People say it’s a small world, but I disagree.
Sure, it may seem like the world is getting smaller with the globalization of businesses and the ease of communication and information flow, but there’s still a great big world out there to explore. Even in this day and age, there are more than a few places that feel completely untouched by the rest of the world around it.
There are 196 countries in the world (195 if you don’t count Taiwan), but there are 321 “countries and territories” (read distinct places) according to the Traveler’s Century Club. At last count I had been to twenty some countries and six continents, but I haven’t taken the time yet to make a list of the Traveler’s Century Club places I’ve visited. I may only have one continent left to visit, but there are plenty of distinct places in the world left for my wife and I to experience. Quite too many in fact. It’s the reason behind wanting to take that RTW trip. Sure, we can’t see it all, but we’re going to do our absolute best trying.
Since I know we’re probably not going to be able to visit all 321 distinct places on this earth, I’m going to have to narrow it down a bit. The question is where to start. When anyone asks me where I want to go I usually stumble a bit because there are just so many places I want to see. Eventually, though, there always seem to be three places that always come into my head: Machu Picchu in Peru, Petra in Jordan, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Why those three places? To be honest, I have no idea. If I sat down to really think hard on it, I’m not even sure those would be my top three – top five or ten for sure, but I’m too noncommittal to lock in those as the ultimate.
The other thing about those places is I think they have popped into my head relatively recently (as in the last 5 years or so). It’s not like I grew up longing to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I didn’t realize the treasury in Petra was featured in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade until long after I decided Petra was on my must visit list. And I doubt I even knew that Angkor Wat was a real place when I saw Tomb Raider for the first time. Somehow, though, these places have crept into my psyche. For whatever reason, those three places seem to be at the top of my list, but give it a month or even a day, and I’ll probably have come up with at least one other destination that would give those three a run for their money. Heck, give me a few minutes. Patagonia just popped into my head as a destination that would be right up there with any of those three.
Since it doesn’t make much sense to make a trip to South America from Qatar, we’re probably going to hold off on Patagonia and Machu Picchu until we’re living back in the States. Petra and Angkor Wat are certainly much more accessible from here rather than the States, though. Amman, Jordan is only a two and a half hour nonstop flight from Doha. Angkor Wat is about 10-12 hours away with one stop, but much better than the 28-36 hour travel time from Kansas City. The plan is to make both of those trips at some point while living here in Doha.
Sure, I’ve got plenty of other places that pop into my head from time to time that I’d like to see while here, but like I said, it’s tough to narrow it down. Plus, maybe there’s a few places of that I haven’t even thought of yet that would be easier to get to or that I’d like to see more. One of the great things about being over here is everything is so much closer than it is in the States. Europe isn’t as close as I thought it was (anywhere from a 5.5 to 7 hours if you can get a decently priced nonstop flight), but there are still quite a few destinations all within 3-4 hours which, to me, makes them great weekend trips. I could probably make that 7 hour flight to London be a great weekend trip, too, though, if the flight times were to work out.
The question is, how do you discover all of the weekend trip possibilities? Well, first, you ask around and see what others have done. Dubai is obviously a standard for expats to visit (clocking in at just a 58 minute flight), and people say that Muscat, Oman is beautiful (1:22 nonstop). So, both of those are now on my weekend list. I’ve been told Bahrain is where all the Saudi’s drive to on the weekend since apparently fun is outlawed in their country (although I’d still very much like to visit Saudi). Bahrain is only a 40 minute flight or a five hour drive through Saudi Arabia (probably the easiest way to visit Saudi is getting the transit visa to get to Bahrain, although I’m not sure if it’s worth the hassle). Bahrain sounds like a great weekender, but it’s had some issues of it’s own lately. Ok, so now I’m up to three places, make it four if you throw Abu Dhabi in there as well. There’s got to be more than that right?
I got this bright idea that I was going to compile all of the nonstop flights that originate in Doha into a spreadsheet so that I could organize them by distance, time of the flight, airline, etc. Ideally, I’d like it to even include a rough estimate of pricing for a certain time period out, say one month. I knew that would be a bit trickier to gather that information though. I didn’t know what it’d take to gather the rest of this information, but gathering the nonstop flights from DOH together in one place seemed like the most definitive way to come up with all of the easiest possible travel options. It was a good starting point at least. (I could have tried to gather all the one stop possibilities, but the amount of information would be insane. You throw a single layover in there, and I bet you could hit almost every country in the world from DOH.) I really know nothing about gathering all of this information together or if someone has already done it. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I went to the one guy who might know the best way to gather this information together, The Wandering Aramean. The guy has built some incredible travel tools, and writes a great travel blog. I actually got to meet up and grab dinner with him and another friend/reader of his during his 13 hour layover here in Doha. The great thing about the miles and points community is everyone is so incredibly willing to share their knowledge and help others out. Sure enough, within minutes of my email, he had responded and told me to start with www.openflights.org. It turns out that site has most of the information I wanted for my spreadsheet – airport, airline, distance, and length of flight. All I had to do was type in DOH, and voila, all of that information returned. It took some massaging of the information to get it into a spreadsheet I liked, but the bulk of the work was done in one fell swoop. I’m still tweaking two different versions of it, but below is the basic version (without Airline data) sorted by flight time. There are 102 different destinations serviced by nonstop flights out of Doha, which is quite incredible to me. Not sure what MCI’s number is, but it’s a lot less.
Take a look at the list below and let me know if you have any suggestions for must see places – Baghdad and Tehran both look quite enticing coming in at just under 2 hours a flight…