You Know What They Say About All Good Things?

Well they don’t all have to come to an end but sometimes you have to draw a line. I’m not sure of the international business traveller equivalent of hanging up your boots but it’s probably something like ‘storing your suitcase’, which is probably what I did earlier this year. Travelling has been part of my life for more than 30 years, and I’ve both savoured its wonder and endured some of its less savoury moments. This year I turned 60, and after the last few years of low energy and low level ill health, I decided to call it a day. I stored my suitcase.

As a 30-year-old I had all the energy in the world, and could travel to North America for a couple of weeks then off to India after a break of just a few days. Back then, airport security was less onerous so the journey felt like it started from home. I live 15 minutes from Manchester Airport, so I was home soon after landing too. Apart from anything else, my last few trips (Ukraine, Moldova, Kosovo, Georgia in that order) gave me good outward journeys, the usual fabulous experience of meeting fabulous people, but appalling return journeys.

Tbilisi is one of the finest cities I’ve travelled to, not so much for classically beautiful architecture but for the unique feel of the city and the kindness of the people I met. My Air Georgia flight from Amsterdam had been a joy. I do try to avoid flying home from Europe on a Friday, unless I can get an insanely early flight. That generally gets me home by midday and provides recovery time before my weekend. So I took an insanely early flight, partly because I had planned to attend a client’s Queen’s Award celebration that evening, arriving at the airport by 4am local time. The incoming flight from Warsaw to Tbilisi was delayed due to snow there and everything started to back up. I don’t recall what time we finally got into the air but I do remember the sense of relief at finally feeling my journey home had begun. But that day it wasn’t to be, and I missed the evening celebration. Missed connections, food poisoning, recurring back problems, and an hour’s delay to my luggage coming off the carousel in Manchester all conspired to make it one of the worst journeys I think I’ve ever had! I think somebody was trying to tell me something.

A year previously I had travelled to Mongolia, and remain convinced that the five months of low energy that followed was the result of something nasty in the air conditioning on one or more of the flights. In my other life I’m a musician and had a number of gigs arranged for Spring 2017, including ten days where a Canadian husband and wife folk duo were joining our merry collaboration. I got away with it, and managed a week in Ukraine where a Russian opposition politician was shot dead in a hotel about half a mile from where I was staying, and another in Moldova arriving on the day after a freak snowstorm where the weight of snow took down many of Chisinau’s mature street trees. During the busy period following I seemed to recover, and trips to Kosovo and Georgia followed in the Autumn.

It was my second journey to Kosovo. The previous one was five days after the Brexit referendum, and I was training 22 Kosovan business consultants on how to trade with the European Union. Joy. Bizarrely I had been booked on flights to Pristina via Istanbul, and the evening after arrival I turned on the TV to find that terrorists has been murdering people in the terminal where I had waited for two hours exactly 24 hours earlier. My return flights home and subsequent journeys were routed through Vienna, and on that second visit to Pristina the traffic pollution was so bad it felt like I was chewing the air. Yes, I think someone probably was trying to tell me something!

After thinking about it for some time, I took the decision not to fly again on my 60th birthday in June this year. It wasn’t an easy decision because I have loved more of the aspects of international travel than I have disliked. It had been coming for some time though, and while part of me felt I was ducking out (must try harder!), there was an inevitability about it. As I write, it’s now a whole year since I travelled anywhere abroad and I feel like an 18-year-old again. I still see a chiropractor every couple of months for a maintenance check on my multiple slipped discs, but I haven’t really been ill all year and my energy levels have very much returned. So much so that after a working day I still have the energy either to play an evening gig or go and watch someone else play. It is quite a change.

I will never say I will never travel again, because I have family and friends abroad and I won’t be retiring any time soon from the world of international trade, but I do feel I’ve made a good decision and apart from Sale Moor post office, I haven’t stood in a long queue since! All good things come to an end…. or do they?

Article written by John Reed, an Associate of Strong & Herd LLP. 

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