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….and like that, we circled the world. We just got back from our around-the-world journey to celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday. I’ve flown to both Europe and Asia before, but I’ve never circled the globe in one trip. I didn’t really ever think I would circle the globe in one trip. I mean, that is something that real explorers do, not families from East Texas, right? Wrong.
As it turns out, traveling (literally) around the world is something that folks with miles and points and a desire to travel can do. With the exception of the final three hours of the journey from LAX to Houston on a United operated flight, and the Maldivian Airlines transfers from Male to Kooddoo, the entire experience was in business class – most of it lie-flat business class. As a visual reference, here is a map of our journey from the Great Circle Mapper. It clocks in at 22,902 miles flown.
I’ve got lots of pictures and notes from all of the flights that I will share relatively soon (after I finish our Paris trip report), but as we fly toward home on the last leg of the journey I wanted to write down a few thoughts.
The world is both big, and small.
On the one hand, I feel like we have been flying forever, and on the other hand I can’t believe we are already nearly home. The getting home part did take quite a long time as we left the Park Hyatt Maldives resort about 42 hours before we landed back in Houston. However, to have spent two days in Amsterdam, gone through Istanbul, stayed four nights in The Maldives, and gone home through Singapore, Taipei, and Los Angeles in 8 days is pretty incredible.
Business class was the only thing that made it work.
I love travel, but I am not masochistic enough to want to travel literally around the world in a short amount of time in coach. That would be exhausting, painful, and no fun at all (for me). Being able to get reasonably comfortable on the planes and lie down to get some sleep was the key to this working. As I write this, I’m not home yet, but I feel like aside from some general exhaustion that I will deal with the first few days, I’m going to be able to go to bed at a normal time and immediately hop back into my normal busy mom schedule. Add to that some stretching (and if I splurge maybe a quick massage) and it is almost like all the flying never happened.
We didn’t lose days on the trip adjusting to where we were, as we were able to rest on the plane in lie-flat seats, and then just keep on moving once we landed. To me that is the key to business class – being able to rest on-board and not waste time on the trip or upon the return home flat out exhausted. At times the food on-board was pretty decent, too.
Travel makes you want more travel.
Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be going home right now, but experiencing different parts of the world just makes me want more. For example, transiting through parts of Asia to get home just made me want to leave the airport and stay a while. Destinations that sound so ‘foreign’ and intimidating when looking at a globe, really are just a plane ride or two away. We looked at the map as we were in Singapore and Taipei and saw how close we were to so many other places we also wanted to visit. I’m glad we had a couple of stops on our journey around the world, but I wish we could have had a few more as well. I hope that the next time we are able to take a trip this ‘big’, we will have even longer to stop and smell the roses (or the tea, or the noodles, or the tulips, or whatever the case may be).
You can’t take too many pictures.
The trip always seems to go by so quickly, and while you can certainly capture some moments in your mind, it helps to have some pictures to go along with that. From the blueness of the water, to the rainy day hanging out and playing chess, I can’t help but smile looking back at some moments from the journey. I have pictures to thank for picking up where my memory leaves off.
Travel isn’t always as hard in other countries.
The longest lines and biggest attitudes we encountered on our journey were upon arrival back into our home country at LAX. I’m not about to pretend that security, airport operations, customs, and immigration are perfect everywhere else but here. However, we at least felt like we were treated as the customer, or even at least as a human, everywhere else we went. We weren’t expected to be able to read minds and know how all the procedures went in all the airports we visited. Instead, we were told through words, hand gestures, pointing, etc. what we should do next. Back here in the good old US of A, within 30 minutes of arrival we had been yelled at, fussed at, and ignored by airline and customs folks. We weren’t treated as a customer or person, we were treated as garbage… which we probably looked and smelled like by that point, but that’s another story.
I really feel for those who are visiting this country and start their visit in that manner. It isn’t necessary and it isn’t like that in many other places. We should be happy people want to visit our country, because there are lots of other great places to choose from as well.
Miles and points dramatically bring down the cost of travel.
This trip certainly wasn’t free, but the overall cost was brought down dramatically thanks to miles and points. Having such a large portion of your travel expense already covered thanks to airline miles and hotel points, you can shift your spending to other things like excursions, shopping, spa visits, and more and still be able to come home to pay the mortgage. Of course if you are traveling on a tighter budget then leveraging miles and points for the bulk of your costs means that you don’t have to spend very much out of pocket at all if you don’t want to or can’t.
I will also add that if you are newer to traveling on miles and points and trips like this seem way “too big” or out of your league, just wait. A few years ago I never thought I would be able to fly in business class seats on Singapore, Turkish, or EVA and yet I did. I didn’t even have the destinations they serve on the list of places I wanted to go simply because I wasn’t dreaming big enough. I didn’t think it was possible, so I didn’t bother wanting something I couldn’t have. Well, after a little patience and a lot of miles and points earning, that has changed.
Do it with friends.
Solo travel can be very freeing and exciting in its own right, but sometimes being able to share the experiences with friends and loved ones is pretty cool. Obviously my husband was with me the entire trip, but we were also lucky enough to meet up with friends both in Amsterdam and in the Maldives.
That fact that this was his big birthday celebration made it a little easier to rally friends to meet up than it otherwise might have been, but even without a specific “reason”, any chance you have to share a part of the world with friends is special. Having friends with miles and points makes it much more likely that they will be able to meet up with you around the world, so be sure to help those you care about the most earn miles, too (or be ready to share some of yours)!
Have a good carry-on bag.
We did this whole trip with just carry-on luggage. This meant that there was no chance we were going to get separated from our stuff, and it also cut down on waiting time for our bags everywhere we went. This strategy wouldn’t have worked if we needed bulkier winter clothing, but it worked just fine for spring/summer attire. Since we were managing our own bags the whole way, it really paid off to have very good carry-on bags that were light, easy to maneuver, and legal carry-on size. I’ll be writing a review of my new Rimowa carry-on soon, but if I liked it before this trip, I loved it by the time the trip was done.
The flight home is still the best.
This trip around the world was amazing. I don’t think I will even fully recognize what a big deal it was until weeks, months, or years down the road. However, coming home to my amazing kiddo after the longest we have ever been apart is the most exciting part. This trip just didn’t make sense to bring her along, so instead we used both sets of grandparents while we were away. I’m sure she had a good time in our absence, and we had a good time while she was safely back home, but it is high time to be reunited.
My kid, my dog, my bed, my shower, and my kitchen will all be welcome sights. I’m so grateful to have the ability to visit destinations very far away, but yet still have a warm and inviting (and probably messy) home to return to.
Don’t be afraid to journey far from home. A worst case scenario is that you will simply end up appreciating where you live even more. A best case scenario is that you have an amazing journey and want to do it all over again.
After laundry and a shower, of course.