By Vinay and Raminder Kumar, as told to David Hochman
Originally appeared in September 2015 issue of Virtuoso Life.
Like many travelers, my wife and I have a list of destinations we hope to visit in our lives. I always thought we’d check them off one by one, but, as a physician-scientist and chairman of the University of Chicago’s Department of Pathology, it’s difficult to get away. I work more than full time, and my wife is also a busy physician. So last
year, Raminder and I decided to do something crazy: We said, “Let’s take a month off and see them all on the same trip.”
The thing is, we didn’t want to feel rushed – we’re both near 70 and wanted a low-stress trip with the flexibility to change plans from day to day or not go out at all if we liked. After narrowing the itinerary to our three most desirable locations – China
, South Africa
, and Italy
– we planned ten days in each country with our
fantastic travel advisor, Stacy Small, who owns an agency in Los Angeles. In all, we covered about 28,000 miles, visiting nine cities in 30 days, along with a safari park in South Africa.
Though we were enormously excited, as we got closer to the trip I actually started to panic. We were saying good-bye to solid ground for a while. What if we fell sick? What if we had an accident? I’m very happy that hope conquered fear and all worked out for the best.
We flew first-class on American Airlines, which offers great values with around-the-world tickets. Stacy arranged for private guides to meet us at jetways wherever possible and help us clear customs. At our request, she booked the very best hotels in each location, and for no less than three nights each, so we could really settle in and take our time.
In China, the Impression Liu Sanjie light show, designed by the same people who did the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony, transformed the mountainous surroundings and beautiful waterways into illuminated art. People told us Venice
would be polluted and smelly, but we totally enjoyed it, particularly our stay at the Gritti Palace
. Our safari at South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve near the Botswana border exceeded all expectations – aside from the lions, cheetahs, zebras, and elephants, we felt like we had the entire park to ourselves.
Along with sightseeing, we talked to people everywhere we went. We discovered how much many Westerners get wrong about China. (I pictured it as remote, anonymous, and monolithic, but it’s nothing of the sort.) South Africans discussed what the end of apartheid has and hasn’t delivered. In Italy, we learned that Venetians and Romans have as much in common as Turks and Iranians – the cities are like different countries.
Throughout the trip, the personal service and attention we received left quite an impression. Before we set out, we mentioned that my wife sleeps better on a slightly elevated mattress, and Stacy had them adjusted at each hotel! At The Peninsula Shanghai
, they actually made metal blocks to raise the mattress four inches, and presented the blocks to us as gifts when we left – a remarkable gesture.
Though Raminder and I have known each other for more than 50 years, we’re always learning. Compromise is the secret to getting along on the road. If she’s tired, we’ll cut out a day of touring. As much as I may want to go, we’ll be happier together if we’re rested. Our goal is to keep traveling. We just returned from a Silversea cruise out of Seward, Alaska. We definitely want to go to Russia
, and Stacy is currently crafting a trip to Peru
. There’s Belgrade in the fall and Turkey
– the list of destinations never really ends.
If you're interested in working with a Virtuoso advisor, connect below.