Name: Rhyse Woodward
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Occupation: IT Contractor (Project Manager, Business Analyst, Test Engineer)
Number of Countries Visited: 37 (? I always feel like I’m forgetting one.)
Last Country Visited: India
What is your favorite country you have visited and why?
I don’t have one, but top of the list are Bermuda and France (Paris). I spent my summers in Bermuda and I have the best memories from that time during my childhood. I love everything about Bermuda: the people, the beaches, the culture. I have people there who are like family and love to visit with them. Paris is my other favorite place. I’ve been a gazillion times and there is nothing like Paris, no matter the weather. From the food to the museums. I can pop over to Paris and spend an entire day in a museum or visiting with friends eating croissants and sipping a coffee in a café! I’m also a repeat offender, aka, I go back to many of the same places enjoy or where I have friends.
What is your least favorite country you have visited and why?
I’m not sure I would say least favorite, so much as perhaps the country simply didn’t “speak” to me. I visited Venezuela in the mid 90’s and was there for four days. My friends and I were encouraged to remain on hotel grounds. Well, we ventured out anyway! Though the people were friendly and welcoming, I was struck by the very definitive line between the poor and rich and I found that unsettling. Keep in mind, I was only there for a short time and didn’t get to see anything beyond Caracas where 75% of my time was spent on the hotel grounds.
What countries are on the itinerary for this year?
I visited South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, and India so far. I have France, Cuba, Romania, Colombia, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, and Panama left this year. I’ll probably hit a couple Caribbean islands and Bermuda as well at some point.
When did you start traveling? Did it start at an early age for you?
Yes, very early. My mother took me to Bermuda at 6 months old to visit her friends. They are like my second family. I didn’t even realize we weren’t blood related until I was around 12 or so! We visited almost every year.
Why do you travel? What is your personal reason for traveling?
This may sound corny, but it’s innate. There is something inside me which demands that I travel. I absolutely love it. I enjoy everything from takeoff on the actual plane to meeting new people, visiting old friends, and having new experiences. I like adventure and exploring (or getting lost as has happened a lot) and I enjoy spending time with my friends around the world. Traveling literally opens my world.
Why do you believe it’s important for others to travel and see the world?
There are a few reasons. This quote by Mark Twain sums it up nicely: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
How you manage to visit so many amazing vacation spots so frequently? What is your travel strategy?
It’s definitely a strategy. I worked for an airline for almost 20 years, so I travel standby/free on flights, a benefit I know have for life as a retiree. Also, I don’t pay what the average person does for some traveling expenses. As an airline employee (now retiree), I get discounts on rental cars and hotels. When I do buy plane tickets, I look for deals. For example, I recently purchased a flight to Romania out of Newark for $220 round trip! I’m based in Atlanta, but I’ll fly standby to Newark to catch my paid flight. After lodging, food, excursions, I’ll probably be all in for around $450USD max.
Also, I have a travel budget. Budgeting is a necessity for me. I save money for specific trips or trips that may come up. I don’t drink, smoke, or club (still loads of fun though!!!), and I’m not a shopper. I buy books and travel, and they are my priority so that is where I spend my money outside of bills and my two boys who are in university.
As a former airline employee, you have much-coveted flight benefits? How do you take advantage of those benefits?
Every. Chance. I. Get!!!! I always joked, that when I retired, they would ask me for money because I flew on my benefits too much. I retired earlier this year, and I’m happy to say that was not the case! Traveling standby so often can take skill. I only get a seat if there is one available. I look at the load factors and manage my schedule around flights that are less booked. This doesn’t always work as standby is based on seniority and my place on the list has gone down drastically since retiring as I get on after paying passengers as well as any active employee and their immediate family. One of the great benefits is that I fly business more often that not. In fact, I’ve only flown coach internationally 5Xs in 20 years! And, I fly internationally up to 12Xs a year! Can we say, grateful???
What recommendations do you have for those who may have the opportunity to travel on a buddy or companion pass? What strategies do you employ?
Patience is key! Never use them for holidays, emergencies, or when flight loads will be high (the employee should be able to find this out for you). For example, trying to non-rev (short for nonrevenue, the industry term we use for employee standby travel) to Carnival in Brazil, the Essence Musical festival, from Paris back to the States in the summer might have you spending many a night in the airport. Unlike Nike, just don’t do it! Other things to do, (I say this in love):
- Be patient
- Be flexible
- Don’t argue with or bother the agent. No matter what. No. Matter. What. If you have an issue, let the employee know. You could cost them their job, even if the agent is dead-wrong!
- Be respectful
- Don’t cry!
- Be prepared to not get on… Ever. (This is not an exaggeration)
- If you’re with others, be prepared to split up. Sometimes, getting one person to the destination will allow everyone to get there. Consider what to do if the other person(s) will get there much later or not at all before doing this.
- Know and follow directions of the airline you’re using the buddy pass.
- Never “pay” for a buddy/companion passion. Just trust me on this!
- Be patient (Yup, this is on the list twice!)
You have a lot of travel plans this year, especially international ones? Do you ever get tired of physically traveling/flying?
Yes. I’ve had to listen to my body and cancel a trip last minute a couple times. I have chronic fatigue and pain, so I am always aware of what my body is saying. When I traveled for work, I powered through living on coffee or energy drink shots. When it’s for leisure, I sleep or nap on the flight even when I’m not tired. When I arrive, I attempt to immediately put myself on the schedule of that city. For example, if I arrive in Europe in the morning, I stay up until that night. If I need a nap, I limit it to 1 hour and no more. Everyone is different so I tell folks to figure out what works for them.
What inspires you about the travel experience?
Getting to know people. It’s amazing how different a culture or people of a different country are… Until you realize you’re actually not. I’ve bonded with a male Spaniard over the challenges our respective company faced when outsourcing certain departments to another country! We had the same exact experience. We were both shocked and pleasantly surprised. If we each had a checklist of problems, it would have been identical.
What do you like least about travel?
Flight delays/cancellations. Not getting on a flight. Bad weather at my destination! I hate it when these things won’t let me be great!
How do you balance your career with travel? What recommendations do you have for others?
Very carefully. There’s no easy answer. I need to acknowledge that I had certain perks because I worked for an airline. I had a position for years where I traveled a lot for work, so my company financed a lot of my travel. After almost 20 years at my company, I had almost eight weeks of vacation/holidays every single year the last six or so years I was there. I now work remotely, so I can work from “home,” any where in the world. When I was younger, I swapped off shifts to travel. I made career choices to allow me more opportunities to travel whether it was earning more to afford more travel or finding positions that required travel. This isn’t to say it’s impossible for others. It just takes a different approach.
Every situation is different. I’m a little reticent when giving recommendations. Travel is a priority for me so I make it work. Be open to weekend trips. Be flexible to visit places closer to you so you don’t have to take off additional time. From the states, you need 2 days of travel as opposed to 1 day to Europe or a few hours to Central America. Visit inexpensive places. London (2 star hotel could be $150USD) can be prohibitively expensive vs. South East Asia (4 star hotel may be as low as $40USD.) Ultimately, research or work with a travel agent to determine what works for you.
What recommendations do you have for someone who is looking to be more adventurous and travel?
Go. Just go. Know your limits and your comfort zone and then get out of them. Just go. Throw caution to the wind. Take the road less traveled and do it solo. Or, with folks you will still be friends with when you return! Enjoy getting lost. Learn ‘hello,’ ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘where is the bathroom?’ in a different language and then visit a country where they speak that language. Attend a concert in another country. Visit a museum or run a race in another country. Lie on the beach or ride a motorcycle in another country. And, by the way, the U.S. is also a great place to explore. Don’t miss out on what the U.S. has to offer! Just go. When nervous or afraid, do it anyway. Just go.