Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dreaming of Circling the Globe

The other day I found myself poring over this Google map. Each red dot marks a place I've visited in the past four years. Google has been watching me.

Some places don't count: in Seoul I was in transit to Busan, in Salt Lake City we were on our way to Palm Springs, and in Amsterdam I was in transit to Edinburgh or Newcastle upon Tyne.

You can see dense clusters of red dots. Of course the densest cluster is Minneapolis where I live, but there are clusters in the northeast of England where I grew up, Hawaii, and Japan. These are important physical locations in the place where I live. Place is complicated.

In each of the past four years I made separate trips to both Europe and Asia. This week I found myself wondering what it would mean to aggregate the separate journeys. What would a round-the-world journey look like?

Each year, my overseas journeys are some variant on this:


I can make the same stopovers with a route that circles the globe:

MSP-HNL-NRT-AMS-NCL-AMS-MSP: 18,412 miles.

This circular route is over 4,000 miles shorter and  provides opportunities for stopovers in Asia.

I sometimes toy with traveling on a round-the-world (RTW) ticket. An RTW ticket allows you to circle the globe while making several stopovers for a fixed price.

RTW fares used to be a good value but these days they seem expensive, starting around $5,000 in coach. Competition from budget airlines and reasonably priced one-way fares make RTW's less attractive for the type of journey I'm planning.

Tokyo Narita to Amsterdam Schiphol, ¥39,610 (USD$379)

US$379 from Tokyo to Amsterdam on Etihad seems unbeatable. But if I booked it today with the Etihad app I'd get an additional 10% discount.

I find myself chopping up the journey. Isn't this a chance for that multi-day hike in Hong Kong? How about a stopover in southern India, or the United Arab Emirates, or both? 

Google is watching me. Already, advertisements on Web pages reflect and build on my searches. They scream "Business Class to Mumbai for $3,500" and other suggestive sells.

In the coming weeks, as I receive daily radiation therapy to hopefully eradicate the last vestiges of my prostate cancer, I'll be playing around with different itineraries.

Once I know I can travel comfortably, I'll make a round-the-world itinerary real.

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