Podcast #159 — Planning the Trip of a Lifetime in Southeast Asia

Just put my dragon’s den on Airbnb

January is a big travel planning month; people thinking about about the places they want to visit, spending days on the Internet researching itineraries, and putting in their week’s vacation requests. But what about a 9-week sabbatical you’ve worked 7 years for? In this episode, we talk about that kind of extreme travel planning. All this and more at the direct link to the podcast file or listening to it right here by clicking on the arrow below.

Here is the transcript of TravelCommons podcast #159:

  • Intro music — Warmth by Makkina
  • Coming to you today from the TravelCommons studio in Chicago, Illinois having finished 3 weeks of traveling down to Phoenix with one more to go. It’s been a mild winter — for Chicago — especially when compared to last winter, which means it’s been in the 20’s and 30’s as opposed to -23 as it was one morning last January. But even with a mild winter, I still appreciate the 70 degree days in Phoenix.
  • It’s a 4-hr flight between Chicago and Phoenix. I normally enjoy that amount of “unplugged” time to just read, listen to music, listen to podcasts. But a couple of weeks ago, I tweaked my back during a workout — not a big thing, I’ve done it many times before. But this time, the pain didn’t go away, it’s hung around on my left side, moving from back to hip to thigh, making it very uncomfortable to sit for long periods of time — like 4 hrs. Which has made me notice how long US carriers keep the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign on — like, forever. By the time that seatbelt sign finally goes off, my back is screaming — and the person next to me in the middle seat is pretty annoyed at my constant shifting. Back in episode #152, I talked about Southwest flights between Chicago and Nashville keeping the seatbelt sign on the entire hour-and-20-minutes. It hasn’t been that bad, but it’s easily been 45 minutes. And it isn’t just Southwest; United is doing the same thing. Quite a difference from, say, when Andrew and I flew Air Baltic back in October. 10,000 ft and “bing” that seat belt sign would go off, and we’d still be climbing. It doesn’t need to turn off that fast, but there’s gotta be a happy medium there somewhere.
  • With the mild winter and a little bit of luck, my flights to and from Phoenix have been pretty dependable — except for this week. On Monday, I started getting delay notices for my United 7:40pm flight right after lunch. United was doing their typical rolling delay exercise — it’s a 30 minutes; no, really an hour; no, we’re leaving at 9pm; just kidding, it’s really 9:40. I was OK with the 30 and 60-minute delays, but then when I get two more delays in a 40-minute span — now, something’s up. I call United. I get the Premier desk, which the guy tells me is in Chicago. I tell him the story — rolling delays have now gotten to 2 hrs; I don’t trust that this flight is going off, and I need to get to PHX tonight. The guy says, “Yup, I got it. Makes sense.” He tries to find me routings through LAX and SFO, but the connections don’t work. So he cancels and refunds my ticket — no hassle, no questions, no change fee. I love this guy. I pivot to Southwest and American, which both have 8:40 flights. I look at American’s seat map — nothing but middle seats. That’s just not going to work with my back, so it’s over to Southwest. I’m A-List, so I know with their open seating I’ll get an aisle seat. (Exhale) Haven’t done that dance in a while, so was a bit out of shape. But with one more trip to PHX left, I’m not looking to get back into that shape.
  • Bridge Music — Revolve mix by cinematrik (c) copyright 2005 Licensed under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sampling Plus license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/hisboyelroy/430

Following Up

  • Before writing a podcast, I go through all the interaction channels — website comments, Facebook comments, Instagram comments, Twitter replies, e-mails, … and inevitably I miss something. Which I have done since October when Arnoud Heijnis and I traded Twitter direct messages about travel converters. In episode #155, I’d talked about having to rummage around for European plug adaptors before my Krakow and Budapest trip, and how I’m always leaving them behind. Arnoud wrote –
    • Hi Mark, just caught up on your last two episodes. I also did the travel converter dance until someone recommended the Power Bagel. It’s so small and comes in handy not only as a travel adapter but also in hotel rooms with not enough power plugs, conference tables with one outlet etc. Iit never leaves my bag so thought I’d share.
  • A very belated thanks, Arnoud! Clicking through the link that Arnoud sent, the Power Bagel is a compact circular power strip of universal plugs and a couple of USB ports. They say that the circular design keeps large power adapters, like a Macbook power supply, from blocking outlets like they do on straight power strips. And then in the center hole, they store a universal plug adapter so you can plug the Power Bagel in most international outlets. Cool design and Arnoud vouches for it. Clicking around the web site, the company MOGICS seems to be a 3-person design company based in Singapore. They got started a few years back on Kickstarter and are in the middle of a new campaign for an upgraded version of the Power Bagel, called, of course, the Super Bagel that upgrades the plug adapter and adds a on-trend USB-C port. Kickstarter says the campaign ends on Feb 25th. I’ll include a link in the show notes for anyone interested.
  • Kickstarter seems to be the place for these things. I sent Arnoud a link to a travel adapter campaign that I joined. The Passport Go is a more traditional travel adapter — a big cube that will plug into most international outlets and has 3 USB-A and 1 USB-C plugs and one universal plug receptacle. I used it on my Baltics trip. For personal travel, most of my power needs seem to now be driven by USB cords rather than plugs — my iPhone did a rapid charge off the USB-C port, my tablet and headphones off the USB-A ports and since I don’t have enough hair to justify a blow dryer or curling iron, I never used the plug receptacle. Indeed, if I’d brought my Macbook Air, I could’ve powered that up off the USB-C port rather than bringing its power adapter. I’ll include a link to their Kickstarter page.
  • Back in episode #156, I talked about how I really liked electric scooters, using them to run around in Chicago and Charlottesville and DC, and down here in Phoenix. Whereas Chicago wrapped up their e-scooter pilot in October — which made sense; I don’t think those scooters would do well in the snow — Phoenix seemed the perfect place with perfect weather — no snow, not a lot of rain. And they seemed to have nailed one of the main problems with e-scooters — people leaving them lying everywhere, especially in the middle of sidewalks. In downtown Phoenix, you have to park them in designated areas, typically near sidewalk corners, inside a painted box. So it surprised me when I started coming down here in December that I saw only 2 scooter companies — Lime (which is partnered with Uber) and Spin (which is owned by the car company Ford). But then, a couple of weeks ago, Lime announced that they were pulling out — that they couldn’t make money in Phoenix — and a day or so later, all their scooters were gone. I don’t know what the right balance between scooter availability and public right-of-way is, but I hope Chicago and Phoenix and other cities can figure it out. This whole micro-mobility space — bike shares, e-scooters — is an important part of the urban transit mix. And, when the weather’s nice, they’re fun too!
  • In that same episode, I talked about buying a smaller bag, a TravelPro Maxlite 5 international carry-on size, to meet the smaller carry-on size and weight requirements of AirBaltic, which Andrew and I would be using to hop between Riga, Tallinn, and Helsinki on our Baltics beer and sauna tour. I said back then that I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it because I’d only be using it for this Baltics trip and maybe some short couple-of-day trips, that my big Victorinox 22-incher would remain my primary bag. But as it turns out, I’ve been using the smaller TravelPro for these 4-day/3-night trips to Phoenix. Now, with temperatures in 70’s, I’m not having to bring heavy, thick clothes with me, but still, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I can pack into that smaller TravelPro. But, I think I’ll be back to the Victorinox for next week’s trip — I’m vectoring through Durango, CO for a ski weekend on the way home. Little colder, little more clothing; I think I’ll need all the space I can get.
  • And if you have any travel stories, questions, comments, tips, rants – the voice of the traveler, send ’em along — text or audio comment to comments@travelcommons.com — you can send a Twitter message to mpeacock, post your thoughts on the TravelCommons’ Facebook page or our Instagram account at travelcommons — or you can post comments on the web site at TravelCommons.com.
  • Bridge Music — Velvet Green of Mystery (Instrumental) by Doxent Zsigmond (c) copyright 2014 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/doxent/48114 Ft: Kthugha, Jeris, Martijn de Boer

Planning the Trip of a Lifetime

  • We’ve talked on past episodes about trip planning — using guidebooks, social media, Google algorithms, shooting the gaps between bipolar TripAdvisor reviews, casting runes, consulting tarot cards,… And all that for a week’s vacation, maybe two. What about a 9-week vacation, a paid sabbatical that you’ve worked and waited 7 years for? Well, that’s the extreme travel planning that long-time TravelCommons listener and even longer time friend Allan Marko and his wife Chris Chufo faced last year. And with January being a big travel planning month, I asked Allan to talk to us about how he and Chris planned for a trip of a lifetime.
  • Interview with Allan Marko


  • Closing music — Pictures of You by Evangeline
  • OK, that’s it, that’s the end of TravelCommons podcast #159
  • I hope you all enjoyed this podcast and I hope you decide to stay subscribed.
  • Link to TravelCommons Vietnam video
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