24 Hours in Transit: Part 1 – Adios Snow (MCI-CLT)

This is the first post in a three part trip report of my big move to Doha, Qatar.  If you’re new to trip reports you may find these boring as I did at first, but now I quite enjoy them.  In other words, I’m going to keep writing them, so get used to it.  If you find yourself falling asleep reading them, just scroll through them really fast to look at the pretty pictures.   

24 Hours in Transit:  Part 1 – Adios Snow (MCI-CLT)
24 Hours in Transit:  Part 2 – Crossing the Pond in Envoy Class (CLT-FRA)
24 Hours in Transit:  Part 3 – World’s 5-Star Airline (FRA-DOH)

Let me preface what I’m about to say by telling you that I love to fly.  Sure, everyone loves to travel, but for most people the flying part of traveling is just a means to an end.  I would guess for most people the actual flight experience is either a somewhat neutral experience or a small pain they’re willing to put up with in order to visit some new and exotic location.  But there are those people who downright hate flying.  They hate packing their liquids in 3 ounce containers, being asked to remove their belt and shoes just to get on a plane, being subjected to pat downs or nudoscope scans, their ears popping during takeoffs and landings, or the fact that it’s such a long process just to get on a plane these days.

Not this guy.  All those things combined is such a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the magic that is hopping on a metal tube and blasting through the air at 600 mph.  Traveling halfway across the world in hours when it used to take months is nothing short of amazing.  It really is pure magic to me, and I typically enjoy every minute of it (ok, well maybe not the TSA part).  From people watching in the airport to feeling the G’s pulling me back in my seat as I take off I find it to be an incredible experience no matter how often I do it.

All that being said, after spending 24 hours in airports and on airplanes, I thought, man am I glad I’m not doing that again anytime soon.  I think what did me in was the 5 hour layover in Frankfurt.  Not enough time to leave the airport, but a bit too much time in the airport, even with lounge access. [Full disclosure: That’s how I felt immediately upon arriving.  Now that it’s been a few weeks I’m getting a bit antsy to hop back on a plane.]

Well, enough trying to convince you that long flights aren’t worth the trip, because they most certainly are (especially if you’re planning to come visit us – we’re totally worth it).

Dawn took the day off to take me to the airport and see me off.  I was flying  MCI-CLT-FRA-DOH (Kansas City to Charlotte to Frankfurt to Doha) and the first flight was scheduled to leave at 3:35 PM KC time.  We left a little after noon, and grabbed Jimmy John’s on the way.  I had Chipotle the night before as my last supper in the States, and Jimmy John’s is another favorite of mine so it was good to enjoy that before hopping on a plane to a place with who knows what kind of fast food options.

Map from gcmap.com

Map from gcmap.com

Checking in took a while as the service agent was concerned that I had no visa for Qatar (you buy it when you get there) or a return ticket from DOH.  She had to look something up, and make a call to confirm that all was good.  She didn’t want me to not be let on the plane in CLT or be immediately put on a plane back to the States once I hit DOH.  I’m all for her doing her job and checking into things, but I wasn’t concerned there would be any issues.  Granted, I just assumed my company had informed me correctly that I’d just buy a 30 day visa once I arrived, and there’d be no problems.  I didn’t spend any time checking up on those types of requirements.  That’s typically how I roll, and there’s a good chance it’ll come back to bite me eventually.  At least I’ll have a story though.  And that’s what life is all about, right?  The stories?

After she finished doing her due diligence and found out I’d be fine without a visa or a return ticket, we proceeded with the checking in.  As much as I like to preach the no checked baggage rule I let myself off the hook since I was moving for 1-2 years.  To reduce what we’re shipping over, I tried to pack as much in my luggage as possible.  Airlines vary on their rules a little depending on where you’re flying and what class you’re flying in.  As I was flying transatlantic business class with US Airways I was allowed 2 checked bags with up to 70 lbs each (the economy limit is 1 bag at 50 lbs – with no fees).  One of my bags was around the 50 lb mark.  The scale read the 2nd bag as 70 lbs, but I’m pretty sure it was a few pounds over the limit.  I’m pretty convinced I brought way too many clothes, but my wife decided that I wasn’t allowed to wear the same two pairs of jeans and 10 shirts for two years straight.  After being here for a month, I think my 10 shirts would have been just fine.

As my bags were checked, it was time to play the waiting game.  While living in Orlando, I had arriving at the airport at just the right time down to an art form.  I knew exactly how long it took for me to get from my office to the place I parked my car, how long the the shuttle ride to the airport was, and how to speed through security by using the old Clear security line (it was sort of hidden) that had become the expert flyer line.  As I was typically flying out on a Friday after lunch I always worked in enough time to grab my standard airport dinner from McDonald’s.  It was a routine that I had perfected and quite enjoyed.  After moving to Kansas City I found myself getting to the airport way earlier than necessary.  I had moved to a city with an airport that serves about 10 million passengers a year from one that serves about 35 million, and I’m getting there twice as early.  Not to mention that every 10 gates or so  in Kansas City has their own dedicated security line.  It makes absolutely no sense, yet I continued to do it time and time again.

So, with time to spare before the flight, I set about knocking off tasks from my ever growing ‘Before I Move To Do List’.  I still don’t think I’ve completed everything on that list, and I’ve already been here a month.  That’s about how my to-do lists go.  Eventually it was time to head to the gate, and get on the plane.

It was the end of March, yet there was still snow on the ground.  I think it was God’s little going away present.  “Hey, you’re headed to a place with no precipitation of any kind and the kind of heat where it’s illegal to make people work outside from 12-3 in the summer, so I’ll go ahead and dump about 24″ of snow on you a few weeks before you leave, and then give you a little more of it just before you leave the country.”  Well, I was glad to be leaving all that mess behind.  If I can’t ski on it, I don’t want to see it.  I won’t have to worry about that for a while at least.

Adios snow

Adios snow

The flight to Charlotte was in domestic first class on an Airbus A320.  I believe some of those US Airways flights to CLT during the day are served by regional jets , so I was happy to be on a bit bigger plane for the 2 hr flight.  I had a coupon for a free 24 hr pass of in flight internet that I received from my Milepoint  premium membership.  It was only a 2 hr flight, and US Airways doesn’t have wifi available on international yet, so it wasn’t the best use of a 24 hr pass.  But if I didn’t use it on that flight then I figured it’d probably expire before I did have the chance to use it.  I killed the time reading blogs and taking advantage of the snacks they offered the first class passengers.  I really should learn to bring my own snacks when flying economy.  It really does make the flight better.  Food makes everything better.  After a fairly uneventful two hour flight I was in Charlotte.

Arriving in Charlotte

Arriving in Charlotte

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A Travel Blog Years in the Making

Like all grand plans I have, this blog has finally come to fruition after living inside of my head for quite some time.  Whether it’s starting a blog or buying a big screen TV, the ideas in my head must be analyzed, scrutinized, and contemplated upon for long periods of time before I’m able to make the commitment to actually pursue that effort.  It takes me way longer to let it toss and turn in my head than it should to actually just complete the task, but that’s not how I do things.

About the only thing I rarely hesitate on is travel.  Fly to Seattle and back in a day?  Sure, why not.  Travel for over 3 days by boat and plane just to visit a mostly deserted continent?  Sounds like a good time.  Move halfway across the world?  Let’s do this.  And that’s where I am today.  Who knows what will come next.

The Doha Skyline - My New City

The Doha Skyline – My New City

When the idea of starting a travel blog starting bouncing around in my head a couple of years ago, the force behind it was much different.  Years before the idea of starting a travel blog idea came about, I stumbled on an article on BudgetTravel.com about a guy who had quit his job to travel the world for a year.  He worked as a TV producer for HBO, and had been sent on an overseas assignment in Asia.  He met a couple of guys who had taken a year off from working to travel.  At first, the idea seemed crazy to him, but a few months after returning to the States he got the urge to do the same thing.  In order to justify the trip to himself, he decided he’d take along a video camera and make a documentary about the experience – both his personal experience as well as a number of round the world (RTW) travelers’ experiences he met along the way.  When I got the chance to watch A Map for Saturday I was exposed to a whole different type of travel.

Traveling around the world with just a backpack for a year or so was an incredible idea, and really seemed to fit me.  Of course, even with great ideas there are downsides or at the very least, opportunity costs.  First of all, it would be an extremely expensive trip no matter how often I couchsurfed or how cheaply I ate.  To be honest, though, this wasn’t a major concern of mine.  Sure, I’d have to save quite a bit, and then drain the savings I had already accumulated, but there will always be money to be made somewhere, somehow.  Second, there was the job factor.  When I first starting contemplating a RTW trip, I was working in Florida and really enjoying my job.   My co-workers were a great group of people, and I enjoyed the work.  Of course, the job couldn’t beat hiking Machu Picchu, visiting Petra, or diving the Great Barrier Reef, but it certainly paid better.  I did feel confident that if I were to quit my job I would either be able to rejoin my old company or find something similar when I came back.  However, I did know that a year away would put me at a disadvantage in my career path.  Sure, there’d be some skills I’d gain on the road, but I’d definitely be a few steps behind when jumping back into the corporate world.  Thirdly, I was also in the process of buying a house.  At the time I figured I’d be in Florida for the long haul, and the real estate market seemed to be bottoming out a bit (boy was I wrong).  It seemed like the right time to buy a house before prices started to rise again (did I mention I was wrong?).  None of these things in themselves convinced me not to make the plunge, but put them together, and they at least got me to delay the decision.  

While the idea of world travel continued to bounce around in my head, as tends to happen, life went on.  I soon met a girl, and the idea of world travel got put on the back burner for a little while.  This girl happened to live in Kansas City, and I was living in Orlando at the time.  As we dated I soon found out that she loved travel as much as I did.  We began hopping on planes every month or so to visit each other.  I love to fly, and the idea of heading to the airport to go see her made me love flying even more.    Eventually it was time for one of us to move, and for many reasons it was an easy decision which one of us it was going to be.  Soon, I was on my way to Kansas City.

I once asked her, if she had the money to do so, would she quit her job and travel the world for a year.  When she replied, “Absolutely”, I knew she was the girl for me.  We got married last spring, and late last year we had decided we were going to make this RTW trip happen.  We were going to save our money for the next year, and take a six month long trip around the world starting in January of 2014.  It was quite a ways off, but it was about the right time to make sure we focused on saving for such a large trip and to start getting a rough idea of where we wanted to go.

At the beginning of this year, while continuing to procrastinate the planning of our RTW trip, I ran into a coworker I had graduated college with.  He had just moved his family back from Doha, Qatar after spending 2.5 years there.  I had seen pictures of the trips he had taken while working there, and I started asking him about both his travel and job experiences.  It turned out that they needed a replacement for his position in Doha, and suggested that if I was interested to talk to my wife about it.  Long before she met me, she had wanted to live somewhere outside of the States for a year or so.  If she had her choice of locations, I don’t think that Doha would be at the top of her list, but this certainly was an opportunity to look into.  It would mean putting our RTW trip on an indefinite hold, but it would allow us to see many of the places we wanted to visit on our RTW trip anyway.  We wouldn’t get to experience the slow pace of travel I was looking for on the RTW trip, but not only would I not have to quit my job, I’d be able to gain some incredible experience that should help me in my career later on.  With a travel stipend, our modest stash of miles and points, and the fact that many of the places we want to visit are so much closer and cheaper to get to over here our travel could be done quite economically.  We decided we’d go for it if the decision makers that be decided I was the right guy for the job.  The process of knowing if we were going to get to move or not stretched out over a month or so and was a bit up and down.  Eventually, though, we had our plane tickets and started the packing and moving planning process.

I’ve been here exactly a month now, and I really enjoy it.  It’s certainly different, but I haven’t experienced the huge culture shock that everyone seems to suggest I should be experiencing.  I don’t know if that’s because the culture shock they experienced doesn’t really affect me, I just haven’t noticed it, or I’ve just gotten lucky so far.    But again, I’m just a month in.  We’ll see how things are going in six months or so.

I’ve got plans and goals for this blog, but I’ll leave those for another post.  I enjoy hearing people’s stories on how they got to where they are in life, and so before I shared those plans and goals, I wanted to give you a little of my travel back story.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and there will be more travel related posts coming soon.

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