Ladies and gents, boys and girls!
Another year, another… oh dear. Where did that go? Again!
Indeed the end of 2018 is upon us, with our planet just a few hurdles short of its full circle around the Sun. Up here in wintery Moscow it’s snowy and freezing (-14°C today); down in the summery southern hemisphere it’s sunny and warm; but no matter where you are on the planet there’s one thing that’s the same: we’ll soon be seeing in the New Year of 2019…
Almost as inevitable as a +1 being added to the number of years since the year dot – before the presents, the fireworks displays, the champagne, the parties… – there also simply has to be my round-up of the year!
However, the round-up of the business year of Me Lab… that will come later on. Here will be a summary of my personal achievements of 2018. There was an abundance of interesting/amazing throughout the year, so I’ll have to somehow organize it all into different categories. But first off, let’s get things rolling with some pics of highlights of the year:
Next, my year – in cities/countries. The ones inside square brackets were places I was visiting purely for tourism; the rest – on business.
[Maumere – Labuan Bajo (Flores, Indonesia)] – Moscow – Rome – Mauritius – [Seychelles] – Moscow – Munich – Berlin – Brussels – Cancun – Budapest – Melbourne – [Fiji – Vanuatu – Tahiti] – Abu Dhabi – Moscow – Spitsbergen – North Pole – Panama – [Saint Lucia – Mustique – Anguilla – Bahamas] – London – Sheffield – Hamburg – Moscow – Semipalatinsk – Astana – Alma-Ata – Bukhara (Uzbekistan) – Vladikavkaz – St. Petersburg – Moscow – Tokyo – Chiba (Japan) – Tel Aviv – Munich – Torshavn (Faroe Islands) – Marrakesh – Paris – Moscow – Geneva – Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky – Moscow – Munich – Rome – Santorini – Athens – Seychelles – [Shanghai – Huangshan – Jianglanshan – Lun yu – Taining – Wuishan] – Moscow – [Dubai] – Geneva – Moscow – Wuzhen – Shanghai – Zurich – [Bilbao] – Barcelona – Madrid – Moscow – Beijing – Tokyo – Moscow – [Quito (Ecuador)].
Most-visited cities in 2018: Munich (3), Rome (2), Shanghai (2), Tokyo (2).
Flights: wait for it… precisely… 100!
Chopper flights: precisely 30!
Hotels stayed at: 70 (25 – as a tourist; 45 – on business).
Now, for some detail…
Once again: 100 flights. That’s 96% of the total for the previous year. Of those 100:
On a private jet: 25 (125% of 2017’s total; the dynamic continues its upward trajectory).
Economy class: 5 (45% on 2017; less than half: a pleasing dynamic:).
Hours up in the sky: ~390 (97%/2017).
Distance traveled up in the sky: ~300,000 kilometers, or ~200,000 miles (practically the same as in 2017).
Most used airlines
- Aeroflot (22 round trips – 70% on 2017).
- Emirates (five round trips; around 25 hours); in 2017 – 7 flights.
- Air France (four; around 10 hours).
Airlines used the first time: Bangkok Airways, Fiji Airways, Laucala Airlines, Air Tetiaroa, Sky Express, Shandong.
I experienced also some marvelous moments using alternative means of transportation too:
An Antonov An-74 transport aircraft to get to and from the North Pole.
An Ilyushin Il-76 strategic airlifter – specially adapted (by Roscosmos) to allow folks to experience weightlessness; folks like Me and Co. ).
An amphibious light aircraft, in Exuma.
Some journeys were real looong, like 31 hours door-to-door long (Tetiaroa to Abu Dhabi).
In all, I found myself in a full 31 countries in 2018, but there’s a bit of ambiguity. For example, in the list there are islands and territories that are autonomous or, to-this-or-that-extent, self-regulating. However, as per tradition, I don’t include them in my total – even if they have their own police force and central bank. Thus, taking this into account, here are the countries I visited in 2018:
Mexico, the Bahamas, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ecuador, the UK (twice), Norway, Denmark (Faroe Islands), France (twice), Spain, Belgium, Germany (five times), Switzerland (three times), Italy (twice), Hungary, Greece, Israel, UAE, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mauritius, Seychelles (twice), Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, China (three times), Japan (twice).
Most-visited countries: Germany (five times), Switzerland (3), China (3).
Countries visited for the first time: eight! That’s probably a record. In all I’ve been to 92 countries of the world, so another year like this one and I’ll make a century!
This year’s newbie countries: Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ecuador, Uzbekistan, Mauritius, Vanuatu, and Fiji.
And this year’s newbie overseas territories of other countries: Anguilla and Montserrat (both British), Faroe Islands (Denmark), and French Polynesia.
As mentioned, I stayed in 70 hotels throughout the year. Mostly businessy Hiltons or Marriotts, but sometimes something a little more exotic:
– The Barneo ice base near the North Pole. Walks, bike rides – and even dips in freezing water in a pool cut in the ice – all in a day’s activities at Barneo while waiting for the weather to clear to enable flying out.
– A traditional Japanese Ryokan.
– A house in Pauzhetka, Kamchatka: very remote, very fertile, and at the foot of some serious volcanism.
– And several nights in a tent during our Kamchatka-2018 expedition.
Briefly, about business
- Number of conference and exhibitions: around 20 (for example, here).
- Number of speeches, presentations, lectures: around 40.
- Interviews and press conferences: difficult to keep track of; oftentimes there are mini-interviews after speeches. I reckon, at a guess – in total around 50. Full sit-down interviews – around 30.
- Meetings with officials (ministers, ambassadors…): 24.
- Handshakes with presidents, prime ministers: 2 (the President of Seychelles (Danny Faure), and the President of Cuba,(Miguel Díaz-Canel).
- Also met the mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi.
- In 2018 we had our tenth Security Analyst Summit – in sunny Cancun.
- And I can’t leave out the conference exhibition event that goes by the name of Oktoberfest!
The outgoing year saw us seriously add to our collection of shiny trophies. So much so – we’re running out of space. In 2018 we were awarded more than 50 different professional awards. I won’t list them all here, but I will give you the Greatest Hits:
Ok. Official stuff out the way, let me turn now to the best stuff: the fun stuff!
Hmmm. Where do I start? I have lots of positive tales, but there were a few flies in the proverbial ointment too. Yes – I’ll get those out the way first.
The worst, most terrible, awfullest news of the year was, obviously – as if I even need to tell you – that Ferrari only came second! Second overall; second in the Constructors’ Championship. Such a pity; what a shame; oh my grief! Most upsetting. Let’s hope for better next year.
Oh no… wait. There’s worse to come. The saddest, most depressing news of the year was something else – but also from the world of Formula-1: they banned grid girls! Grid girls, as in, the scantily-clad slips-of-things that officially loiter around, often holding placards or bottles of champagne at races! Apparently, the girls ‘don’t resonate with the brand values’ of F1. What?!
The next dose of bad news, albeit a little less awful: Bladerunner 2018. I’d been waiting decades for the follow-up to one of my all-time fave movies… only for the sequel to be terrible (.
And for me personally, perhaps the most annoying event of the year was my breaking my darn leg – especially since it cut short my annual vacation in my favorite place in the world – Kamchatka. The good news is it’s almost back to its pre-break state after months of its being in plaster and then a long course of physical rehabilitation.
But that’s where the bad news ends, fortunately. Not so much really. Now, for the (+)ve!…
In 2018 I visited quite a few countries for the first time. It all started right at the beginning of the year – in Indonesia; it all finished in another place far from home – in Ecuador. Plenty of important and incredible sights and sounds and smells around the world were duly added to my Top-100: Done list:
The jaw-droppingly magical islands and atolls of Fiji.
Yet more Caribbean OMGs @ Exuma.
2018 featured a Kamchatka expedition, sadly cut short for me…
In the fall it was the next installment of the hidden-China expedition series, and it didn’t disappoint – especially as it was in the quiet season after China’s Golden Week. Check the series out and just blindly follow in our footsteps for a guaranteed super vacation. This year’s highlights: Danxia trails.
So what do you think? Beautiful? I agree. But you, dear readers have a distinct advantage: where I can merely look at the pics and get all nostalgic, you can look at them and dream, plan, organize, schedule a future trip, make preparations, check the passport’s not due to expire, etc., etc. You’re future-oriented, and for that reason I envy you. For we all know, there’s nothing like the first time. For me there can only ever now be a second (or more) time!
Sooo. What else can I squeeze out of my 2018? Ah, still quite a lot. But let me start with…
Totally impossible situations
I found myself picking raspberries… on New Year’s Day! For I wasn’t in snowy Moscow, I was in Indonesia!
I visited a very strange place, where bread grows on trees, where perfume rises up out of the ground, and where chickens peck at coconuts and then fly around the forest. Strange day, strange place.
I experienced Thursday, April 28, 2018… TWICE! I woke up in the morning, was busy all day, went to bed in the evening, woke up – and it was still April 28! How? Here (you’ll need to fast-forward past all the volcanism).
After reading that I guess you might believe in yetis or UFOs or the Loch Ness Monster or the Bermuda Triangle or other nonsense. But those strange things I’ve just mentioned – those were real, as proved by photographs taken myself!
Unbelievable, uncharacteristic unexpectednesses
Btw, I’ll be seeing in 2019 also further from the center, but in a different way and a different place.
I saw a volcano erupting!
For the second time in my life I found myself on the very top floors of Moscow State University, where I saw the world’s first human-resembling android robot, which was created as far back as 1966, 52 years ago!
I took in the inside of Sagrada Família in Barcelona from its second floor – up there where the choir normally sings. Oh my godliness!
Perhaps the luckiest, most extraordinarily fantastic event of the year for me was witnessing the actual excavation of an ancient (Cycladic) figurine during archeological digs at Santorini. 5000 years she’d been lying there under the volcanic ash!
A touch of the mysterious
Since I’m a very curious fellow, I seek out – and find – many interesting facts on my world travels. Well, this year there was plenty to be curious about, just like at CERN, where most of my questions were answered by the informative guides. Other times, I don’t get answers. For example:
How could these here turtles have survived and returned to the Seychelles after the islands were submerged several times for hundreds of thousands of years? Still no answer…
Various other – no less interesting – bits
– Munich: the Deutsch Museum, the world’s largest science and technology museum. Had my picture taken in front of the first ever digital computer!
– Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland – a totally awesome scale-model museum which both children and adults alike can explore for several hours, so fascinating are all the different places – with all their amazing detail.
– Banksy! In Moscow! Sort of. State of the art stenciling ).
In these museums taking pics is strictly forbidden:
– The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, which is strange as there’s not a great deal worth snapping there.
– The military museum in Tokyo. Why? Shame? With all due respect to Japan, I can only think of that as a reason.
– I found out the difference between steel smelting plants in Europe and Russia.
– I visited the Panama Canal.
– I went down a gold mine in Kazakhstan.
– I experienced one of the world’s few remaining transporter bridges – in the Basque Country.
And that, folks, is about it, I think. Out goes 2018…
…But I’ll be back in the New Year, of course, with new tales and adventures… and a ton more new pics ).
Cin cin, and see you in 2019…
PS: These here year-end posts are becoming a bit of a tradition, too. This one’s a jubilee even, kinda – # 5! The last four years – here: