Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has a reputation for busy, fast-paced globetrotting. But no one has ever been through a trip quite like this one.
I accompanied Mrs. Clinton on her just-completed 12-day, 27,000 mile trip to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Counting the refueling stops we visited 14 cities in 12 countries.
It was the type of trip you would take when the doctor says you have two weeks to live. Get through the bucket list before time runs out.
The adventure was an unforgettable mix of cultures, countries and time zones. There were moments that took your breath away, and moments when you wanted to take someone else's breath away. From planes to palaces we sped off in motorcades, we had to dodge flying fruit in Alexandria, and we were saved by a pair of pajama bottoms in Mongolia.
But for the tireless Mrs. Clinton it was just another diplomatic jaunt, albeit the most intensive one even she has taken. She manages to keep her composure in spite of a brutal, grueling schedule.
On the itinerary, Paris, France; Kabul, Afghanistan; Tokyo, Japan, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Hanoi, Vietnam; Vientiane, Laos; Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia; Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt; and Jerusalem, Israel. Plus refueling stops in Almaty, Kazakhstan; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Shannon, Ireland.
And we did it all in 12 days. That means each day we logged the equivalent of flying across the United States. The mornings were early, the evenings late, and sleep was the most precious commodity.
The trip was unusually intense and diverse even for State Department standards. Mrs. Clinton would speak at conferences and meet with foreign leaders and civil society members.
The Friends of Syria conference happened to be in Paris, nowhere near Syria. Same for the Afghanistan conference, which took place in Tokyo, a long way from Afghanistan. At least the South East Asian Nations conference took place in Cambodia, an actual South East Asian country.
As long as we were on the road, why not stop in to see President Karzai in Kabul, President Morsi in Cairo and President Netanyahu in Jerusalem? And since no US Secretary of State since John Foster Dulles has been to Laos, let's stop there too, a record setting 102nd country Mrs. Clinton has visited.
When the Secretary of State travels, a television pool usually goes along. It was ABC's turn for this pool. In a rare coincidence, ABC was also assigned as pool for Mrs. Clinton's trip to China, Bangladesh and India just two months ago. So this was my second round the world trip with her in two months.
We fly on a military jet, an Air Force version of a commercial Boeing 757 passenger plane. The front of the plane, what would be the first class section on the commercial version, is taken by crew and communications gear. Then Mrs. Clinton gets her own cabin which is like a little conference room. The remainder of the plane seats staff, security agents and news media.
Not counting the crew, there are only about 40 passengers who travel on the plane. Most seating is like domestic business class, except for the last two rows where the press sits, which is coach seating.
The food on the plane ranges from acceptable to good. There has been a move under the Obama administration to eat healthier. Most of the meals involve chicken, turkey, or food like bacon made from turkey. All the food is taken on board at the beginning of the trip and the meals are cooked and prepared on the plane.