So long, 2017, and thanks for the memories

As the last hours of 2017 tick away it is time, once again, to reflect on my year in travel and the (mostly) amazing experiences I’ve had across the globe. Some of the numbers are up, some are down. A few incredible “firsts” for me, too. Not a perfect year by any stretch, but still a damn good one.

All my flights for 2017; yeah, it is a mess
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Miles and Days

The raw numbers are relatively easy to track. I flew just over 179,000 miles across 90 flights (plus one joyride at Newark that counts as a zero, even though we flew for a couple hours). I spent 142 nights away from home, including 15 sleeping on airplanes. The bulk of my travel was to Europe, with eight trips across the Atlantic in the first half of the year and another four in the back half. A couple trips to Asia in November and a jaunt to South America in June round out my travel card. Nothing south of the equator this year is a mild disappointment but that will almost certainly be rectified in 2018.

I crossed the Atlantic 24 times and never had an overnight flight in economy
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Some 65% of my flights were in economy and 13% were in a middle seat. Fortunately those were mostly the shorter flights. And 80%+ were in a window. Only 40% of my miles flown were in economy compared to 20% in Premium Economy and 40% in business class.

Lots of flights in the Americas
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

I also need to get better about actually using my points in 2018. In 2017 my main redemptions were to get home from Dublin (UA), Tokyo (DL) and Barcelona (AA). It turns out that cheap premium economy fares (~$600) from Europe to NYC mostly keep me happy. I did burn a few Avios to upgrade some of the overnights to business class. But originating in Europe continues to help me extend my travel budget significantly.

Zooming in on Europe, I managed to score a decent number of routes considering I don’t live there
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

New Dots, Lines and Airlines

Collecting new airlines, routes and airports is an increasingly difficult task. Fortunately, I keep rising to the challenge. Sometimes that’s a bit contrived in effort. I mean, who goes to Japan solely to see how many LCCs they can fly in 48 hours?? Still, I managed to pick up 35 new routes overall.

New routes to me in 2017
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

That number is relatively low compared to the 1,300+ new routes added to schedules globally, but I only have so much time and money to make it happen.

I also picked up six new commercial airlines (AirAsia Japan,Star Flyer,Peach Aviation, Vanilla Air, Chengdu Airlines and Iberia) and two private operations, Miami Air International and a buddy flying around southern England in a Piper Cherokee. The Cherokee was a new type for me as was the Chengdu Airlines ARJ21-700, a most bizarre trip indeed. I also finally got to try out a CSeries in “normal” conditions rather than on a press charter. I’m counting that as half credit.

My 2017 flights within China and Japan, the only Asian countries I visited
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

New Countries

My only new country of 2017 was French Guiana, and that visit was a bit more “managed” than I typically pursue. I have two new countries planned for January 2018 – Bulgaria and Liechtenstein – so those numbers should start ticking up again soon. Then again, I have no real delusions about chasing all of them so that might not matter too much in the grand scheme of things. UPDATE: And, as a friend pointed out, French Guiana is really a DOM of France, not a separate country. So, hrumpf.

My 2017 Pacific adventures
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Even with only one new country I still collected plenty of passport stamps. I count 14 distinct country visits (France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, England, Malta, Japan, China, French Guiana, Mexico, St. Maarten, Canada, Belgium and Ireland) across 42ish border crossings. My shortest stay in any one country was about 15 minutes in Berlin thanks to the lack of air-side transit. The longest was 9 nights in China, more than my prior visits combined.

New Adventures

Witnessing a rocket launch in person? I managed to tick that box not once but twice in 2017. I plan to catch a few more in 2018 as well.

After years of flying over the Grand Canyon I finally managed to walk down into it a bit. Not nearly enough, but certainly a memorable experience.

I finally flew the BA A318 across the Atlantic. I was on the inaugural Delta A350-900 flight and the final United 747-400 as well.

I got “fired” from one publication I wrote a lot for (technically not fired since I wasn’t an employee, but the net effect is the same) and launched a new platform to share some of the more business-focused content I produce. Expect to see a greater push on that front in 2018 as I transition the way I’m running the business here. I’m also writing more for other outlets as a result, including the APEX association.

And there was the week I spent in a sweltering warehouse in Hialeah, Florida. It wasn’t glorious by any means but it was the most rewarding work I’ve done in years.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Achieved any elite status with the airlines or hotels this year?

    Or have pretty much tossed the towel on that aspect of traveling?

    1. Good question. I earned JetBlue Mosaic, AA Platinum Pro and Delta Silver. I was <200 miles short of DL Gold and didn't bother topping it off. Both AA and DL MQDs were realized through partner flights, not spending the cash for real. I also have UA MMer so Gold there.

      For hotels I earned Silver (10 nights). I get Marriott Gold via UA Gold and that matches to SPG Gold as well. I earned IHG Gold through a promo.I have Club Carlson Silver and something from Hyatt still; both are soft landings from prior years, I believe, and will disappear. I do not carry any hotel CCs.

      Given that I did 30ish nights in AirBnBs I'm okay with the outcomes. Honestly, the amount I'd be paying extra nightly for status at hotels would be a horrible waste of money.

  2. Happy new year to you and your family. Thank you for the great blog and for the entertainment, education and help you provide. Bulgaria is a wonderful place. The food is excellent and the countryside is spectacular. Please share with us your experience in Bulgaria when you return.

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