My 2017 in 97 flights, 172 hotel nights in 34 countries: I love bleisure travel!

My 2017 in 97 flights, 172 hotel nights in 34 countries: I love bleisure travel!

It’s that time of the year to look back and make a summary of all the places I visited but first I would like to thank you for following CTB Global and wish you a happy 2018! That you may travel a lot, stay healthy and have a prosperous life. 2017 was good for me, with 97 flights, 172 hotel nights and a visit to 34 countries of which 11 were new to me. Compared to 2016 a good new personal record. I’m writing this summary on a TAP Portugal business class flight to Sao Tome & Principe which I booked at just over 700 euro. I will celebrate Christmas there and New Years Eve in Ghana (the flight has a stop there) with my family. Where do you celebrate Christmas and NYE? Looking forward hearing from you in the comments below! Now, join my memories of 2017 in the summary below but first some thoughts on the digital nomad hype.

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Am I a digital nomad?

The digital nomad lifestyle is a hype and there are so many people including online writers (aka bloggers) who call themselves a digital nomad but still have an office job. Recently I read an article about someone (I won’t mention the name) that called himself a luxury digital nomad but couldn’t travel that much for several months due to obligations at his office job. It sounds interesting to call yourself a digital nomad so that others might envy you but if you don’t travel 365 days a year…… you’re simply not a digital nomad. That said, I’m NOT a digital nomad as I travel not even 200 days a year. I own a house and I have my own office in the Netherlands. So what am I? I’m a bleisure traveler and love to combine leisure & business is tropical resorts 🙂

PALAU - Palau Royal Resort is the luxury hotel to stay on this paradise island

What is a bleisure traveler? A bleisure traveler is someone who travels for business, either for his/her own business or for his/her employer, and combines this with leisure travel. For my company I must make several business trips a year to conferences, which normally include: Argentina, Brazil, USA, Singapore, Japan, Russia, China and sometimes Hong Kong. These conferences are usually 4-5 days and I’ll add normally a week or 10-days for leisure. Sometimes I stay in the same country but often I make a short flight to visit a neighboring country. This way I can see more of the world and I can still do my job from my laptop when I’m travelling for leisure. Five times a year during school holidays I go on leisure trips together with my family. I still work too during those trips, but they are more leisure as business. Now is CTB Global also a job but I count this towards the leisure part 😊

What are you? A digital nomad? A bleisure traveler? Or maybe something else? Give it some thoughts and let me know in the comments!

My statistics for 2017

Let’s start with my flight map of 2017 (click link for an interactive map) and don’t mind the white lines; those are planned upcoming flights for 2018 already.

My 2017 in 97 flights, 172 hotel nights in 34 countries: I love bleisure travel!

and some statistics first 🙂

  • 97 flights (new record); 41 economy, 14 economy+, 42 business class and 0 in first (bummer)
    my business class flights (21 returns) averaged below 850 euro each!
  • KLM is my top airline and others are mainly skyteam partners but I will fly the cheapest option on any alliance as I have enough miles to become Flying Blue platinum for life already.
  • Total of 234728 kilometers; 5.9x around the world
  • 348:18 hours in the plane that’s 14.5 days or 2.1 weeks
  • 29 tons of CO2 I put into the air; not proud of that
  • I earned over half a million miles in Flying Blue this year and over 300k in other programs (I use BA Avios for OneWorld and A3 for Star Alliance as secondary program as they allow family members to pool)
  • I stayed about 172 days of the year in hotels (a few less as 2017 but I might have forgotten some layover hotels) which earned me countless points. 100 nights were with the IHG group.
  • I saved a lot of money using loyalty programs, use of promotions and being flexible with the leisure trips

Now let’s look where I went!

My travels in the 1st quarter of 2017: Yap was the highlight

I celebrated the start of 2017 in Japan where I finished a 2-week Japan itinerary with my family. It was the first time for my wife and daughter but I visited Japan with my son before. The 2-week Japan itinerary included visits to Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. It was a great time. At the end of January, I was in Berlin for an annual conference. It was a week long just business but in the evenings, I had time to visit various Berlin craft beer bars.

GERMANY - My favorite hotspots in Berlin to drink craft beer

Mid-February it was school holiday and the plan was to make a 10-day Israel road trip with the complete family. My son however got hospitalized (nothing life threatening) and my wife decided she would stay with him so that I could go with my daughter to Israel (first new country of the year). We had a great time even though we missed the other part of the family. I booked business class flights from Amsterdam to Israel at just 215 euro which was dirt cheap. How? Because I paid in Egyptian pounds which lost half of it’s value overnight and some online travel agencies were still selling at the old exchange rate the next day. An awesome deal which I also used for the summer travel to Thailand (see below).

PACIFIC - Ultimate 14 days Pacific island hopping itinerary: Palau, Yap, Guam & Northern Marianas

In March it was time for my annual Singapore conference where I arrived on the last leg of an old Singapore Airlines ticket I was still holding. This year I decided to book two different hotels: Capella Sentosa Islands for the first day to relax and the second part of the trip at The Scarlet Hotel. Two hotels I highly recommend. I didn’t stay in Singapore for leisure this year as I found a great deal to visit several islands in the Pacific. I hopped islands for two weeks in the Pacific which made a dream come true. I few from Singapore to Manilla where I stayed overnight and continued the next day to Guam and onwards to Rota and Saipan from where I also did a day trip to Tinian. These islands are part of the Northern Mariana Islands (I count these as a country that’s the 2nd new) I continued to Yap, part of the Federated States of Micronesia (3rd new country). I’m not sure if I should count the Philippines as the fourth as I only stayed for a day in Manilla from where I returned home on an award business class Etihad flight. I returned home in April and I must say this was one of the longer bleisure trips I have done. Pacific island hopping simply takes time.

My travels in the 2nd quarter of 2017: Visited Palau; a long time wish

At the end of April, the May school holidays start, and I always go on a 3-week trip with one of the kids as my wife doesn’t have that many days off. This year I went with my son and did a two-week Taiwan road trip plus a 4 day visit to Palau (two new countries). I included Palau on the Pacific Island itinerary as that’s more logical but as I was in Taiwan too it made more sense to visit Palau separate. I flew with my son from Amsterdam to Tokyo on Qatar Airways. I just paid 650 euro each person during the festival sale which was a great business class deal especially with the quadruple miles promotion. On the return my son and I had a few hours in Tokyo. We decided to rush to Warayakiya Roppongi ,which is our favorite restaurant in Tokyo, to have whale, bonito and other delicacies grilled above straw fire.

TAIWAN - Ultimate 14 days Taiwan road trip itinerary around the island
TAIWAN - Ultimate 14 days Taiwan road trip itinerary around the island

The rest of May and all of June was quiet as usual. I did make a long weekend trip with my daughter to Helsinki, Finland (new country for me). I did have some small business trips in Europe but nothing significant. Time passed quick however as I had to process all the trip reports and photography of the previous trips. It’s good to be home a few weeks to really catch up with work.

My travels in the 3rd quarter of 2017: Mayan heritage was the highlight

The airlines tickets for the family summer holidays I booked back in November 2016 when the Egyptian pound lost value. I was able to book return flights to Bangkok on Oman Air departing from Cairo for just 375 euro each person in business class. Check my tips & tricks on how to be creative on booking cheap business fares. To make the connection from Amsterdam work I had to stay overnight in Cairo in both directions which was relaxed at the Meridien Cairo Airport. As I did a 7-day Cairo trip a year earlier I didn’t go to downtown Cairo but just relaxed at the Meridien resort. In Thailand I did a 3.5-week road trip with my family to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Sukhothai and Koh Samui. It was a great summer holidays!

THAILAND - An amazing Thailand itinerary guide for 2 or 3 weeks (by car)

Back at home I just had a few nights before I flew with my son from Berlin to New York. Why from Berlin? Because Delta offered a business class ticket for just 750 euro each person. I have no problem adding a 99 euro flight from Amsterdam to Berlin if the connecting flight is that cheap. I did various city trips in the USA with my son, of which I really enjoyed doing night photography in Washington and New York. At some point there was an airfare to fly to Cancun Mexico from Chicago for just 450 USD in business class, so I could not resist. My son has an interest for Mayan cultures, so I did a 7-day Yucatan road trip with him. We had fun in Mexico (new country) which included climbing Chichen Itza at sunrise! The trip finished with my annual conference in the USA, this year in Denver. It was the end of August already.

MEXICO - Exploring Yucatan: An amazing 10 day Yucatan itinerary

In September I only travelled to Prague and Moscow for my annual conferences there but didn’t add any leisure time this year. I finally had the time in the evening to check out the Prague craft beer bars and the best craft beer bars in Moscow. To qualify for my Star Alliance gold membership, I had to make 6 flights with Aegean airlines. I flew from Amsterdam to Athens to Thessaloniki where I stayed for the night. The next day I flew to Crete and with a direct turn around (that was a close call!) back to Thessaloniki, Athens, and Amsterdam. Six flights at approximate 300 euro just to get gold membership. It was the last day of September when my flight to Argentina departed for my annual conference there.

My travels in the 4th quarter of 2017: My first REAL Africa trip

The flight to Buenos Aires on KLM in business class was again dirt cheap at just 800 euro. How did I book that? Simple, I was flying a one-way business class from Dusseldorf (Germany) to Florence (Italy). Due to a routing error it was possible to route through any point around the world; a long story and a mistake by Alitalia. All tickets issued by Alitalia got cancelled but I was one of the lucky ones to have a KLM ticket with Alitalia flights. These flights got cancelled but KLM replaced them with KLM flights which I was happy to accept. Finally, I flew Dusseldorf-Amsterdam-Buenos Aires-Amsterdam-Florence. In Argentina I did a 7-day road trip in the north around Salta. It was a great trip where I always died. Yes died! Read my 7-day north Argentina itinerary to find out what happened.

Park Conchas - ARGENTINA - The northwest; best 7-day Salta itinerary including Jujuy

The remainder of October I was back at home with my family and even celebrated my birthday at home early November. Normally I’m always in China at that time but this year the conference in China was a week later and I only departed after my birthday. As usual I didn’t book a direct Amsterdam-Beijing flight, but I booked Prague-Amsterdam-Chengdu with KLM at just 800 euro in business class. Of course, I had to add a 99 euro flight to Prague and a 120 euro flight to Beijing but that’s pretty ok. The idea was to make a day trip to Anjang from Beijing, but I didn’t feel well so I just stayed at the hotel in Beijing. In Chengdu the idea was to finally visit the large Buddha at Emei and relax at a lake resort but that also didn’t work out. On the flight from Beijing to Chengdu someone thought it was OK to take something from my hand luggage. Filing a police report at the police in Chengdu took me almost a day and they required me to come back the next day. Not a fun story but sometimes things don’t go as they should. I did go out and explored the best Chengdu craft beer bars which was awesome too!

China - Chengdu - Panda Center

I returned home 20th November and departed 22nd November to Sao Paulo from Madrid with a stop in Lisbon. Again I booked a cheap 750 euro business class fare with Azul airlines. A flight from Amsterdam to Madrid was just over 100 euro which is a normal price for a KLM flight within Europe. I started with a 5 day visit to Minas Gerais where I explored several UNESCO sites including Diamantina, Ouro Preto, Congonhas and of course Belo Horizonte. I finished in Sao Paul for my annual conference and returned home in the first week of December.

Diamantina Cobble Stone Street - BRAZIL - A 5-day Minas Gerais itinerary: Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto & Diamantina

The last trip of 2017 is the Christmas holiday with my wife and kids together. While writing this year report I’m in the air on my way to Sao Tomé & Principe where I’ll stay 3 nights before flying to Ghana for a week. I return to Sao Tomé & Principe for another 5 nights before heading back home early January in 2018. Again, I’m flying business class because TAP offered a flight from London to Sao Tomé for just 750 euro each person. The miles are enough to qualify for my Star Alliance gold membership with Aegean Airlines for which I did 6 flights for fun earlier in the year. Both Ghana and Sao Tomé & Principe are new countries for me. They are also my REAL first African countries as I only visited briefly Morocco and did a 7 day trip around Cairo. Both are northern African countries and now I’m in the real sub-saharan Africa. Stay tuned for my trip reports of those countries.

When I look back at 2017 I can only conclude that it was good. I visited 11 (!!) new countries, made great road trips, and saw a lot of interesting places. Business wise it was also a good year, even better as 2016 and the prognoses say this will continue so in 2018. In 2018 I have already several interesting trips booked which include Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. I of course must do my annual conferences again and currently I’m planning my trip after the Singapore one end March. If all goes as planned, I’ll visit Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands which is a bleisure trip on my bucket list for a long time. Plans change so stay tuned for my 2018 adventures!

I wish you all a happy 2018!

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