Getting there – Connecting the dots

The camel route from Xian to Samarkand took three months. Leaving Southampton for New York translated into seven days at sea. And the jungle expedition to Angkor Wat lasted more than a year. The most valuable commodity in the world of traveling is not money, but time. Something as true for the early explorers, as for today’s work–life balancing travelers eager to see the world.


The gadgets

Transporting yourself around the globe takes time. The more unique places you go for, the more time they will consume. What complicates the matter is the ever-changing network of flights connecting the dots around the world. Is Cancun connected to Havana and how many stops will it take going from Rome to Kathmandu? What is the travel hub of the Caucasus and how do you find the best get-in point for traveling the Pacific Ocean?

The most valuable commodity in the world of traveling is not money, but time. Something as true for the early explorers, as for today’s work–life balancing travelers eager to see the world.

The solution is Flight Connections, the most powerful flight management tool available. Use it to verify flight routes, departure frequency, and the number of stops getting from place A to place B. This is how I reverse-engineered my South America trip, cutting the number of steps from Punta Arena to Bogotá in half, saving more than two days of travel.

Getting there, Machu Picchu, Peru.

When you have found the optimal travel route, it’s time for the next stage. Timing. This is done by Google Flights, the best ticket scanner on the market. Search for departure times, flight duration, operating airlines, and bagage terms. Find the perfect return trip or go for an open-jaw ticket, where you fly back from a different location than the original. Always to the best available price.

The final stage of your logistic set-up is on-site navigation. Where is that restaurant you got recommended and how do you find all those places you read about? The answer is MapsMe. What makes the app so convenient is the pre-downloading of maps and travel related information for offline use. Pin your points of interest, save notes, and search for restaurants, tourist attractions, and road directions. Wherever you are. Whenever you want.

Moskovsky Station, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Moskovsky Station, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Maximize your travel time

When searching for long haul flights, you often try to minimize the flight time getting from one place to another. What if, you would do the opposite? By giving yourself a disproportionate long stopover, you can spend that extra time “traveling” while waiting for the next flight. Go sightseeing, catch up with a local friend, or stock up on your favourite brand. Maximizing the flight time will translate into cheaper flights, more convenient departure times, and less time spent staring at the airport departure screen.

By giving yourself a disproportionate long stopover, you can spend that extra time “traveling” while waiting for the next flight.

When I went to South Africa, I opted for a 30 hour layover in Dubai. Just enough time for a refreshing swim at Jumeirah Beach, an elevator ride to the Burj Khalifa observation deck, and a double espresso in Deira. Everything for half the price of an ordinary flight ticket. So pull the flight duration to its max next time you are about to book a flight and get an extra trip on the go.

Gold Souk, Deira, United Arab Emirates.
Deira, United Arab Emirates.

Last in, first out

I have noticed an interesting travel phenomena. People who try to get somewhere first, often end up getting there last. I call this the ”last in, first out-paradox”. The ones rushing off the airplane to get to the gate transfer, will be the last ones to leave it. Ironically, the last passenger to get squeezed into the bus will be first in line for the upcoming passport controls. Life just isn’t fair.

As so often in life, doing the opposite than the majority is usually the best way to get successful.

The phenomena is repeated in all kind of situations. The last checked luggage is the first to arrive on the baggage carousel, the final bus seat taken gets the front window, and the last guy checking in at the hotel has the biggest chance of an upgrade due to overbooking. By being last, you simply increase your chance of getting first.

When I was about to fly over Milford Sound, I reverse engineered my behaviour and intentionally put myself last in line to enter the plane, guaranteeing myself a window seat. And when I traveled to Taipei City, I got a business class upgrade simply by running a bit late. As so often in life, doing the opposite than the majority is usually the best way to get successful.

Flying over Milford Sound, New Zealand.

Rent a car, not a tour guide

You might think that a guided tour is the best option when visiting a place. The problem, however, is that you get the standardised, optimised route for ticking off the trending tourist spots. These tours are based on the “idea” of what tourists want, not necessarily the most interesting places. And your impressions will most likely be a copy of everyone else’s going there.

The solution? You make your own tour by renting a car, the single most effective way to create unique memories. You will not only get a tailor-made route, but can let serendipity guide your fortune. No driving license? Get your own driver. This is also suitable in countries where arranging a rental car is risky, administrative complicated, or impossible. Just ask the next top rated Uber or sweet talk a not-so-shady cab driver. Most drivers will be glad to take a day off for a fixed amount of pay.

When I visited the Atacama Desert in Chile, I skipped the guided tours and went off-road into the Valle de Marte under a star spangled night. In Lebanon, I arranged a driver to take me out of Beirut, through the security check points, and to a local beach club half way to Byblos. Now, that’s something to tell your grandchildren.

Atacama Desert, Chile.
Atacama Desert, Chile.

You’re there, now what?

Spending less time on transportation, will give you more time at the destination. That brings up a dilemma. Should you spend the additional time on-site, seeing fewer places, or should you prioritize seeing more places, with less time on-site?

For several years, I used to squeeze in the maximum number of places in my itineraries. Every public holiday, extended weekend, or “squeeze day”, as we say in Sweden, was consumed in the most efficient way. I could leave office at lunch to catch the 2 pm flight and come back straight to work after 30 hours in the air. With six weeks of vacation, I could easily travel 60 days a year.

With a list of places I had to visit, I was always in a hurry. Never at peace. I gradually started to appreciate slow travel, a new way to explore the world.

But I couldn’t really appreciate the moment. With a list of places I had to visit, I was always in a hurry. Never at peace. I gradually started to appreciate slow travel, a new way to explore the world. I realized that places grow with time. Just like a bottle of Nebbiolo wine. The longer you stay, the deeper you travel.

The art of doing nothing, Piran, Slovenia.

I wanted to feel the place. Touch it. Smell the Sistine Chapel. My favourite destinations became those I visited a second time, giving me the opportunity of “doing nothing”. The concept of travel was transformed, from being in motion to just being. Enjoying everyday life. As the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Life is a journey, not a destination”.


Copyright © 2021 Erik Ekberger.

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