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Beware of Life

From January to September 2009, 21,833 people died in my home state of Oregon. Just like that, each one of them left the world—here one day and gone the next. Several weeks ago, three hikers also died on our nearby Mount Hood in a tragic accident. After their deaths, there was the usual pontification about what they could have done differently. Despite the fact that they were all experienced climbers, and despite leaving for the hike when weather conditions were good, some people blamed their “risky behavior” and suggested various reforms that wouldn’t have made any difference in their case.

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How to Spend $2,000 on Stickers and Get 280,000 Frequent Flyer Miles

Greetings from vacation-land, where I've just arrived. I'm looking forward to sharing my 2009 Annual Review with you. But first, some big news in the travel hacking world has come up –-

Yesterday I spent a little over $2,000 on stickers I don't expect to use. On March 1, 2010, I expect to receive at least 280,000 new Star Alliance Frequent Flyer Miles in one of my mileage accounts as a result of the purchase. This is a case study in travel hacking, and in this example, something I call mileage arbitrage.

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Follow-Up on FOIA Request for Travel History

A while back I completed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any governmental records related to my travel history. You can read the original post, including all the info you need to make your own request if you carry a U.S. passport, over here. As mentioned at the time, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I was curious to see exactly what kind of records the Department of Homeland Security keeps on an active traveler.

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Technology and Travel

Greetings from somewhere in between Frankfurt airport and Baku, Azerbaijan. (This post is going up in advance, since I’m not sure I want to rely on in-flight internet.) Approximately one billion people—perhaps slightly less—have recently asked me about what kind of travel gear I use to roam the world and work.

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Avoiding False Dichotomies

Today is Blog Action Day, where the blogging world (such as it is) unites to write about a single topic. I know, so conventional—but in this case, I don’t mind going with the flow. The theme this year is Climate Change, so I thought I’d contribute something about travel and its impact on the world ...

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Your Own Amazing Race

My travel goal takes me to a lot of places, and the trips don’t always play out the way I expect. Things go wrong. Some trips are thrilling, some are boring, and most are somewhere in between.

Someone asked me recently, aren’t you on The Amazing Race? I saw you jumping around in taxis in Thailand.

Wrong guy.

My answer: “No, I’m doing my own Amazing Race. It’s better than the one on TV.”

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How to Request an Airline Status Match

In 2008 I earned Executive Platinum status with American Airlines the hard way– through lots of flight hours logged all over the world. In 2009 I also earned the same, highest-level status with Northwest, Delta, and Continental, but I flew less than 10,000 miles with each of them.

On a recent Atlanta-Miami flight operated by Delta, my upgrade cleared three days ahead of the flight. I watched as more loyal Delta passengers waited at the gate thirty minutes before departure in hopes of getting a seat up front. Is it fair? Depends on how you look at it, I suppose– but travel hacking is all about gaining some kind of advantage over the system.

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The Monster Trip of 2009

Last year at about this time, I took what I called the Monster Trip of 2008.

It involved four continents, driving through Italy in the middle of the night, visiting Iraqi Kurdistan, roaming by train and bus across the Baltics and Moldova, and finally coming home through Asia – where I mistakenly double-booked myself on two non-refundable tickets home from Japan.

What fun that was. Now it's time to repeat the process, although with a completely different itinerary, and hopefully without getting stranded on a faraway continent three days before I'm supposed to come home.

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My Unexpected Trip to the Cook Islands (Courtesy of Air New Zealand)

air-new-zealand

I've been home from my trip to Haiti and South America for about a week now, and I didn't expect to go anywhere for a while.

Then all of a sudden, I got an email from Air New Zealand... offering to bring me along with a group of journalists going to the South Pacific for a press event. The offer came via Chris Brogan, who recommended me to Air New Zealand – big thanks to Chris for that.

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Overland Journey from Guyana to Suriname

suriname-house Part I: Georgetown to New Amsterdam, Guyana

My sleep schedule is still off from the 3:30 a.m. arrival a couple of nights earlier, but it's an early morning wake-up to get to the Guyana taxi station. I fall asleep at 2:00 a.m., and the alarm goes off at 4:45. Nice. By 5:15 I'm downstairs paying the bill and waiting for my first ride of the day.

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Packing List

packing-list

A number of people have asked what I take with me for long overseas trips, and how I travel with no backpack or checked baggage. I'm getting ready to head out on the road again in about 10 days, so this is a good opportunity to review how it works for me.

The biggest secret: packing light is actually easier than bringing a ton of stuff.

The overriding philosophy of my packing list is to keep it as simple as possible. That's basic, I know, but very important. At least for me, travel stress is directly proportionate to the amount of stuff I carry around. I don't own a backpack and haven't willingly checked a bag on one of my extended adventures.

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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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