I’ve always enjoyed the plethora of travel blogs and tips scattered across the web. However, finding time for my live, real-time reviews often eludes me. Despite this, I’m eager to share reflections on my year of unique and intriguing travel adventures. Please note, that these are purely my personal subjective views, unbound by any official ratings or criteria let alone sponsorship.
I am thrilled to reveal a special accolade I received as a frequent traveler, but more on that later. Let’s dive in.
Firstly, my heartfelt thanks to the numerous individuals who made my journeys possible – from flight attendants and pilots to baggage handlers, taxi drivers, and hotel staff. Over 200 days on the road, 550 hours in the sky, and countless airport hours were made seamless thanks to their efforts. My experiences ranged from delightful to challenging, and admittedly, after several red-eye flights, my zen-like composure occasionally waned.
Regarding airlines, most of my flights, as per Myflightradar.com, were business trips. Out of 90 flights (a decrease from 150 in 2019), 90% were for business, all on economy tickets. A shout-out to Qatar Airways and Brussels Airlines for some appreciated upgrades.
Qatar and Emirates remain top choices for their stellar service and hospitality. Once I get to the point of flying business class, the treatment as an economy passenger will be the main selection criteria.
A special mention to two airlines:
Lufthansa: Past experiences were mixed, but their handling of the Munich snowstorm in December was commendable. Despite six flight cancellations over four days, they provided swift, friendly hotel accommodations and alternative arrangements. Their AI chatbot, while not perfect, added a humorous touch.
Avianca: After a hiatus due to previous bad experiences, my recent encounter reaffirmed my stance. They write the textbook for the class of airlines that are too shabby to qualify as ultra-low-cost carriers – from the dismissive check-in at JFK to cramped seating, lack of amenities, and absent onboard service, including blankets. The most impressive part though was that the flight attendants slept for 3 of the 5 hours, covered in blankets on the more spacious exit seats. It must have been a tough layover for them in the city that never
On ground transportation, Flixbus deserves a mention. An unplanned 12-hour overnight journey from Krakow to Munich was surprisingly comfortable and convenient, presenting a viable alternative to short-haul
In terms of accommodation, the Accor hotel group has shown remarkable improvement, offering reliable options across various price points. While Fairmont and Sofitel are personal favorites, the exceptional service at Ibis Styles in Nairobi, led by a dedicated General Manager, deserves special recognition. Together with his team, he demonstrates that friendly service does not depend on the hotel’s price level.
Two hotels stood out for their unique offerings:
Luna Salada is near the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, and is built entirely of salt. It offers an unforgettable experience. A little more oxygen would have helped me enjoy the nights above 4000m, but I take that as a
reminder to get better in shape.
Eagle View Lodge in Kigali, The owner’s former home, converted into a unique place to dine, sleep or just spend time with a view of the city of Kigali.
Rediscovering Logis de France was like a trip down memory lane, reminiscent of my student days exploring France. These family-run establishments offer delightful meals and comfortable stays.
Destination-wise, the year was filled with surprises. Who would have thought that I could enjoy the party of the year in Kyrgyzstan in October, especially after some eye-opening business experiences earlier in the year? Two places were just blowing me away as you can see from the pictures.
- The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia gave me a 3-hour show of changing colors, reflections, and the sunburn of the century.
- Lapland during the winter solstice. This is the most calming meditative experience, if you are dressed to enjoy minus 20 degrees Celsius
A less pleasant note: OK then let’s add one explicitly negative experience: JFK Airport Parking. It is clear that the overall and desirable upgrade of JFK Airport leads to parking disruptions, but at the same time increasing the daily l/t parking rate from $20 to $29 epitomizes greed. Combine this with an embarrassingly inflexible system and you have a parking experience worse than in any other place on this planet.
The Best Travel Reward Ever
Finally, the much-anticipated accolade: a subtle nod from Amberjack on my Instagram feed, recognizing my frequent flyer status and assuming that I am already a flight attendant! – a delightful and unexpected honor.
As 2023 wraps up, I’m gearing up for more adventures. While the humor of a seasoned traveler might sometimes be nuanced or quirky, I still can recommend everyone to get out and discover the world.
There are so many great places and so many wonderful people. The experience is eye-opening (yes also because of jetlag), but I think that it creates a much better understanding of different cultures, religions, and perspectives on problems.
Looking forward to crossing paths on a future flight!