My Blog Goes Visual

I know. People read blogs because they love to read. But for those in my audience that would rather watch than read, I’ve produced my first travel-blog video, recapping my post; The Witty Traveler’s Guide to Cruising Alaska. I’ve included the  link below and would welcome your feedback–good or bad.

http://youtu.be/5Y2aRE6r4Rs

The Source: New Links & Resources Page

I interrupt your regularly scheduled reading to bring you the following news. I’m excited to share my new Links & Resources page on the Trip Accomplice blog. Feel free to look and click through at will. More will be added shortly.MtCook 066 That is all. You may now return to your blog posts already in progress.

If You’re Going to India, Turn Right at Finland (And Other Stopover Ideas)

Many experienced travelers are familiar with the art of the stopover—that bonus destination on the way to your intended destination. For the novice, this is when your flight passes through another city on the way to your final destination, and you’ve arranged to stop over, and spend some time there before moving on. For many, any unnecessary stops are a nuisance, but if you play your cards right, you can use such stopovers to maximize your trip’s experience.

 

I’ll get into my “maximizing” concept in another post, but for now I’ll just say that those pesky stops on your way there or back can offer the chance to sample a destination you may not have initially targeted. And if you’re already in the neighborhood, why not take the time to stop over and smell the roses?

 

A Day in Helsinki Was A Free Bonus On My Trip To India
A Day in Helsinki Was A Free Bonus On My Trip To India

As a case in point, on my way to New Dehli, our flight (on Finnair) stopped in Helsinki, arriving at 8 in the morning and not continuing on until 8 that evening. What to do with that long layover? Why, head out into the city and explore, of course! Our group had coffee downtown, toured the sprawling World Heritage Site at the Suomenlinna Fortress, and navigated the subway system before returning for our onward flight. Did we see everything? No. Did we see enough? I think so. And in this case, the gray, Scandinavian orderliness served as a tremendous contrast for the colorful chaos of India. The best part? There was no extra charge for seeing firsthand another world capital and gaining some insight on another culture—albeit it one with far too many vowels.

 

Sometimes airlines will charge a fee for a stopover, but usually this isn’t much (less than a hundred dollars). Almost always it’s worth the price. Traveling on Iberia Airlines, my wife and I enjoyed a few days in Madrid on our return from Rome—for only about $45 apiece. Definitely worth it to see some original paintings by Dali and Picasso in the capital of a former empire. Not to be forgotten too is arranging stopovers on award travel. So long as the space is there, often airlines will be willing to oblige at least one stopover on your itinerary. And again, if you’re not paying for it, why not?

 

When in the neighborhood, why not stop in Hong Kong?
When in the neighborhood, why not stop in Hong Kong?

A key factor in effective stopovers is your choice of airline. Most national carriers have their hubs in key cities. So if you’re heading out to Bangkok and always wanted to see Hong Kong, try Cathay Pacific. If you wanted to see Singapore, use Singapore Airlines. I think you get the point. Your routing makes all the difference as to which stopover options are available.

 

So instead of selecting the nonstop only button when choosing your flights, why not expand your horizons and see where that stopover might take you? The bonus experience will be the icing on your trip’s cake, and allow you the chance to explore yet another small piece of the big wide world.

 

Have you ever deliberately arranged a trip to take advantage of a stopover? Leave a comment for us all to discuss.

You Can Tell Where You Are By Who Comes To Arrest You

Entering the Gerlache Strait counts as visiting Antarctica
Entering the Gerlache Strait counts as visiting Antarctica

I’ve found that when people ask me about my travels, there’s often some debate about what “counts” as a visit. Does it require setting foot on land? Being within one’s field of vision? Traveling a certain distance inland from the coast? Here I will attempt to clear up once and for all what does and does not count as a visit for anyone as lame as myself that actually keeps score.

What Doesn’t Count:

I think I speak for all travel enthusiasts when I say that flying over a country does not count as a visit. On my way to India I looked down across the breadth of Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and other assorted ‘stans’, before landing in Delhi. In terms of sheer acreage I probably saw more of these countries than I did India, but in no way, shape or form did I “visit” them. So just because another country is visible, doesn’t mean it counts. The same goes with sailing some distance off the coastline (a.k.a. more than a stone’s throw).

What Does Count:

These South Africangame park rangers would have no problemn reminding you of what country you're in
These South African game park rangers would have no problem reminding you of what country you’re in

Obviously, if you set foot on land in any given country, you’ve been there–regardless of whether you are in transit toward another destination. On my way to South Africa, our plane stopped in Dakar, Senegal and we waited on the tarmac for an hour or two before continuing on our way. Some may argue that this doesn’t count, but I insist that a basic rule of thumb applies: You know where you are by who comes to arrest you. For instance, if you happen to be detained by Turkish Border Police, it is safe to assume that at the moment of your apprehension you were within the borders of Turkey. So, using this standard of measure, yes, I “visited” Senegal, even though I did little more than breathe in the desert-scented air and stare out at the dusty roads around the airport. I was there, and I know this because it would have been the Senegalese Army to throw me in prison if I stepped out of line.

Now as for travel by sea, I feel the lines blur a little bit. I don’t think gazing out at the hazy silhouette of Cuba from a cruise ship counts as a visit. But if the vessel you are on is well within territorial waters to the point of being in port or surrounded by the country in question–such as on a river cruise or enclosed harbor–or you can speak to someone on the shoreline because you’re just that close, then yes, in my book you’re there. How do I know this? Once again, just ask yourself: if I decided to commit a felony right here and now, who would come to arrest me?

As a case in point, when I visited Antarctica I never actually set foot on land. But at one point we entered a harbor on King George Island where we were completely surrounded on all sides by the snowy shoreline. At another point, we cruised down the Nuemeier Channel where it would only be a moderate snowball’s toss to hit the penguins and Weddell Seals lazing on the icy banks. We were not near another country (though technically Antarctica isn’t a “country” and therefore doesn’t have any police to arrest you) and there could be no doubt as to where we were. In fact, sometimes the proof of a visit can be ascertained by asking the question conversely: If I ‘m not in Antarctica right now, where in the world am I?

I hope this clears things up a bit, and I know others may feel differently. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know where you stand and I’ll be happy to post a follow-up with the audience’s thoughts.