The pros and perils of being a travelholic
I openly admit my addiction.
For decades it has frustrated my family and friends.
Some think I need help, but the truth is that many of them are secretly envious.
I've traveled to 122 countries. All seven continents. I've slept on the ice of Antarctica and on a mountaintop in Bhutan.
OK, I've also been to the sumptuous Oberoi Hotel in India and the Aman Resort in Thailand. And I can't get enough.
There it is. I'm a travelholic.
This course in life can be good. Who hasn't imagined walking the Great Wall of China or taking in the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower or seeing the Big Five in Africa?
Exploring the world puts all your senses on overdrive and makes you realize that we really are all the same.
We all have dreams for a better life for our children and ourselves. Traveling is a great way to realize what's really important.
Some of the most remarkable moments in my life happened when I was on the road.
Celebrating a Christmas morning mass on a small island in Fiji after 9/11 not only comforted our group, but when the congregation found out we were from New York, they invited us into their homes to express their sadness at our loss.
Standing at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro on a cold, sunny African morning was an emotional high, as was arriving at the Taj Mahal as the sun came up.
I've met villagers in Mozambique who inspired me with the happy simplicity of their lives and I've had the good fortune of meeting people in Argentina, Australia, Italy and other places who have become lifelong friends.
However, travel often can be bad before you get to those precious moments.
I've been stranded in places due to natural disasters and I've been mugged in broad daylight on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
On a boat from Chau Doc, Vietnam, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I was held at the border for hours.
I'd hired a local fisherman to take me up the Mekong, realizing at the time that no one in the world knew where I was. Fortunately, I arrived safe and sound.
On a trip to China, I wasn’t sure what we were being served at dinner, while in Japan it was clear that chicken beaks and chicken feet sat on the plate.
You always have to eat the local food and hope for the best.
One caution however -- the food from street vendors. Ending up in a hospital in La Paz, Bolivia, can be harrowing. But that can happen anywhere.
A wicked case of food poisoning from a Los Angeles restaurant once knocked me out for 24 hours.
So, now I eat cooked foods. I peel fruit. I drink only bottled water. I have antibiotics with me. I can count on one hand how many times I've gotten really sick.
True travelers take the ugly in stride. Sometimes it takes a well-placed tip, like the time in Havana when a policeman pulled me over for going through a stop sign.
There was no stop sign, but I handed him my passport with a US$20 bill in it anyway, and was allowed to go on my way.
I once handed out US$10 bills to individuals, as I tried to navigate my way through Cairo’s airport.
When I saw that I was going to miss a train from Paris to Zurich, I went to the front of the ticket line and offered to pay for the person's ticket if they bought mine. It worked and I made the train.
The moral of the story?
Be inventive. Working through impending problems can be easy if you are clever and polite. It's amazing how many people are willing to help.
Traveling the world, I've never faced what I'd call any serious problems. But then again, I've tried to be smart.
I canceled a trip to Syria when the troubles began, and went to Tunisia instead of Libya, as that Arab culture seemed safer for Americans at the time.
After millions of miles of my travelholic life, I can tell you that there are roadblocks along the way, but that's part of the fun.
I now embrace all that's possible. I need to lure in other addicts who will share their tips and their ideas. There's always a new place to discover.
See you on the road.
Michael Clinton’s book “The Globetrotter Diaries” is available now from Amazon.
Are you a travel addict? Tell us your stories below