Traveling is good for the soul – so good, in fact, many people devote years of their lives and some serious cash to traveling the world. How about Chris Guillebeau, who is traveling to every single country? He just got back from Yemen and the Congo. Then there's my friend Bart Parker, who's currently in the middle of a mileage run that will vault him into "Diamond SkyMiles," the top-tier of Delta's elite frequent-flyer plans (requiring 125,000 miles accrued via actual flights). Already wondering who you'll be competing against for first-class upgrades next time you fly Delta? Chances are it may be Bart.
On the road, you bump into other travelers with adventures to share. Some tell stories of years spent sailing; others drive. Jorge and Melli, a husband-and-wife team from Columbia, took their Volkswagen van from Columbia to Tierra del Fuego -- the tip of South America -- then turned north. Recently, they crossed the Arctic Circle. All together, they've been on the road four years.
Down in Ketchikan, Dave and Phyllis Rickabus recently took a flight with Southeast Aviation to Craig, Alaska. Dave and Phyllis are "county collectors" and the visit to Craig helped push Dave over the edge. He now has visited every county (or county equivalent) – 3,140 in all – in the United States. That includes every Alaska borough, every island in Hawaii and all the places in between.
Traveling America, county by county
Dave and Phyllis have made 68 trips over a period of 25 years to complete their "county collection." Some states were easy. Others, states like Alaska and Texas that stretch thousands of miles, took some coordination.
On conquering Texas: "We stayed in San Antonio and took driving trips -- usually 600-700 miles per day," Phyllis said.
On getting around Alaska: "We took the ferry from Homer out to Dutch Harbor. And we flew up to Nome and Kotzebue. And up to Point Hope."
Did anything in particular stand out to the Rickabuses about the 49th state? "One thing we've found about Alaskans -- you can't pry them away from this state. Folks just love it here," Dave said.
Trips and counties were organized with maps in a travel book the couple keeps -- essentially maps in a three-ring binder. They rigged up their GMC Yukon for car camping but also stay at motels along the way.
Their longest trip? "We drove 14,000 miles in 21 days and visited 282 counties" last summer, Dave told me.
Past trips count toward "county collecting" and Dave, who has long been an avid traveler, had a head start on Phyllis when they keeping records.
"Sure, I'm a little bit behind Dave," Phyllis acknowledged with a smile. "I've only visited a little more than 2,000 counties. And while this flight to Craig fills out Dave's collection, I have my sights set on my final county: the Big Island of Hawaii."
Perhaps this week's crop of attractive airfares can jump start your travel plans, be they around Alaska or around the world.
Airfare deals from Alaska to points beyond
Alaska Airlines Club 49 specials
- Anchorage-Seattle $409 roundtrip
- Anchorage-Nome $180 roundtrip
- Anchorage-Kotzebue $180 roundtrip
- Juneau-Seattle $337 roundtrip
- Juneau-Ketchikan $337 roundtrip
Also from Alaska: $457 roundtrip from Anchorage to Kansas City.
Cheap fares from Alaska to southern California are still available. Fly Anchorage-Long Beach as low as $383 roundtrip in October on USAirways. Other dates in October and November range from $349 to $467 (for roundtrip travel).
Delta Airlines is currently offering:
- Anchorage-St. Louis, Mo. $457 roundtrip
- Anchorage-Phoenix $467 roundtrip
- Fairbanks-Denver $486 roundtrip
This week's international bargain is courtesy Condor Airlines: Fly Anchorage-Frankfurt, Germany for $756 roundtrip (Sept. 29-Oct. 6, 2012).
Whether you're headed to a new county or a new country, understand that fares change all the time. I expect more fares to be available for less money as the fall travel season approaches. So make your own "travel book," get your passport -- and get ready to fly.
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based travel marketing consultant who has lived in Alaska for three decades, spending much of that time traveling the far-flung corners of the state. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com. And follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/alaskatravelgrm for breaking updates.