In this journal:
intro to a 100-day journey;
empty Shanghai airport;
Fellas, I have a confession to make.
I have a serious problem. I am here at Wanderlust Anonymous for the same reasons as all of you. I cannot control myself when I see cheap ways to get around the world, and I happen to be very, very good at finding those costless ways. So I had been indulging myself recently, and I had sinned so much in the months of March to June. I completely outdid myself, especially when I thought that would be impossible after Round’aWorld 2017 craziness. Shamefully, I present you, the Voyager Series, a long string of trips strung together by a very cheap ticket, done four times in a row.
Introduction & Directory
The cheap ticket that I took advantage of works as this: you have to depart from Seoul, Korea, and then you fly to Santiago de Chile, after staying there, you have to fly back to Japan. However, the shocker is: there is no rule telling how to fly this, and where to stop. So you can practically go anywhere in the world as long as it is reachable within a few selected airlines’ route network, and you can make 2 stops. Now that is where the interesting part kicks in: where do I go? I of course picked places that are normally hard to reach. And to maximize the value, I connected all a few of these broken tickets together, back to back to back to back, and we have the Voyager Series.
Through a few weeks of careful calculation and meticulous planning, I managed to hit the holy grail of mileage-running: I came out neutral in the trip. This means the 3 thousand dollar-ish I spent all came back to me in the value of miles. I did this entire trip for free.
Now let’s get to the exact routes I took. If you are not that big in airline routes, go ahead and just skip directly down to “JOIN ME”.
First up, I needed to fly from Shanghai, my home base, to Korea, it was easy, I went splurging by going for a ticket from the Hongqiao Airport to Seoul Gimpo, the easy airports of both cities. This short segment is featured in this journal.
Then comes Voyager 1
Standard Seoul departure, through Madrid and Lima to Santiago, then stay there for 3 days. Following that, a flight to Rovaniemi, Finland via Guayaquil, Lima, Madrid and Helsinki. I spent 5 days in the frozen Lapland Arctic, then continued to Osaka via Helsinki, Bangkok and Seoul.
After Voyager 1, I ended up in Osaka, in the middle of the cherry blossom season, so why not stay a bit, and explore around? I had only been to Tokyo for cherry blossoms, and also for the past few times, I had only been to the capital. Tokyo, Tokyo, and Tokyo… What a welcoming change of pace!
Cherry blossoms at 奈良/Nara
Quick budget airline hop to Seoul, then off to Iquitos, Peru, via Madrid and Lima, spent a week in the heart of Amazon jungles, before continuing through Lima and Guayaquil to Santiago. For the way back, I stopped by Bogota and flew by Lima and Madrid back to Seoul.
monkeys love me in the Amazon~!
Here comes the heavy hitter. For the trip, on the outbound I hopped through Helsinki, Madrid, Lima and Sao Paolo, and on the way back stopped at Prague first for my birthday, as well as the other Czech city of Brno, then onwards to the beautiful nation of Malta. Eventually coming back to Seoul after Helsinki and Fukuoka.
Finally, for the last hurrah, I departed from Seoul one last time, headed through Hong Kong, Madrid, Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima again, Barcelona, Helsinki, and ended up in Chania on the Greek Island of Crete. Then crossed the island in 10 days, flew from Heraklion to Warsaw, and visited the capital of Poland, as well as Gdansk in the north, and eventually back to the beloved departure city Shanghai, 3 months later. Now this is some serious mileage!
So join me! Into this unprecedented journey, an absolute crazy piece of enormous chaos! It will be so great that I doubt I can ever outdo myself this time. Over 200,000km covered, more than a dozen countries, and seriously some mind-melting number of hours airbourne, this is gonna be great! I began my journey harboring the ambition of exploration, just like the famous Voyager spacecrafts launched in the 1970s, and just like the late Dr. Hawking once said:
My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.
He, the spacecrafts, and I share the same goal, and with that, I dedicate this series to the great dream of exploration. To the infinity, and Beyounged!
Something ends, Something begins
It is time.
Today, I begin the longest journey in my life to date, and the very first mega mileage run. I could not sleep the whole night, realizing that if anything goes wrong in this trip, my loss would be exponentially higher than any other trip I had ever taken. There was no margin of error, especially not like the beginning of my C.A.T. trip, for which I booked the ticket in the wrong fucking month. I triple checked my backpack, the only companion that would journey with me to cover enough distance to circle the world 5 times in the next three months. Everything was there. I took a deep breath, and locked the apartment door behind me.
pack light, for my heart and soul are full
Taxi pulled into the small sidewalk of Hongqiao Airport Terminal 1, and I could barely believe it is the airport for one of the largest metropolis in the world. I had not been here for years, and it was the opposite of what I remembered: spotlessly clean, slow while casual, and not crowded at all.
check-in hall, Shanghai Hongqiao
My Korean Air flight is a very premium one, as very few airlines have the privilege to fly from this city center airport internationally. The only other international destinations reachable from here are Hong Kong via Cathay Dragon, Tokyo Haneda via Japan Airlines and ANA, and Taipei Songshan via China Airlines and EVA. Thus, the international departure hall was almost horrifically empty: mine was the only departing flight. Considering that normally I would had to take 2 hours of metro and then spend 2 more hours in immigration and security for any Pudong Airport flight, I was in shock as I sat down on an empty bench at a deserted gate just 35 minutes after leaving the front door of my house. God this is marvelous!
can you believe this is one of the most overcrowded city’s airports?
Two hours later, I landed at Seoul Gimpo airport, and took the airport train west to Unseo, where I found the cheapest hostel closest to the big international Incheon airport. Because next day, I would have to leave from Seoul for my real journey. I walked out of the deserted station, and tried to find my way to the hostel. The area was completely new, so mostly there were buildings in construction and abandoned fields.
foggy night in Unseo
Next day, I woke up late, and took the easy 15 minute ride into Incheon Airport. As I stepped onto the departure floor, I knew: from then on, I would be a different person. From then on, known realm of normal travelling ends, and chaos begins. Little did I know this trip would involve getting seriously sick, scammed by a guy named Hitler, losing over a thousand dollars for forgetting the date, and getting stranded in 3 separate countries. The mad scramble would shuffle me around this tiny blue planet so many times my brain might be permanently traumatized. I was a bit shaky, and a bit scared, but there is no turning back. I would stop being an avid traveler, from now on, I would become a true Voyager.
Something ended, and something began.