Aug 142017
 

It’s funny – I convinced myself this was a post I would never write. After all, I went to all 193 UN Member States without so much as travel insurance, never mind giving a second thought to medical insurance. I knew my policy through work was good, and convinced myself I was in good shape in case anything happened.

Well, “anything” finally happened yesterday in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the start of a 3+ week trip.

For anyone who knows Argentina, I looked both ways, confirmed the crosswalk light indicated it was mine, and started across Avenida 9 de Julio. I might have been looking at my phone as I crossed – I don’t remember – but regardless a car came from my back right direction and made a left onto Av. 9 de Julio, striking me in the right side. I flew up onto the hood of the car (thank God for being tall – any shorter I might have gone under).

After the driver realized what she’d done, she slammed the breaks, and I flew off the hood into the middle of the road…somehow landing on my feed and stumbling 10 steps backwards…still on my feet. I have no clue now I managed to land like this – especially given how uncoordinated I am, but I was very, very fortunate.

I stood there in the middle of the street, and just stared at the driver through the window. I would learn later she was just as paralyzed with fear as I was, and we didn’t know what to do. I seemed “ok” so motioned her to pull over to the side of the road as I walked there. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all the other drivers had seen this, and many had called the police.

As we both stood there on the side of the road shaking, I told her I was going to call the police. But, truth be told, I had no idea how to do that. You don’t just dial 911 in Argentina, and I don’t know the local emergency numbers. Before I could think what to do next – the police arrived thanks to the other drivers who had called them.

After the arrived, I calmed down enough to start to assess the situation. My first instinct was to take as pany pictures as possible to document things myself. I didn’t feel like relying on the police to make sure I was taken care of…but it sure helped having them there. One teaser pic, the damage I did to the car:

The tough part here was, neither the driver or the police spoke a word of English. My Spanish is ok for ordering food and having a basic conversation, but trying to talk about medical needs and accidents – well that was a challenge. Fortunately, the driver confessed it was all her fault – she was distracted by her toddler in the back seat, and she insisted that I go to the hospital, and she needed to know I was ok. Despite her complete carelessness, I was very, very glad to see she wanted to make sure I was taken care of.

After a quick inventory, I determined that somehow nothing was broken despite being struck hard enough to launch me onto the hood of the car, no major cuts or abrasions, and just lots of soreness and bruising. The police and the driver insisted I go to the hospital, but I declined. I knew there was nothing they would be able to do (since no broken bones) and it semed a pointless waste of time. I wanted to see the things I was heading to see!

So, fast forward 24 hours now. Still convinced no serious damage, but I’m incredibly sore. Maybe a tiny limp, and there’s gonna be some serious bruising coming. I have to decide tomorrow: fly home, refund the rest of the trip, and call it a lesson learned, or soldier on knowing I’ve pretty much passed the point of no return.

My concern from today is: I had to take it really easy due to how sore I was, and how much fun will I have over the coming week if I have to do that? Time will tell.

Anyways, long post to say: you might think you’ll never have a medical/police issue when traveling, but it’s always best to be prepared…just in case!

Aug 072017
 

One of the most frequent questions I got last year was “after you’ve been to every country, what will you do next?”

Over the last two years, the only community of “Country Collectors” or “Competitive Travelers” (take your pick) has actually come together quite a bit more, thanks to a combination of Facebook and various other websites. It’s a small club of 200-300 people by most accounts, and it’s been interesting to watch how people travel after going to every country.

Many people can’t stop collecting, so they go for the Travelers Century Club list of 325 distinct places. Others start ticking off US States, or Russian regions, or the UNESCO heritage list. There’s an endless number of possibilities for those of us who are list focused.

My plans were to at least take the next year to revisit places I had enjoyed, and spend a bit more time doing fun trips. My results at that have been decidedly mixed. Due to heavy work travel, I found myself in Croatia, Thailand, and Vienna over the last year – getting to see all three more in depth due to spending a week at a time in one city. I also made a round the world trip back in February, returning to places I’d already been and flying a variety of fun routes.

Then of course, I got sucked into the “list” thing a bit in the spring, when Ian convinced me to go to South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Abkhazia since they are quasi-independent. I’m still very interested in doing more of these autonomous places, but happy to take the pace slower.

So, with that, I figured I would celebrate the one year anniversary of going to every country with a bit of a fun trip. The routing would be somewhat determined for me, since I had a few tickets I had bought over the past year which would soon expire if I didn’t use them (non-refundable, but date-changeable) so it became a matter of piecing things together to make those work.

I toyed with all kinds of routings. I wanted to take some “fun” flights just for the experience. I wanted to try and get to some places I hadn’t been in a long time. Due to the existing tickets, I also had to go to Sydney, Singapore, and Helsinki. Yeah…not exactly on the same side of the Earth, eh?

So, this is how it all shook out. I didn’t set out to hit all six permanently inhabited continents, but that’s how it’s going to happen. The final routing looks like this, barring any surprises:

You might notice the trip ends in Detroit. Thats because I land back in the US on not only the one year anniversary of my getting to every country, but also the day before my NEXUS membership expires. …and just my luck, they’re requiring an interview for me to renew.

That puts me in Detroit/Windsor at the front end of a long holiday weekend before my birthday…so who knows where the last five days will take me. I’m intentionally leaving it open-ended for another week or two at least.

The start is also a little uncertain. I’m considering being brave and flying non-rev down to Santiago to start the trip, but fortunately I have a backup refundable award ticket booked on another airline just in case. So the front and end are a little questionable, but the middle is solid now. Who knows, since I’ll be in Detroit maybe I’ll make a quick two day hop to Europe or Asia at the end. All depends how things shake out!

Rather than go through all the details, I’ll just highlight a few of the flights/travel parts I’m really looking forward to:

  • Air Canada 787 from Santiago to Buenos Aires
  • The Private Room in the AmEx Centurion Lounge in Buenos Aires
  • My first South Atlantic crossing: Sao Paulo to Johannesburg
  • My first South Indian ocean crossing: Johannesburg to Perth
  • Singapore A380 suites from Sydney to Delhi, with a 23:55 connection to enjoy Singapore and the Private Room
  • Uzbekistan Airways 767 and 787 from Delhi to Moscow with stops in Amritsar and Tashkent
  • Russian SAPSAN train first class from Moscow to Petersburg
  • Allegro train from Petersburg to Helsinki

Feel free to share any must-see things to see/do along the way. Leaving in just a couple of days now…