Just got back from a round-the-world (RTW) 2 week trip covering 6 cities – started in Mumbai, and then went to Tokyo, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Atlanta, New York and Boston. Even as I was doing this RTW, I discovered that Richard Quest of CNN did much the same – albeit in economy class (I travelled business – the ticket cost Rs 180,000 or about USD 4,000).
The thing to remember about an RTW ticket is that you can pretty much make as many stops (there are some restrictions) as long as you keep flying in one direction. This allows me to get additional stops in Asia or Europe, and I love visiting new cities and meeting new people.
Travel like this also gives me a lot of time to think and that is one of the reasons I prefer business-class for international travel. The ticket also gets use of the lounges at airports which can be quite useful, along with other minor advantages like getting to board first (plenty of time to get the luggage in the overhead racks) and exit first (shorter immigration and custom queues).
The new city in this trip was Tokyo. Have always wanted to visit Japan. Even though I was there for only 2 days, it gave a good view of the city. I like to think of it as a “survey” – with an option to go back for a longer visit sometime later. Saw plenty of snow in both New York and Boston, which was nice, compared to a swelteringly hot Mumbai.
A friend asked me what was the most impressive thing I saw on this trip. It took me a little while to answer that question. I think it has to be the international attention on India. Rarely a day passed by without a mention of India and outsourcing in the US media. To think that a year ago India existed only as some farway place on the map, this is an amazing achievement. Of course, there is also a worry that now that the world’s attention is trained on India, we may not be able to live up to the expectations. But my feeling is that this time it is for real. The outsourcing decision is one based on business economics. India is now firmly part of the global value chain.
Back to the travel. I was on Star Alliance (Thai Airways from Mumbai to Tokyo, via Bangkok; United from Tokyo to San Francisco, and within the US, and finally Lufthansa from Boston to Mumbai). All flights were on time and very comfortable. Our bags missed the connection from Washington to New York (en route from Atlanta), but reached us the next day. As a postscript, it also turned out that I stopped by most of the world’s busiest airports – Bangkok, Tokyo, SF, Chicago, Atlanta, NY, Boston and Frankfurt.
So, the next time you have some time, try RTW and see some new cities. It is a wonderful experience waking up in a new place every couple days. Of course, one has to pack and unpack, and there’s a lot of time spent at airports, but given that there’s also plenty of “thought time”, the changes in contexts every so often are very helpful.