering favorite hotels, and smiling, rather than wincing, at some of the bad experiences of being stranded somewhere when the entire air transportation system failed me?

These memories and longings have been entirely spontaneous and unexpected.  For instance, I had a meeting earlier this week in downtown Raleigh, and when I walked into the big Marriott there, I was suddenly filled with feelings of familiarity and comfort.  That’s it:  It was a warm, comforting feeling to be in the confines of a big hotel.  It reminded me of, well, of everywhere: Hong Kong, Chicago, London, Sydney.  A big city hotel can feel like home sometimes, and that, I guess, is what I felt myself missing.

Ditto for airports and airport lounges, and in the oddest of places, too.  Recently while in a well-appointed men’s toilet in a chic corporate office building in the Research Triangle Park, I suddenly flashed on a first class lounge in the Dubai airport.

Some nights while lying in my bed at home when the HVAC system is humming in the dark, it reminds me of countless overnight transatlantic and transpacific flights with the sound of whooshing air sliding by the hull at 600 MPH and the steady thrum of the jet engines.  The memory is pleasant, and it helps me to fall asleep.

It’s weird, I know, and I can’t account for why I am suddenly longing for those experiences.  Perhaps because sufficient time has passed that the memory of the many horrible travel experiences that were also part of those years doesn’t give me nightmares any more.

OBSERVATIONS ON TRAVEL COSTS

In my previous post I told of struggling to find decent air fares to Italy and searching for accommodation.  I didn’t mention that I was simultaneously planning a trip to Belize over our kids’ Spring Break in March-April.  I was unhappy to find airfares on every carrier to BZE (Belize City) were about $1000 per ticket.  With four of us, that makes for an expensive week before we have counted in hotel and other expenses.

A similar disappointment in the cost of airfares to Billings, Montana on any day in June-August, 2014: So far the cheapest fare is $562 per person, which comes to $2248 for the four of us.  Again, an expensive start before adding in rental cars and so on.

All those fares are quite a bit steeper than ever.

I am also planning a return to one of my favorite places on earth next year, the Kruger National Park in South Africa. By comparison to the fares to Italy and Belize, it is much cheaper (considering how far it away it is). Checking Delta for award tickets, I could find the lowest (“saver”) award travel available for 100,000 miles round trip in February to get to Johannesburg, but I need to get all the way to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport near Nelspruit (MQP).  Checking all carriers, including recent sales on BA and SAA, as well as Delta, the entire air trip from RDU to MQP (3 or more flight legs, depending) is almost $1600 round trip in February, which is late summer in South Africa.  That’s actually $150 cheaper than it was last time I flew there in 2012.  I plan to firm up dates and buy tickets soon to take advantage of these relative bargains.

Anyone want to go to the Kruger for 10 days in February?  I will share the cost of a rental car.

HOW TO STAY ON THE NORTH CAROLINA COAST ON THE CHEAP

As I plan these exotic overseas trips, an old friend who retired from a successful career in the travel business let me know he is coming to stay on the North Carolina coast for several weeks in October.  Now living in Vermont, he can well afford to do as he pleases, but instead, he takes pleasure in traveling as cheaply as possible.

Here is his budget for a month (excluding food):

Outbound $95 – 26 hours door-to-door (Burlington, VT/NYC/DC via Megabus, then Amtrak DC/Wilmington, NC)

Return $110 – 24 hours door-to-door (Wilmington/NYC via Amtrak, then NYC/Boston/Burlington via Megabus)

House rental on Carolina Beach $625

Bike rental $80 (The beach is a mile from his rental house, and he plans to hit a food coop for meals 5 miles away.)

Not bad for under a thousand dollars.

CANDIDATES FOR GENETIC PRUNING

My final observation is that these visitors to the Kruger National Park in South Africa apparently have poor Darwinian instincts.  Lions are not pussy cats; they eat people.  Elephants are famously intolerant of people in close proximity.

Makes me wonder:  Are Kruger game rangers not enforcing the rules?  Of course over the many trips I’ve made to KNP since 1991 when I first visited, there have been occasions when I’ve had to get out of my vehicle to answer nature’s call.  However, I always made sure to pick a remote place on a back road with no animals present and 360 degree visibility.

This is different.  These folks are purposely placing themselves and others in danger in order to get a few digital images to brag about.  Just crazy.

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