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What Is First Class Travel Really Like?

Rerouted-Stream The flight attendant escorts me to my seat in 2B. She waits as I put my things down, and offers to hang my jacket. I spread out my books, journal, and iPod over the seat next to me, because I already know the front cabin is half-full and they’ve blocked the seat next to me at my request.

Not that I need the room – the seat is huge. It reclines fully flat so that I can go to sleep after the five-course meal.

As I’m getting settled, another flight attendant comes by with a tray of orange juice, champagne, and water. If I hesitate, he’ll ask, “Would you prefer a mimosa, or maybe club soda with lime?”

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Homecomings

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Despite hearing the question almost everywhere I go, I always shy away from picking a favorite country. Coming back to South Africa, however, I remember how much I love this one. I don’t have a single favorite country, but the Rainbow Nation is definitely one of the best.

Staying in Cape Town for three weeks back in 2005, I did all of the usual Capetonian activities. I climbed Table Mountain, I made the journey to Robbin Island, I headed out to Stellenbosch for wine tasting. All highly recommended, and if you’re making a life list of things to do before you die, spending a couple of weeks in the Republic of South Africa is probably as good as anything else you could put down.

Today I’m in Johannesburg, a city I’ve never really been to before. I’ve spent four months in East London, three weeks in Cape Town, three days in Pretoria, and countless transits through JNB airport – but until now I’d never been to Jo’burg, or Josie as It’s known here.

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Travel Ninja Launch

Friends and readers, my first product in several months is now available. If you’re reading by RSS or email, come over and read all of the details here. The guide will help you become your own Travel Ninja – someone who travels wherever they want at any time. It’s all about Travel Hacking, creative international…

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Travel Ninja Preview

On Thursday morning, I’ll release my first new product in several months. The goal of Travel Ninja is to help readers interested in serious international travel. It’s all about travel hacking, Round-the-World flying, low-cost lodging, and overall strategies to help you travel anywhere in the world. If you’d like to go to the next level,…

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Notes from the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

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In the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I’m having lunch with a couple of West African gangsters. To be precise, I’m eating a cheese sandwich while they are chain-smoking and drinking espresso.

I started off sitting at another table, but then we said hello to each other and I moved over. Because I lived in their region for so long, I always enjoy talking with West Africans whenever I meet up with them while traveling. The encounter with the guys at the Sheraton in Bangladesh, however, is a bit unusual.

They are very friendly. We talk about Obama, about Bangladesh, and so on. I ask them how long they are staying in Dhaka, and they say “We’re not sure.” I ask if they are staying “here,” meaning the Sheraton, and they say, “We’re not staying here, but we keep a room here.”

Whenever they’re not traveling, one of them tells me, they live in Brazil or Columbia. They work throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia, but never in the U.S. or Europe.

Hmmmm ...

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Holiday in Cambodia

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When I wasn’t playing ping-pong and visiting Dunkin’ Donuts, I passed up the chance to visit Cambodia in 2002. After a few weeks in Bangkok, Jolie and I ended up in a small village a few miles from the Cambodian border. There wasn’t much happening there, and one day someone said, “Hey, why don’t we go to Cambodia?”

We looked into it and learned that the visa would cost $20 upon arrival. The transport to get there and back would have been another $10, and for some reason I decided that $30 was too much to spend for a short visit across the border.

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Bangkok Adventures

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The Japanese man sitting next to me looks back and forth between the video and me. Finally, he takes off his headphones and asks, “Wrong movie?”

Yes. Wrong movie.

The wrong movie plays for nearly three minutes before it is turned off by a flight attendant. She comes on the p.a. after another three minutes. “Ladies and gentlemen… sorry… we can’t find the arrival video for Japan. If you have any questions about Japan, let us know.”

Other than that, the 11-hour flight across the Pacific is uneventful. I arrive in Narita and quickly transfer to a Cathay Pacific flight for Hong Kong. Another five hours goes by as I fitfully sleep in the back of the plane.

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Rerouting Travel Plans

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It’s not technically last-minute – I’ve changed full itineraries right up to the day of departure before – but two weeks before I was scheduled to fly to Ethiopia, I decided to change directions and go to Southeast Asia instead. In fact, I’m leaving this morning! Yikes – after I write this, I really should think about packing.

This post will explain both the why and how of this decision. The why part covers the details of why I no longer wanted to take the trip I originally planned. The how part deals with Travel Hacking – in this case, how I was able to change the entire trip on short notice using Awards tickets and so on.

Take your pick – feel free to read both or either parts depending on your interest level.

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How to Get a Duplicate U.S. Passport

uspassports-duplicate This post is relevant for readers with U.S. passports who travel frequently. If you don't fit in that group, feel free to skip this one – or just read it for the entertainment value.

I've mentioned a few times that I have two U.S. passports, and each time at least one person asks me how that works. Well, I'll you exactly how I got the second passport, and what you need to do if this would help you as well.

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Wrapping Up the Year of Ultimate Travel

2567692977_f2d0a78453_z As part of my Annual Review, I count up all the countries I’ve been to and look back at the visits over the year. This time, one thing was clear: I made it to a lot of places in 2008!

For those who are interested, here is the year-end roundup of my adventures, including a few statistics, misadventures, and highlights. For everyone else, enjoy the holiday week and I’ll see you on Monday.

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