Travel Really is Fun

By Richard Quest

The marvelous thing about a life on the road is that you always have to be ready for new and different experiences. Take, for instance, my recent visit to China, and into deepest Tibet. I was on an exploration with the famous Chinese explorer Wong How Man for CNN’s Quest show. It was my first proper visit to China (sorry, but I don’t count Shanghai or Hong Kong – that’s not a political statement; having been inside the country, I know realize they don’t feel like the “real China”).

Theoretically, of course, I knew that China is big and diverse, that its airports are modern, that cellphones work in major cities. I just wasn’t prepared for the Blackberry to work in remote outposts like Di Quing. There were so many similarities and yet so many differences.

As a frequent flyer I always enjoy traveling with an airline I haven’t flown before. This trip took me on board China Eastern, a carrier about which I was ignorant. For instance, it has nearly 200 planes with a further more than 60 on order. Okay, so they showed the English version of the safety video AFTER we took off. And the coffee was strong enough to put in the fuel tanks … but the plane took off, the engines kept going and the pilot knew the way. I was an ingénue – it reminded me to keep an open mind about my voyages.

The same cannot be said for my exploration of the Himalayas, which involved trekking and camping. Oh, I hear you shriek. How magnificent – Life under canvas. Rot and Rubbish!

I don’t like camping. I have never liked camping. It’s a Freudian dislike of visiting the bushes to take care of nature’s business, like bears do.

Just knowing that I have to disappear into the shrubbery armed with little more than toilet paper and a wet wipe fills me with utter dread. But I gamely kept an open mind, went along and inadvertently survived with a warming sense of achievement – if not exactly enjoyment.

There was one nasty moment, when a vehicle broke down. To be more accurate, the engine nearly fell out – but who knew that a block of wood propped under the mounting would keep the engine in place for another 700 kilometers?

Oh yes, and one more tip, should you find yourself 4,000 meters up the Himalayas with little between you and the mountain precipice than your beast: if another horse laden with camping gear bolts out of the blue – get out of the way!

All-in-all there were no major disasters, at least none that can make it into print. I can tell you that the massage offerings at the spa in Kunming is another matter entirely! Whatever the “unusual” events, I just had to keep telling myself: “Keep an open mind and enjoy!”

This is all the more important at this time of the year, when our business travels are so often rudely interrupted  by holidaymaking families cluttering up the airports, clogging up the check-in and making mischief in the elite lounges! Just grin, bear it and tell yourself “travel is fun.” It is about experiencing new and exciting cultures. So while your daytrip to a sales conference in Munich isn’t the most dramatic travel event, there is always the potential for something new to happen.

And even though I might not be back under canvas for another 30 years at least, I have reminded myself why I go on the road so much. It is to see and to learn.

Let us resolve that if you are a business traveler this summer, be patient with that annoying family making merry. If you are a family, spare a thought for those of us who are “getting off the plane to get on with some work. And wherever your travels may take you this summer, I hope they are profitable.

Richard Quest hosts the feature program Quest on CNN.

Filed under: Travel & Culture

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