Near Yellow Mountain

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Going around the world - alone but with a friend

Later today I will leave on a 12 day round the world trip that will find me in Swtizerland, Shanghai, Sichuan Province China  (Yibin and Chengdu), Jiangxi Province, Shanghai (again), Tokyo and Ellicottville NY. Many who travel overseas frequently have mixed emotions about such itineraries.  The places sound exotic but unless you get outside the airport to hotel to meeting to airport to hotel..... grind; an around the world trip is just long and tiring.

I have had the good fortune to enjoy my long trips largely because after many years, I feel I am going to see friends rather than just people I do business with. Many of my meeting in Asia are conducted in non standard
venues - hiking trails, golf courses, unusual restaurants, bars, etc. I try to keep my time in traditional meeting rooms to a minimum.

I love seeing the mountains in Switerland and experiencing the energy of Shanghai. Sichuan province has more majestic mountains than Switzerland and is the Panda capital of the world. Chengdu is a wonderful city with a rapidly improving quality of life, great restaurants and friendly, relaxed people.  Jiangxi Province is also an emerging part of China. On my first trip there several years ago, we drove on a new expressway and had to dodge water buffalo that decided the warm pavement was too comfortable to resist. Of course, I am very anxious to return to Tokyo. My last trip was just before the earthquake and tsunami. My company placed a travel ban on Japan for a few weeks and even today I still had to get special permission to go. Japan is like a second home. I really want to see how my friends are doing.

For the most part I travel alone - meeting old and new friends in each city. Despite being "alone" in between stops - I do have a travel companion. My Patagonia "maximum legal carry-on" has been my only travel bag since it was given to me on my birthday in 1998. After over 100 around the world trips and visits to every continent (save the polar); my MLC is looking quite tattered.

My normal flying uniform is black jeans,  an "Icebreaker" merino wool "sweater t shirt" (which I buy in Australia and come in several weights to sccomodate all temperature levels) and black ASICS running shoes. Although most people dress casually these days on long flights, the average business traveler will carry a neat samsonite rolling bag or equivalent.  They don't look like a lost backpacker from the 70s. I occasionally get raised eyebrows when I enter a first class lounge and present my boarding pass. Only my new leather Tumi computer bag betrays my lost backpacker appearance.

I have plopped my MLC down next to royalty (literally), actors, politicians, famous professional sports figures in first class lounges all over the world. It is interesting how there seems to be a camraderie in the overseas first class lounge. I have spoken to people that likely wouldn't have given me the time of day if they saw me on the street or in a restaurant. I say overseas because I haven't had the same experiences in the US - people seem in too much of a rush most of the time although I did speak to an aging star of the TV show "Dallas" in the Cinncinati lounge once.....

Three years ago I purchased the new version of the Patagonia MLC. Unfourtunately I don't live near a Patagonia store so I purchased it over the internet after only seeing glossy pictures on the website. Much to my disappointed the new version was like being downgraded on US Airways - the ultimate bottom. Smaller, with less robust construction, and straps more suited for a kindergarten's daypack; the "new" MLC sits in my closet collecting dust and I continue to make minor repairs to my 14 year old MLC - fearing for the day it will no longer be able to travel with me.