The Art of the Layover

It’s been a big year for travel; five continents and nineteen countries big. The focus on each trip in the last 365 has been perfecting the layover while en route to the final destination. As far back as I can remember, having anything but a direct flight has been deemed as a headache and an inconvenience. However, the times is changin’. With increased visibility to flight options and available routes, why not mix it up? Hell, even turn it into an adventure. As the old saying goes, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right? We think that statement is… well, exactly what you make it.

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Earlier this year, in harmony with a work trip to Cape Town, South Africa, we decided to get creative with our route and cross a few to-dos off of the bucket list. Our trip started at a trade event in San Diego, CA where we prepared for the two-part, 24-hour flight by packing the necessary essentials. Rule of thumb; if you’re going to be spending that much time on a plane, invest in your comfort. In this instance, Lululemon had my back… and, other parts as well. Their ABC (anti-ball crushing) pants are still my go-to for co-leisure business travel. They’re easily mistaken for dress pants and as comfortable as sweats… and to top it off, they have a built-in rear zip-pocket for your passport – I’m not accustomed to (much) grab-ass on the road so this feature is a pretty safe bet.

With a quick flight from SAN to LAX, we were crossing the pond… and this time to the culture rich city of Paris. As a single thirty-something, this is a city I look forward to exploring in depth with my future Mrs. but, for now, Anthony will do. We arrived at Charles De Gaulle around noon, leaving roughly eight hours to kill prior to our 22:00 flight. Our first stop was the airport baggage office where we found lockers for our duffle’s and backpacks (no sense in carting the extra weight if it can be prevented at 10€; really, a no-brainer). We then hopped a public bus for 12€ per person that dropped us at the city center – this ended up being an ideal option as the bus had wifi and allowed us to finish the essential research while in transit (in my opinion, all spontaneity requires some structure to use time efficiently). Over the course of our afternoon, we enjoyed mouthwatering crepes and fresh Parisian beer, walked the Champs-Élysées and saw the obvious tourist attractions. It was a fast-paced adventure and with the help of our UberX driver who toured us in a Mercedes E Class for over an hour with a total cost of 53€, we maximized every minute of it. While it’s obvious this city and country both deserve an extended bout of travel to truly appreciate the beauty and history, as it’s one of Europe’s oldest regions, when in Paris (or Rome), a well-planned day trip will do.

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Moving South. The second part of our journey was a direct flight from Paris to Johannesburg, South Africa. While traveling, as you may have read in previous posts, we always make an effort to fly red-eye to avoid missing valuable adventure or business time. The great part about this leg is it departs at night and extends long enough to enjoy a meal, a glass (or two) of wine, and catch the necessary z’s in time for a 08:00 landing in one of the most southern parts of the eastern hemisphere.

Our conference in Cape Town wasn’t scheduled to start until Monday and it was Thursday morning. What do you do in South Africa with a few days to explore? Safari. By noon we were on a flight to Hoedspruit Airport (HDS) heading to the Jackalberry Lodge in the Thornybush reserve. With strong language and cultural barriers, we asked our friends at 6 Degrees Travel to help coordinate this portion of our trip. This allowed us to eliminate the unknowns, pack bags in our usual minimalist way, and safely venture to an area of the world that’s in close proximity to a listed CDC “danger zone”. Spending three full days touring the Thornybush Game Reserve allowed us to see the “big five” game animals, hike the bush (with our rifle carrying guide), spend a few fun nights eating and drinking with groups from around the world and most importantly power down the cellular devices to fully immerse… Unclench your texting grip… it’s worth it, I promise. This adventure is a must for an experience seeker that loves the outdoors and exploring a completely new and fresh side of nature. Our guide was at one with his surroundings and it was his goal to one day venture to the United States to see deer, elk, wolves and bears. I assured him it was a great experience, but compared to where he lives was a bit less impressive. It appears the grass is always greener.

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From here we hopped a flight south to begin introducing our products to the South African market. Finally reaching our “destination”, we spent the week touring Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria, all of which have their own breathtaking landscape, rich history and globally unique personality. Worth the full day of travel? If you asked me to join you on this trip tomorrow I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

It feels like the majority of my adult life I’ve sped from location to location always eager to “get there” without truly appreciating the beauty along the way. Looking back on this trip, the meat of the journey and my fondest memories were the details in-transit and I eagerly await embracing the tangents and catching the curve balls during next year’s travel game.