Joyu Wang interviewed frequent traveler Paul Haswell for this Wall Street Journal article on the joys of accumulating air miles, and the dos and don’ts of traveling.
Paul Haswell is a Hong Kong-based technology and telecommunications lawyer at Pinsent Masons LLP who moonlights as a hip-hop DJ at Hong Kong’s RTHK radio.
The U.K. native spoke to the Journal about racking up a million air miles, traveling as a vegetarian and the wisdom of being polite while on the road.
How often do you travel?
It comes in spurts. I don’t travel for two months, or I travel every single week.
Where do you go most?
[In 2007, I] started commuting from Norway every single week. I was living in an airport, or a plane, or a hotel for three years. Nowadays, I’m focusing more on Asia—spending most of my time going to places like Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing and occasionally back to the U.K.
I tend to fly Oneworld…completely for air miles.
How did you get started on the frequent-flier program?
When I started to do the Norway trip, I was always flying with [ British AirwaysIAG.MC -0.13% ] and started accumulating air miles. I realized about six months in that the miles were really adding up, and I was getting status.
How do you collect air miles?
It became an obsession. I always book my flight to maximize the number of air miles. I discovered if I stay in a certain hotel, I’ll get miles, and even when I’m going out for dinner—if I just eat in a hotel, I’ll get miles for doing that. If I buy clothes in certain shops at the airport, I’ll get miles. I get credit cards that also give me miles. Literally everything I was doing was focused on maximizing the miles.
Do you have an example?
I lived in the same hotel for three years. I’m vegetarian, and the hotel where I was staying had only one meal option for vegetarians, but it was the only way I could get miles, so I had that for dinner almost every night for three years. I lost a lot of weight, but I did get over a million miles.
How do you use your air miles?
Just for holidays.
Hong Kong. I can land at the Hong Kong airport and be home or at the office within 30 to 40 minutes. Hong Kong puts the least number of barriers in the way.
Worst travel experience?
A few days before Christmas [in 2010], I had to fly from Oslo to Hong Kong via Heathrow. In Norway, they had about six feet of snow, plus two millimeters of snow in Heathrow, so my first flight from Oslo to Heathrow was canceled. Normally you don’t mind if the flight is canceled because there’s always a next one. The worst case is you stay in a hotel and you get out the next day—I ended up spending five days in the Oslo airport.
Best travel experience?
I had a trip with fellow colleagues, and we were supposed to fly economy. Everyone was very unhappy about this. But I got upgraded to business—but business was also full—[and then upgraded] into first class because I had so many air miles. I also believe that was the flight where Brad Pitt was on the same plane. I didn’t say anything to him though because I was too nervous.
How do you stay in shape while traveling?
I don’t like to go to the hotel gym. If you have some spare time, just go walking—walk around the city and see as much as you can.
Any tips on traveling as a vegetarian?
It can be really difficult. There’s a website called Happy Cow that I check to see which restaurants are good when I go to a city, but some aren’t very good for business travelers—not good places to take clients.
What’s left on the bucket list?
I like all types of music, but one of my favorite musicians of all time is Louis Armstrong, the jazz musician, so I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans. I also would like to spend more time in Japan just because it’s an interesting place and quite difficult for a Westerner to get around.
Favorite travel app?
The translation ones—iTranslate—there are a few of them and they’re all different. I tend to use them to try to figure out what menus are. Also, it’s very difficult to explain to people you are vegetarian, so I use them a lot for that.
What’s your travel advice?
My No. 1 tip for traveling is—wherever you go in the world and no matter what goes wrong on the trip—always be polite. I’ve found the best thing to do is just be nice to people.
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