Introductory Note: This site and the information in it is a work in progress. Some information may be incomplete or subject to future editing. If you see any errors or mistakes please let me know. Thanks! Copyright 2003, 2004. All rights reserved.
My Travel Journal
Sept. 27, 2003:

I did it. I actually did it! My thoughts were racing a bit as my ATA flight to San Francisco lifted off  from Chicago's Midway Airport.. After years of dreaming about it, and 2 years of intermittent serious thought and effort, I was finally starting my around the world trip. Ever since I saw the movie "Around the World in 80 Days" when I was a kid, I had dreamed of doing just that. What historically had been an accomplishment only of the rich and famous was now within the reach of average Joes like me.

Average Joe, that's me. 53, soon to be 54. Divorced a long long time ago. Average looks. Lawyer for 25 years (I canít believe it happened so fast). Mid-life single male seeking adventure, knowledge, maybe even love? Yea, right. But getting back to average, I do not have any special qualifications to take a 5 month trip around the world. Not rich; not proficient in foreign languages; only limited foregn travel experience (England and northern Europe, some Caribbean). Who was I to think that I was qualified to do this? Was it foolhardy, or courageous? Was I meeting an intellectual and physical challenge, or tilting at windmills? Was my proficiency with chopsticks enough? Only time will tell.

The most difficult thing is arranging one's life to take the time to do it. Indeed, this is what had extended my starting date for the last 18 months. With our complicated lives in these modern times, it is hard to "tie-up" all of our loose ends. Well, mine were finally tied-up (or at least I hope they are).

I was flying ATA on Saturday afternoon to SFO. My flight to HK will not leave until early Wednesday morning (1:30 AM) and will arrive in HK at 6:30 AM on Thursday, Oct. 2. In effect I will not have any Oct. 1, and since I am continuing west around the world I will never get my lost day back. I hope the travel gods are satisfied with my sacrifice of an entire day!

I am beginning my RTW trip using Cathay Pacific's All Asia Air Pass, a tremendous bargain for seeing Asia. It has been offered the last few years, and ever since I first viewed it on the net I had been intrigued. For a basic fare of $999 Cathay Pacific offers to fly you RT from 3 USA departure cities (NYC, LA, SFO) to HK, and then allow you to fly RT between HK and as many of 15 other Asian cities within 21 days as you can squeeze in. For an extra $300 you can extend your travel time to 60 days, and for extra fares you could add additional cities, like $400 for Beijing or Shanghai. Even more time, and/or more cities, can be added for additional fees.

After SARS, leisure travel to Asia almost came to a dead stop, and even with this great plan Cathay Pacific and HK hotels had too many empty seats and rooms. So in the summer of 2003 CP cut its price by $300! My basic Pass fare was $699, $300 addl for 60 days, and $400 for China (fly to Shanghai, return from Beijing). My Pass itinerary is SF to HK; HK to Tokyo; Seoul to HK; HK to Shanghai; Beijing to HK; HK to Taipei to HK; HK to Manila to HK; HK to SF. Total miles of flight xxxxxxxxxx. Even after adding the various departure taxes and fees my total price was $1542.! Incredible. Less than xx cents per mile.

But my own personal plan does not end there. The CP Pass will end on Nov. 30, when I am supposed to fly back to SF. But I will not. I will stay in HK, and then travel to other places--Thailand, Singapore, India, then to Spain and England before coming home. All of this I have not yet booked. Perhaps I will use AirTreks, the internet world travel site. Or I might find cheap fares in HK, or BK, or Singapore. I don't know yet. Part of the "fun" will be figuring all of this out as I go.

Well, the Asia part of my trip will start in a few days. I chose to depart for Asia from SF because SF is one of my favorite cities. I hadn't yet left my heart there, but I was going to try! I had visited there about a year ago and lucked into what had to be the most perfect 3 days of SF weather in recorded history--65-70, sunny, dry, wonderful! I hoped to replay the same this time. Yes, I am the eternal optimist.

My flight to SF will arrive at about 4:45 PM. After renting a car (PayLess, about $22/day total on the web), I will drive to the hotel (Comfort Suites at the airport) where I got a steal of a suite for $45.00/nite thru the ATA hotel booking website. The same hotel was going for $69 at Travelocity. I clicked "reserve" before the computer could change its mind, and was relieved to receive the confirming email a short time later. I have the print-out with me just in case the hotel clerk refuses to believe it!

Yesterday the weather in Chicago was rainy and blustery all day (raining out the Cubs game and causing much anguish and difficulty). I had been worried that today would be similar. But I awoke at 7:30 to sunshine and blue skies, and at flight time there were only a few friendly clouds. Take-off was right on time (lately I have flown ATA quite a bit and I am getting to like there combination of good fares, reasonably comfortable planes (I like the 757s), and on time departures), and now at 37000 feet we are floating over the Wyoming badlands on what appears to be a due west heading. So far so good.

I will be away for about 5 months. Being single there was no point in continuing to pay rent while I was gone. Two years ago I had moved out of my Miami apartment, gave some stuff away, put the rest in storage, and started living in Chicago with Mom, flying back and forth between Chicago and Miami as my law practice required. Yes, it took 2 years to get everything finished enough to allow me to leave. Mom was glad to have me around (she said so, and who am I to argue?).

But I might still be taking care of that one last detail, finishing that one last case, if not for the expiration date of that $300 price cut from CP. I guess you could say that the price cut worked its magic--it got me (and I am sure others also) to finally just say "do it" and take the plunge to committing to a specific trip schedule. And, since  travel on any 2003 pass must be completed by Dec. 11 I had to do it soon or wait until 2004. And if I was going to save $300 I had to "do it" by July 31. So I took a deep breath and said "yes, I do".

In typical fashion I hemmed and hawed until the next to the last day to get my ticket, and since ticketing could not be done on the net but instead had to be done the old fashioned way--thru a ticket agent, I had to pay an agent to do the ticketing. CP would pay a small commission, but honestly, with all of the flights I was taking and the short time left to book them I could understand the reluctance of the agent in accepting all of that work for such a small fee. So I paid an extra $150.00. I still saved money as compared to what the CP Pass usually cost, but my procrastination cost me.

As I sit here--now we are over the Rockies--I contemplate the challenges of the next few months. The experiences of new places, new people, new foods, and hopefully not new illnesses. I have tried to take reasonable precautions for my health.. I went to the local travel clinic and got inoculated for all sorts of things I had never heard of. I bought International Travelers medical insurance thru my Amex card (only $79 per year); and I got checked-out by my doctor and dentist. I guess I am inspected and certified for international travel. My traveler's health card from the Clinic says so!

The desired challenges of places, people, food, culture will be many and varied. Some would say that my usual home of south Florida is a foreign country as compared to the rest of the USA (the longer I live there the more I agree). Even my few days in SF will bring some new experiences. Tonight I will meet my friend A for dinner. An accountant from Shanghai, she has yet to break into the professional ranks here in the US (her English still needs work) and instead teaches at a preschool during the week, and teaches Mandarin to Chinese children on the weekends. Her father was killed during the cultural revolution. She has seen hard times that most of us in the US can hardly imagine. I will ask her to direct us to a "real" Chinese restaurant (plenty of them in SF!) where I will try to get a head start on learning how to order from a menu that is written only in Chinese. Well, at least this is my intention. We'll see.

For the rest of my short visit to SF I hope to take a boat ride to Alcatraz, walk across Golden Gate bridge; and pick-up a few things I still need for my trip: get a 7-day Japan Rail Pass; vitamins and OTC medicines for colds, allergies, flu, etc.; and small gifts for the people I will meet in Asia. What else am I forgetting? There must be something! Oh well, it's time to stop worrying and get started!
Chicago July 2003
My Info: Name--Richard; Email--rjgcubs@yahoo.com
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Saying goodbye to Mom.
Hi! My name is Richard, and you have reached the homepage of my around the world trip! I can hardly believe that I am actually going to do this!
I will post photos and comments about the places that I visit. Please feel free to visit often and check on my progress, my problems, and my happy times!
In each city that I visit I will need to find a suitable place to stay, preferably with a local family (I am happy to pay rent!). I would also like to meet interesting people. If you would like to help me, or meet me, please email me! Thank you!
I want to acknowledge and thank the many persons whom I met on this trip, or who helped me from afar, and who extended to me incredible kindness and generosity. Their friendship is the best thing about the whole endeavor.
This trip would not have been possible without the internet. Not only did I find out about my primary ticket from the internet, but I also was able to find new friends, my room in Hong Kong, and most of my hotel rooms, via the internet.
My trip was made much more interesting and pleasant by the many friends that I saw along the way--old friends I had already met, and new friends I made along the way. For the last few years, if I met someone from the Far East I saved their business card and contact information, and stayed in touch via email. I also used the services of various internet sites to meet new friends, such as those within the Friendfinder family, AsiaXpat, and South China Morning Post.
Being a single man, it is logical that most of these new friends were ladies.  But do not jump to wrong conclusions--this is not and was not a series of short lived romances--a date in every port.  This would be an insult to my friends. It would also be an insult to me, and a gross over-estimation of my attractiveness to women.
As I write this preface in mid-November, I also must thank the stars for gracing my trip with incredibly good weather. In many of the cities so far, the weather before and after my visit was wet and gray, but for the days of my visit  it was sunny and blue skies! I pray that my good luck continues!
                                     TRIP ITINERARY

Oct. 1, 2003: San Fran to Hong Kong; 4 days in HK

Oct. 6, 2003: Hong Kong to Tokyo; 4 days in Tokyo; take train south from Tokyo to Kyoto; Matsuyama, Shikoku; and Moji and Fukuoka, Hyushu;  boat from Fukuoka to Busan, Korea; train to Seoul; 2 days in Seoul.

Oct. 18, 2003: Seoul to Hong Kong; 7 days in HK

Oct. 25, 2003: Hong Kong to Shanghai; 6 days in Shanghai; fly to Beijing; 6 days in Beijing

Nov. 7, 2003: Beijing to Hong Kong; 5 days in HK

Nov. 12, 2003: Hong Kong to Taipei; 5 days in Taipei

Nov. 17, 2003: Taipei to Hong Kong; 5 days in HK

Nov. 22, 2003: Hong Kong to Manila; 4 days in Manila; 3 days in Boracay; 2 days in Manila.

Dec. 2, 2003: Manila to Hong Kong; Time for a break!

Dec. 3, 2004: Hong Kong to Macau, and return same day.

Dec. 4, 2003 to Jan. 10, 2004 : Rest, and enjoy Hong Kong.

January 11, 2004: Hong Kong to Manila. 4 days in Manila.

January15,  2004: Manila  to Bangkok;  travel around Thailand (Bangkok, Krabi, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Nong Khai).

Feb.  14, 2004: Bangkok  to Singapore.

Feb. 20,   2004: Singapore to Chennai/Madras, India.

tFeb. 25, 2004: Chennai to Singapore.

Feb. 29, 2004: Singapore to London.

March 6, 2004: London to Berlin

March 10, 2004: Berlin to London

March 12, 2004: London to Barcelona

March 13 - 14, Barcelona to Andorra to Barcelona

Mar. 19,  2004:  Barcelona to USA
Copyright 2003, 2004. All rights reserved.
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