— It’s the kind of story with which many road warriors can relate. Charles Veley found himself at the mercy of a careless guide and wound up stranded without his essentials.
The situation required resourcefulness. So what did he do?
“We watched the helicopter fly away and hoped we wouldn’t be abandoned to die on one of the world’s most godforsaken islands,” he says about being stranded at the end of an expedition to Antarctica.
Kind of makes your stranded-overnight-without-a-toothbrush-in-Dayton story seem kind of petty.
Veley, 45, is the world’s most traveled man. He’s been to 823 of the world’s 872 countries, territories, enclaves, islands, provinces and autonomous regions. It all happened during a prolific burst of travel from 2000 to 2008.
These days, the married father of three still travels about 200,000 air miles a year for MicroStrategy, a Vienna, Va., business software company he founded.
Go everywhere twice
So who better than he to offer tips on how to navigate the many splendored hassles that involve getting modern humanity from here to there?
His best advice? Go everywhere twice.
“Every airport looks less threatening the second time you see it,” he says.
The second best advice from this lively and engaging gentleman is contrary to his every instinct that kept him alive in many dangerous situations in remote places where lawlessness reigns.
“To deal with routine travel today, all the hours of waiting, all the delays, the best advice is to just turn your mind off,” he says. “The great thing is to have an iPhone or a Blackberry that lets you plow through your to-do list.”
For most travelers, the days of affable porters hauling stickered steamer trunks stuffed with gowns and goodies are gone. Universally, Veley and other travel experts insist the best way to travel today is to always arrive early and pack light — and their idea of packing light may be vastly different from yours.
“I can be gone for five weeks and get by with just one carry-on,” says Beth Whitman, founder of www.wanderlustandlipstick.com, a travel website for women. “If I can’t carry it on, I don’t take it. I wear multiple layers of the heaviest items on the plane and pack the lightest stuff in the carry on.”
She swears by a nifty Eagle Creek compression sac that does to your duds what similar kitchen appliances do to your leftovers.
“It condenses everything down to more than a third of its size,” she says. “It’s amazing. Then the first thing I do is tell the people you’re visiting to get used to seeing you in the same thing over and over. People understand.”
In these days of airline baggage fees of between $25 and $50 per bag, many globetrotters are finding it more efficient to simply ship their bags. It costs about $50 to ship a bag from New York to San Francisco five days in advance. Shipping, too, will save you check-in time and counting luggage laps at the baggage carousel.
As a wheelchair-bound frequent flier, Craig Kennedy faces more daunting challenges than most travelers. He and his wife Andrea run www.accessanything.net, a website for people with disabilities, and travel from Denver around the country to advise travel industry personnel on how to better deal with the handicapped.
He says the most common mistake he sees travelers making is being woefully unprepared for the humdrum requests before boarding a plane.
“It’s common sense,” he says. “Be prepared, be organized and be on-time. Have your itinerary ready and your boarding passes out. Don’t give the TSA any reason to yell at you. These days they’re looking for excuses to do so. ”
The couple have often been saved from inconvenience by booking rooms near the airport for after their flights are scheduled to depart. “Every flight today is either full or overbooked,” Kennedy says. “We book a room in anticipation that something will go wrong. If it doesn’t, we cancel without any penalty. If it does, we don’t have to worry about spending the night on benches in the terminal.”
Until Veley usurped the title of world's most traveled man, the honor was held by the late John Clouse, who was recognized in 1995 by Guinness World Records. Clouse, who died in 2008, used to tell reporters he liked to travel with holes in his socks.
He’d always pack his rattiest clothes and simply discard them as the trip went along.
Veley says he packs light so he can on purpose run out of things on the road.
“I always enjoyed any opportunity that forced me out of my comfort zone and out into the culture,” he says. “Plus, you wind up with more interesting souvenirs. I ran out of toothpaste in Russia once. Every time I used the Crest at home for the next few months I was reminded of Russia because the Crest came with Russian instructions on the label.”
And leave that bad attitude at home, Veley says. No matter where you’re traveling, you always need to be tolerant of others and open to new experiences.
What’s the one thing he never leaves home without?
“Greet people with a big smile and you won’t believe the favors that’ll flow your way. Just the opposite for frowning people. Nobody wants frowning people crossing into their borders. Frowning people get detained for questioning all the time.”