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Robert Schrader in Shikoku, Japan

My 5 Biggest Travel Surprises of 2017

2017 isn’t quite over yet, neither for me—I’ve still got trips to Hong Kong, South Korea and the USA coming up—nor for the world. At the same time, it’s difficult not to become pensive and even nostalgic as December draws ever closer.

To be sure, while I’ve been a traveler for almost half my life at this point, many things still managed to surprise me as I trotted the globe this year. Here are the ones that caused my jaw to drop the widest.

American Airlines Business Class

It’s no secret that I’m now a veritable business class addict, at least not if you’ve been paying attention to this blog the past couple of years. What is surprising, keeping in mind that I’ve sampled industry-leading products like ANA business class and first class on Qatar Airways, is what a fabulous experience I had flying American Airlines over the Pacific in January of this year.


It wasn’t just that the oft-maligned carrier boasts a competitive “reverse herringbone” seat on its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, either. The service managed to perfectly combine American friendliness and Asian efficiency, to say nothing of how delicious the food was. Seriously, color me stunned!

Japan’s Most Forgotten Island

My second most surprising travel moment of 2017 came almost immediately after my American 787 landed at Haneda Airport. There, I boarded a Japan Airlines flight bound for Tokushima, one of the largest cities on Japan’s Shikoku Island.

“Hold up,” you’re probably saying. “Shi-what? What-koku?” I get it—I used to feel the same way.


Thing is, Shikoku is amazing. In some ways, it’s my favorite of Japan’s four main islands, in spite of being the smallest and least-visited. Beyond Tokushima (and other cities like Kochi and Takamatsu), Shikoku offers amazing onsen hot springs, out-of-this-world natural attractions like the Naruto Whirlpools and Oboke Gorge and an 88-temple pilgrimage trail that’s incredible, even if you only manage to visit one of the shrines along it.

Moving to Thailand

Like many Americans, my immediate reaction to the accidental election of Donald Trump as US president was to declare my intentions to leave the country. Unlike most Americans, however, I had the career flexibility to do this with relatively minimal difficulty. So on March 25 of this year, I began my long journey from Austin to Bangkok, where I’ve lived ever since.


I’ve lived in Bangkok before, so there weren’t many surprises on that front, although as is usually the case with memory, I’d glossed over some of the less-savory aspects of becoming a temporary Thai. Still, it beats living in a country run by a reality TV star.

Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road


I’ve rented cars on dozens of the trips I’ve taken, but my 10-day road trip through Ireland was the first time I’ve drive on the left side of the road. The good news is that I returned my car to Belfast Airport on July 30 completely free of damage. The bad news is that I jumped a curb in Cork on the second day of my trip, and had to buy an expensive new tire. But hey, I guess it could’ve been worse!

Making it To Iran, Finally


As many of you know, Iran sat at the top of my bucket list for a very long time. While visiting Iran had been a primary goal of mine for 2017 more specifically, the Muslim Ban Donald Trump attempted to pass shortly after taking office made me fear I would never realize. Thankfully, after American courts struck down this ban (not to mention the two Trump proposed in its wake), Iran resumed issuing visas to US citizens, and my dream became reality.

I could add a few more items to this list if I wanted, but I’d rather read what you have to say. What were your biggest travel surprises of 2017?

Leave Your Daily Hell   Filed under: Travel

About The Author

is the author of 1206 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!


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Upcoming Trips

  • I plan to spend the first half of 2021 in Kyoto, Japan, where I'll be taking a Japanese course. While I intend to publish some posts about my travels around Japan here, I encourage you to visit Japan Starts Here for my most up-to-date and in-depth Japan travelogues.

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