Rethinking frequent travel and reflections on Thailand

So I just got back from a round the world trip, and wow am I exhausted. I still have to write about the trip, but, I’ll offer a bit of a sneak peak of the trip. Aside from my extended stay in the Emirates A380 Shower Spa, the trip was overall a bit of a reality check.


Baz Luhrman narrated a song called “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” in 1998. Here he says (among other things):

Travel. Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders. – Baz Luhrman

Well, this trip, prices did rise, I cannot speak to politicians philandering, but politics (even under the Thai Junta), were like that elephant in the room (except, the elephant was at the bar hitting on tourists).

Elephant at the Beach Bar in Thailand

Elephant at the Beach Bar in Thailand

But back to brass tacks. I am far from an expert on Thailand. I’ve been there more than half a dozen times, but just visiting a country for 3-6 days doesn’t make one an expert. I’d defer to either Adventurous Kate, or Richard Barrow, who in fact, I get most of my info from on Twitter. But, I can’t really say my last visit was inspiring. I had seen reports of cleaning up the beaches before I left. I suppose it didn’t occur to me that my favorite restaurant on the beach would be impacted.

Andaman Restaurant

Andaman Restaurant

Well, it turned out they were, so this is their new location:

Andaman Restaurant

Andaman Restaurant (now 50 meters behind the treeline from the beach)

I suppose it is for the better, but speaking with one of the more “senior” folks (I admit, I didn’t ask if he was the owner), this “clean-up” is making it harder for him to do business. To put things into perspective, there are not many options within a 10 or so minute walk of the J.W. Marriott Khao Lak, where we stayed, so making it harder for these businesses ultimately, in my opinion, increases costs for tourists aka hotel guests. For me, that’s good enough reason not to return.

Time away from home

My wife and I have done longer trips. This trip was 10 days. It felt like a long time. We have a dog that is as close to a son to us, and being away this long was really felt. More than that though, even though our trip was mostly spent at a beach resort, and our trip home didn’t include any overnights in hotels, we were exhausted when we got home. I think the travel time was roughly 36 hours – roughly. It included 2 regional flights (HKT-SIN, ATL-WAS), 1 mid-haul (SIN-ICN), and 1 long haul flight (ICN-ATL). But still, 10 days felt like a long time, even if it was traveling around the world.

Hard choices going forward

One of the things that my wife and I talked about while we were away, was exactly what I had just stated. We spent a lot of time away from home, and are on tap to spend even more time away. We are planning to visit the first week of Oktoberfest in a few short weeks. I was able to book Lufthansa First Class from MUC-YYZ-IAD a few months back when it was available, however the connection in YYZ has grown from 4 hours to I think 8 hours or so. I know I can change that, but I’ve also been trying to find an efficient way there. Right now I have a flight on American via DFW and CDG. Its starting to sound like no fun. I’m still holding out (much to my wife’s chagrin), for a way to change the flight to Munich as a direct or at least a one-stopper, and the flight home to a direct, preferably 1-2 days earlier. Only time will tell. But, if pushed, I’m at the point where I’d punt the idea of Oktoberfest to next year if I can’t find flights that will really work.

Wrapping up

This post isn’t really the normal Sunday Editorial you’re used to. Rather, I wanted to offer some of my thoughts on how frequent travel ends up impacting the other aspects of life. I have talked in the past about an ideal optempo for travel, and I’m starting to think I might be getting a bit old for two months of biweekly travel.

What do you think? What’s the right tempo for your travel?


18 thoughts on “Rethinking frequent travel and reflections on Thailand

  1. Less, but longer trips are the answer. I can’t imagine doing a 10 day trip for leisure and 36 hours of that being pure travel. In terms of the Thailand situation, the military look to be doing a pretty good job on cracking on the mafia, I saw a lot less taxi cartel shenanigans going on. The beach clean up is for the best as well, businesses that were literally on the beach will obviously be adversely affected but that doesn’t mean prices are going to rise. It just means tourists will go elsewhere instead.

    How’d you enjoy Khao Lak? We were going to head there this year, but wanted to dive and it’s out of season there at the moment. Ended up seeing a whale shark elsewhere so cannot complain.

    • @William – I’m not sure about the longer trips for me personally, but everyone is different. I felt like being away for 10 days was a long time. I’m used to those quick trips, a week here, a weekend there.. But I can see your point.

      As far as the Thailand situation – I think some is good, some is bad, but I have noticed an increase in prices over the past few years. I also think that as Burma opens up, that might be an interesting place to visit. I’m sure others will be enticed as well for its “unspoilt” appeal.

      We really like Khao Lak. The town has been significantly built up since we started going there, but its still sleepy-ish, compared to Patong. As far as the JW Marriott Khao Lak, we enjoyed it. Maybe not as much as we have in the past, but its still a beautiful resort. They do have a SeeBees onsite where you could organize diving. Lars used to be there, but I didn’t see him this time.

  2. Hey Travor! I actually had a similar view when I came back from Asia last December and I think it has more to do with the destination for me as a personal choice than the travel aspect itself. Every time I return from Europe, I am happy and energized and can’t wait to go back. On the other hand, after spending a week on a beach in Thailand not far from where you were, I felt no advantage over just hopping over to the Caribbean without all the travel, time difference, expense and jetlag and I doubt I have the energy to go back to Asia for a while. So maybe you’re just more like me – max travel time 15 hours and that’s only when it’s really worth it for something you can’t get in North America 🙂

    • @The Miles Professor – Thanks for your comment! I think you are right. It is a very long trip to spend on the beach, it took a while, I think for me to “get it” that I don’t have to go that far to relax, and while I think Thailand was less expensive when we started going in 2010, it doesn’t feel all that less expensive now.

  3. Totally with you. SO and I hate complex itineraries. It’s F or J and nonstop as much as possible. We’ll use a ton of miles to make it happen. We hire guides to maximize our tours and minimize the hassle. We want to be relaxed and rested, not harried and exhausted when we get home. Seems to me that all too many want quantity over quality.

    • @Paul – I’ve done some pretty complex itineraries. There used to be a time when piecing them all together was just as thrilling as flying them. When we visit new places, we do hire guides as well, e.g. Bali, Delhi/Agra. I think you can definitely get more value there, especially with limited time. That said, I know I’m leaning more toward more direct, easier itineraries as I look toward the future. (I still have some complex ones already planned though).

  4. Ever since we started collecting miles and points, we have been traveling a ton more if course. We’ve traveled more thus past year than probably in the previous 10 years combined.

    So… We’ve been trying to answer the exact same questions. I think it has to depend on your situation.

    • @Points With A Crew – I think my wife and I started traveling more before we necessarily started flying on awards. We did a bunch of travel because it was so cheap, e.g. Australia for $725 r/t. But I did peak in 2012 traveling 152k miles (100k revenue, 52k on awards). Its hard to maintain that kind’ve tempo. Just thinking back I’ve probably done 9 or 10 trips to Asia since Feb 2012 (with 2 more planned for November).

  5. We’re reluctant to go back to Asia because I don’t know if we can, morally and ethically, add that flying to our carbon footprint just for a bit of relaxation. With a kid now, we’re staying nearby home and going to more parks.

    • @Harvson3 – For relaxation, I agree. There is still a lot of history in Asia. Of course, its probably better to wait until the little one will remember it.

  6. Perfect timing for this post. Just returned from 3 week trip (Eastern Europe) and had another 3 weeker in June (Baltic/Amsterdam). In between went to Ann Arbor DO and F2B SEA. Going to Vietnam and Thailand #10 in November.
    Cancelled 2 trips in October and am thrilled!
    Mike is tired of the 3 (and sometimes 4) week trips…and I must admit, me too.

    • @PatMike – Thanks for your comment! I really enjoyed following your 3 week trip through Eastern Europe. I have to admit, I’ve done my share of cancelling trips this year, much more than in past years. 3-4 weeks is a long time to be away, even in luxury hotels.
      I can’t wait to hear your thoughts of Thailand and Vietnam in November!

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  8. Trevor, it sounds like your travel desires and needs are changing, and that’s OK. It makes sense that as we age (or I like to think of it as evolve/grow), our understanding of what is really important to us will change. Over time, those things will be fluid, and one period of life will involve different types of travel (or other interests) than another. When I was younger (before I had kids especially) I could see traveling far for short periods for the novelty of it. As I have gotten older (wiser?) I have discovered that far isn’t necessarily better & that the goals of travel can be accomplished much closer to home if I open my eyes to what is around me. For beach vacations this is especially true. I also value convenience at this point, so I would not fly for 36 hours unless the circumstances were such that I couldn’t pass it up.
    I also think that doing anything *too* frequently can cause the fun/novelty factor to wear off and the little annoyances become more pronounced and less easy to shrug off.
    Maybe your next trip should be something to excite and recharge you that is easy and convenient to take away the general stress of getting to the place that is supposed to de-stress you.

    • @Kirsten, I think that will be the approach for the next trip we plan… Unfortunately (or fortunately), we’ve got 5 trips already planned through mid-next year (although that doesn’t include status runs).

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