How To Travel The World And Stay (Arguably) Sane...

Life as a road warrior can get very lonely, especially in Africa. The author shares his stories of friendships made and maintained around the world.

By Sean Mendis

I have found that there are three types of people in the world when it comes to travel.

The first group tends to be incredulous about anybody who claims to travel more than once a year on their annual vacation. The concept of the road warrior trudging from city to city, anonymous hotel to anonymous hotel and living out of a suitcase is just as alien to them as martians selling icecream. The second group are the "oh, you're so lucky to travel so much" people. These are the folks who think that a business trip to Europe with a redeye outbound and a day full of meetings is somehow similar to their dream vacation that features gondolas, rose petals and a masseur with fragrant oils. The third group are the grizzled veterans for whom nothing can raise an eyebrow. You flew 100,000 miles in a week? No big deal, I did 200,000 miles once. Had to change camels in Timbuktu on the way to Lesotho? Well, I took a flying cockroach to Nauru.

Where do I fall? Somewhere near the third category of late. The current project that I am working on has the tendency to impose travel schedules that even the most naive member of category two would balk at. I firmly believe that its a matter of attitude though. If travel deals you lemons, you make lemonade. Accordingly, I have penned this half-memoir, half-documentary and half-guide about "How To Travel The World and Stay (Arguably) Sane"

This tale starts in Mumbai, India. Well, sorta. I didn't actually plan it that way you see. I had arrived in London for meetings with a UK Government agency the previous week when suddenly a decree was passed (in a manner that only Governments can do with impunity) that the meetings were to be postponed by 5 days. Well, that means I could either head back to the client's office to cool my heels over the weekend or I could spend that time in the UK alternating between watching pay-per-view porn at the hotel and getting sozzled at the local pub. Neither seemed particularly attractive, so being the resourceful type that I am, I picked option three. Most sane people would not even consider this to be an option, but to me it was the most natural thing in the world. Since I was already in the UK, whats another 5000 miles. I'll hop a plane to India and go visit my mommy.

And so it came to pass that I wound up lying in bed in Mumbai with a 104F fever and the family doctor urging me bed rest while the emails kept pouring in stressing the importance of my return to London for the rescheduled meetings. Armed with a prescription for antibiotics and a 2 week supply of the same, I staggered to the airport to catch my flight west. Now, I am also somewhat of what my friends politely refer to as a "mileage whore". Skyteam is my alliance du jour, so I'm flying to London via Milan on Alitalia. This flight is usually an MD-11 but for whatever reason we have the crappy old 767 instead tonight. Still, I get assigned my preferred seat 3D which is the solo middle in the Magnifica cabin so it won't be all bad.

Alitalia airport services in Mumbai suck wind. They have a seperate line for Magnifica passengers but it leads to the same counter that handles the excess baggage and standby passengers, so service isn't exactly expedited. Even the red carpet is tattered and features a stain of questionable origin in the middle of the logo. The airport is typically bustling at this midnight hour so I make my way to what masquerades as the "Lounge" for premium passengers. Of course, this is equally bustling - so much so that they decline to let me in due to overcrowding. Just peachy. Interestingly, I also observe Ratan Tata (Forbes magazine's 2004 "Asian Business Leader of the Year") turned away for the same reason. At least they are equal opportunity obnoxious.

I take the opportunity to wander through the proletariat areas of Terminal II-A, something that I rarely get to do nowadays. My airport experiences tend to be confined to a counter-to-lounge-to-airplane flow, which is mighty convenient (usually) but doesn't really give you the feel of the place. I am quite impressed by the shiny neon signs and marble floors everywhere. If I didn't know better I might actually consider this a halfway decent air port.