Reporter Andrea Sachs and photographer Jabin Botsford went on a global scavenger hunt. Using an around-the-world ticket, they dropped into seven countries to visit a landmark attraction, sample a traditional food and purchase a souvenir — documenting their journey (and lack of sleep) as they went. Below is Sachs’ look back at the trip. Read the full story here.
Let’s start by opening the floor for questions.
No, I am not jet-lagged. We were never in one place long enough to adjust to a time zone. However, during the first week back, I did feel a tad hungover. Nearly 70 hours of air travel, eight hotel beds and dozens of bumpy car rides can wreck a body like a tequila-fueled weekend. Yes, I ate well, especially in Hong Kong (yum yum dim sum), Mumbai (dal and more dal) and Madagascar (vegetarian rice soup that was good for the soul and the chickens). And the worst flight? The short hop from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Reagan National Airport. In addition to a delay, the plane jerked and bucked like a mechanical bull, and two men seated near me bickered over who was going to disembark first. Plus, that final leg completed our circle. If only the world had angles.
Before we left, we had a fairly solid plan. But sometimes serendipity — or its evil twin, misfortune — crashes the party. Although I am optimistic, I am also realistic, and I knew that many things could go wrong, from canceled flights to a food-borne illness. And yet everything went right. No pilfered wallets, emergency hospital visits or lemur stowaways (I wish). The most alarming medical issue occurred in the Seychelles, when Jabin “returned” his pizza and piña colada from a Marriott. Lower on the list of maladies, I combatted a sloppy cold in the two countries (Singapore, Hong Kong) that don’t stock free napkins or tissues.
I attribute some of the ease and flow to AirTreks, whose agents pieced together a complex itinerary that unfolded as simply as a mono-destination voyage. We had at least 24 hours on the ground, enough time to experience the twinkle of a place, and on several occasions settled in for the long haul — three days. We never had to race to catch a connection or languish too long between flights. In fact, at some airports, I would’ve welcomed a delay. I could have spent several blissful hours at Singapore’s Changi Airport, chasing butterflies in the Departure Transit Lounge garden and floating in the Terminal 1 swimming pool overlooking the runway.
The order of the countries contributed to the success of the trip as well. We batted away travel fatigue by mixing up long flights (nearly 22 hours to Madagascar) with short ones (less than three hours to the Seychelles). Toggling between high-energy places (Madagascar, Mumbai) and tranquil locales (Singapore, the Seychelles) helped replenish our energy reserves. And as a warm-weather person, I plugged into the solar power source during the last two-thirds of the trip.
Flying around the world made me a more adaptable traveler. With five overnight flights, I grew to accept airplane seats as vertical beds. Swaddled in an eye mask, ear buds and a blanket, I often fell asleep like a baby in the back seat of a car. We also learned to not push ourselves to the point of cracking. After a red-eye from India, we dashed out for a Singaporean breakfast of kaya toast and then retreated to the hotel for a few hours of repose before rejoining the living later that day. At the airport in Mumbai, we checked into the Niranta Airport Transit Hotel & Lounge at 5 a.m. and emerged at noon restored and relaxed. My one regret: not taking advantage of the foot massage included in the rate.
To be sure, I reinforced some old travel tenets, such as always print out a copy of your flights and hotels, because technology is not infallible. This could happen to you: A security official at the Mumbai airport won’t allow you to enter without seeing your reservation and your phone is stuck on “loading.” I also picked up some new tricks, such as exchanging leftover bills for the currency at the next destination. Of course, this only works with hard currencies. For the soft currencies, I threw down bills like Monopoly money at souvenir shops and food counters, and into airport donation boxes.
Okay, I will take one more question.
Yes, I would do it again. But for my next spin around the world, I will tack on a few more countries. Seven seems like such a small number now.
More from Travel:
Here are some other counts from our round-the-world trip.
completed (3 partial viewings)
In-flight episodes of “The Big Bang Theory”
Airplane meals eaten by Andrea
of one dinner
Airplane meals eaten by Jabin
plus most of Andrea’s
Total flight delays
Trump references following admission of our nationality
Tesla cab rides
Taxi driver fights on Mumbai freeway
Giant cockroaches in room
Species of lemurs spotted
Floated in the Indian Ocean
total Instagram posts (by Andrea and Jabin)
Postcards sent: 0
Source: Andrea Sachs