One of the better decisions that I have taken is to make my business trips to other cities be worth it. Usually, I fly in the morning, finish my meeting or my talk and fly out that night. It’s very….err..umm…businesslike and banal. So, I made two resolutions that added the much needed mojo into my travel.
1) I decided that I will meet up with interesting people in each city I visit. This is where my Podcasts, Kiruba.TV (Podcast with Achievers) , Digital PowWow (Social Media Podcast) and First Book (Podcast with Authors) comes in handy. I always have someone interesting people to reach out to.
2) I decided to add at-least an extra day to my itinerary to visit interesting and offbeat places in the city.
Here’s to more travel, visiting more interesting people and places!
And so, the day has arrived for me to leave on the 3 week visit to the US for the IVLP. Even though I had almost 6 months heads-up for the program, it always boils down to the last day of frenetic activity. Had to wrap up correcting answer sheets for my class exam and finish a round of client calls.
Departure: My flight to DC via London was at an ungodly 4am. I so much prefer to have midnight flights as it beautifully ties in with my sleep pattern. But 4am? That’s pits. It messes with you body clock. Groggy eyed, I boarded the British Airways flight heading to London on a long 10 hour flight. Thanks to a faulty headphone, the entertainment system wasn’t tempting me. Caught up on a light sleep and then got some good writing done.
Transit: Had an hour & half layover at Heathrow airport. But its very easy to under-estimate the time it takes to transit to the next flight. The security check was excruciatingly long. Then had to head to Terminal 5 which meant having a long walk and then take the airport-train. All this adds up a good hour. Good thing I didn’t decide to spend time on window shopping. The WiFi at Heathrow was a blessing and just had time to check mails and send out a couple of updates.
London to DC: It was a pleasant surprise to notice that my vehicle of transport was going to be the Airbus A380-800, the World’s largest Passenget aircraft. Its my first ever time on this double-decker and it was true that even though its twice as large as any other aircraft, its engines are 50% quieter. Watched two movies. The Monumental Men (How can I miss a WW2 movie?), and The Hercules. Helped me take care of the 8 hour flight.
Landed: Upon landing, took a cab from Dulles Interntional airport to my hotel in central DC. It was only 5pm but noticed dusk was setting in quick. Ah, the daylight saving time. Checked in at the hotel and was greeted by Stan, the smiling and charming guy who will be our host companion for the entire trip. Was supposed to catch up with the other IVLP invitees and head into town. But old enough and wise enough to give top priority to sleep. Golden tip for enjoying any travel to a new place. Slept right through dinner but so felt good to sleep horizontally.
Can’t wait to meet the rest of the IVLP invitees in the morning. And oh yes, breakfast. Already starving.
When I got invited for the IVLP program, I was very happy but clearly I didn’t realize how prestigious this program is until I stumbled upon this Wikipedia page. Amazed to see the kind of World leaders who have participated in the program. Like BBC News Magazine said, this is a powerful ‘Leadership spotting’ program.
Ofcourse, this page only lists the political leaders but the program also encompasses from different domains as well. The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is a professional exchange program funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The mission of IVLP is to offer current and emerging international leaders the opportunity to experience the richness and diversity of American political, economic, social and cultural life. This is done through carefully designed exchange programs that reflect participants’ professional interests and the public diplomacy objectives of the United States government.
I leave for the US tonight and look forward to three weeks of learning and meeting leaders from different departments. The program takes us to five cities, Washington DC, Harrisburg, Pittsburg, San Franscisco and New York City. If you are in any of the five cities, I look forward to catching up with you. I can be reached on my email Kiruba@Kiruba.com.
Photo taken at Vivekananda Rock in Kanyakumari. Notice the ominous clouds in the background. Minutes after this photo was taken, there was a huge thunderstorm with squalls and the ferry service was suspended. While everyone were scurrying for cover, we enjoyed getting drenched.
One of the smarter moves done by the Airport Authority of India is to do away with the need for printed sheet of tickets booked. For years, all of us had to grudgingly bear with this really archaic process. Taking a printout was an additional irritant during the travel rush. I found the lazier way of asking for a print-out from the airline counter until they stated to levy Rs.100 per printout.
If the Railways can accept e-tickets, why can’t the Airports? Glad better sense prevailed.
With the new rules, I found the entry to be a breeze. All I had to do was whip out my phone and show the ticket. Surprisingly though, a lot of people still carried printed sheets. Maybe, they aren’t aware of the new rules. There wasn’t a single board that mentioned the change in rules. But hey, who am I to complain! I’m just for the positive change. My next wish? Do away with the stamping of luggage tags. I’m told that’s next in line.