2012 Travel Review – Crossing the 100k Line
Despite being so delayed with blog posting (and posts from our Christmas trip to Istanbul are coming – really!), one post that really can’t be too fashionably late is the year-end review.
Last year’s review was titled “The Year of Travel”, but you are probably not surprised to hear that 2012 surpassed it in many ways – I flew more and was away more. However, there seemed to be fewer new locations (as work trips tended to be to places I’d already been, or to the US), and less leisure travel (it was quite hard to find time for that!). As I write that, though, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t highlights – more on that later.
While I was away from home for 94 nights in 2011, or just over 25% of the year, in 2012 I was not at home for 119 nights, or just shy of 1/3 of the time. 26 of those nights were with Astrid, so we were not together for 93 nights – which also roughly means that those 93 nights were business travel and the 26 were personal. The breakdown by location was 42 nights in the US, 23 in continental Europe, 17 nights in Asia, 12 in the UK, 7 in Australia, 6 in South America, and a whopping 11 nights on board airplanes…and 1 night on board a train.
After flying about 50,000 miles in 2010 and 83,000 miles in 2011, 2012 comes out at over 111,000 miles – or nearly 4.5x the distance around the earth and just shy of half of the distance to the moon! That adds up to an estimated 239 hours of flying time, which means an average travel speed of about 465mph. If we conservatively assume that one typically spends at least an extra half hour per flight on the airplane (that isn’t counted in the official time), then that’s about 258 hours, or more than 10.5 full 24-hour days, on airplanes.
As in 2011, my flying was predominantly long-haul; 22 of 37 flights were longer than 6 hours, and almost all of the rest were short-haul (less than 3 hours), with our recent flights to Istanbul being the only mid-haul flights of about 4 hours each. My flights were also more on familiar airlines; leading with 14 flights on British Airways (38% of flights, but only 27% of miles – due to shorter flights to/from Jersey, Oslo, and returns from Germany and Barcelona).
Cathay Pacific emerged as a new favorite for me – I did fly them once before in 2011 (on a short regional flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok), I flew 8 long-haul flights with them for a total of 41,500 miles – including to/from Australia and across the Pacific.
My only new airlines in 2012 were Thai Airways and Air Canada (although feeling more familiar being North American, albeit with that annoying French being spoken all the time!). I also had four flights on Qatar, which is frequently rated as the world’s best airline, and I’m happy to confirm that they are quite good. More toward the other end of the spectrum, after a year off in 2011 I had two flights in 2012 on easyJet – previously we flew them a lot in 2010, but most of the short-haul travel around Europe has now been replaced with reward tickets on BA.
The only routes I flew more than once were London to Washington (twice, both on BA) and Hong Kong to London (twice, both on Cathay Pacific), although I flew Hong Kong to London a third time via Doha on Qatar as well. In terms of airports, London Heathrow was naturally the most popular, featuring as the start of finish of 20 out of the 37 flights, but the airport’s design of completely separate terminals makes it feel less monotonous (I flew 6 in and out of Terminal 5, three times in and out of Terminal 3, and once in and out of Terminal 4). However, Hong Kong International was a strong second at ten times – and all during a roughly 10-week period in the fall (as discussed here previously). The only other airports that I landed or took-off from more than twice (i.e. more than just once in and once out) were four times each at Toronto, San Francisco, Doha, and Dallas, and an uneven three times at Washington Dulles and London Gatwick.
Before looking back chronologically at the year in more detail, train travel certainly warrants mention here. Although 2012’s train travel cannot beat the awesomeness of the Shinkansen in Japan at the end of 2011, in 2012 we did take some of the most scenic routes in the world in Scotland, two trips through the Channel Tunnel (which sadly now feel pretty commonplace but are still quite amazing!) and I slid in a quick short segment on a Chinese high-speed train (being sure to not ride in the first or last car!).
We started the year with a visit from our friend Bill, and we enjoyed exploring transit around London while also squeezing in a quick weekend trip up to Newcastle and York.
I quickly followed Bill back across the Atlantic for TRB, the annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington that attracts more than 11,000 people. As always, going to Washington is an opportunity to see great friends Sarah and Drew as well as visit family in Baltimore. After a few days in Washington, my boss and I traveled in caravan up to New York – he was one train ahead of me, and it felt like we spent most of the journey trying to communicate by constantly-dropping phone calls and lousy Amtrak wi-fi as we prepared for meetings the next day.
We had a great long-weekend planned for early March in western Germany, but ultimately had to cut it short due to me being pretty sick after the whirlwind Texas trip. You can find a few photos of that trip here.
After returning from Texas at the end of February, I actually didn’t travel outside of Europe again until the end of July, a period of five months! That seems hard to believe, perhaps, given the total tally for the year, but illustrates how concentrated inter-continental travel was in the fall.
Still, those five months were certainly not quiet. In between hosting three different house guests for a total of over a month (Astrid’s mom, my brother, and Astrid’s friend from Switzerland), we made several European trips. I had work trips to Paris, Newcastle, Barcelona, and Oslo, and Astrid joined me after the Paris and Oslo meetings for some great long weekends. We’re thinking of trying to visit Barcelona sometime in the next couple of months, as it is a good winter destination for a long weekend city break.
Without a doubt, our long weekend in Paris was one of the year’s absolute highlights, as we finally figured out how to enjoy the City of Light (and love!). We also threw in a last-minute crazy weekend getaway to (old) Jersey, thanks to the great last-minute availability of British Airways reward tickets…short distances are just 9000 miles and £30 per person for a round-trip.
My second trip of the year to Washington at the end of July was a bit of a professional highlight of the year – I was asked to come and present at a workshop. Somehow, I managed to navigate the federal government bureaucracy to get them to pay for business class on British Airways too (the rules state that the ticket has to be with a US-based airline and cheaper than the reference trip, but as I was willing to stay over a Saturday night to see family and friends and was able to leverage the AA-BA trans-Atlantic joint venture, it was possible!). After the meeting in Washington I spent a couple of days in New York, staying for the first time in the Times Square area (which felt quite odd after living there).
At the end of August was another of the year’s highlights – a business trip to Brisbane, Australia. I’m still aiming to post something specific about Brisbane and impressions of Australia – I found it to be an odd combination of California and Britain! The journey was incredible – over 10,000 miles and 22 hours in flight each way. Despite knowing that, it is still a bit hard to get your head around how far away the place actually is – from anything.
Not long after getting back from Australia, I embarked on the mega-trip that saw me travel from London to Bangkok, then on to the West Coast of the US and back again. Apart from being my longest trip ever at 25 nights away, it included a combination of a new place (Bangkok) as well as some more familiar but still quite favorite places on the West Coast of the US. I have to admit that I didn’t like Bangkok too much – the heat alone made me almost pass out the minute I stepped outside!
The trans-Pacific flights were in some ways the highlight of the trip, although very much saddened by not being with Astrid for our fifth wedding anniversary. You can read about it, including how I arrived in San Francisco before I left Hong Kong, here. As a stopover point, I enjoyed two separate one-day visits to San Francisco, which is definitely in my top five cities worldwide, as well as more than two weeks in the Pacific Northwest. The long journey back home was mitigated by again excellent service from Cathay Pacific.
After the mega-trip Astrid and I had a great weekend in Belgium, and then headed off for opposite sides of the world in November, as she headed west to the US and I east to China. After a very hard week of work in Guangzhou, and mostly seeing the walls of the Sheraton hotel, I spent a day in Shenzhen and a day in Hong Kong before the journey home.
The last work trip of the year was to Sao Paulo, not much more than a year after my first trip there in October 2011. Unfortunately, December in Brazil is approaching the heart of summer, which means temperatures some days were near or even over 100F. The journey on Air Canada was pleasant, including the stop in Toronto (see an upcoming post), and I was glad to be able to move up my return a bit to get home sooner to a very sick Astrid at the end.
At the very end of the year, our Christmas vacation in Istanbul rounded out quite a busy year. I think we’ve started doing a good job of trying to take advantage of the perks of such a busy work travel schedule, such as air miles – our trip to Istanbul cost just miles and £60 total, when the retail price for the same tickets would have been about £500 or more. Furthermore, I was able to snag two exit row seats on the tired old BA 767, making the four-hour journey much more comfortable.
What’s on tap for 2013? I’m sure there are some surprises around the corner, but on the work side already planned is a January trip (in just 11 days’ time, actually) to Washington and New York, where I’m presenting at the huge TRB conference for the first time, as well as a likely March trip to the western US and an April trip to new places in South America, primarily Buenos Aires. On the personal side we’ve got a short weekend hop to St. Malo by overnight ferry and the very exciting trip to the Maldives, where we will try the beach getaway in style (and thanks to air miles and hotel points). Stay with us as we try to catch up and share more of our adventures in 2013, and best wishes to you and yours for a best-yet new year!