From grooming essentials to jet lag, Dr Musa Mthombeni talks travel like a pro

He offers practical advice for comfortable long-haul flights and more

09 April 2024 - 10:55
By Staff Writer
Celebrity doctor Musa Mthombeni says Japan and travelling in space are on his bucket list.
Image: Supplied Celebrity doctor Musa Mthombeni says Japan and travelling in space are on his bucket list.

Dr Musa Mthombeni, one of South Africa’s most loved television hosts, shares his travel tips ahead of his journeys to Türkiye and Thailand.

Scheduled to attend a radiologist conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Mthombeni discusses the conference's impact on his career and his plans for cultural exploration beyond the event.

Offering practical advice for comfortable long-haul flights and combating jet lag, here are his top travel tips:

What inspired you to attend the radiologist conference in Thailand, and how do you envision this experience contributing to your career?

I’m attending an endovascular neurosurgical/interventional neuroradiology course held annually. It's a globally conducted anatomy and disease management course, and this year it’s being hosted in Chiang Mai.

This experience will contribute to my career toward a more defined path, specifically in interventional neuroradiology, which entails endovascular management of conditions such as brain aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations and other complex issues.

Beyond the conference schedule, do you have plans to explore the local sights, cuisine and cultural attractions in Thailand?

Absolutely. Being in another country offers the chance to explore beyond the conference. I plan to immerse myself in local sites, cultural attractions and cuisine during my stay. Because I'm also going to be there a few days before and a few days after the conference, it allows me the opportunity to see what Thailand has to offer. I’m excited to experience the culture and cuisine of Chiang Mai.

A bustling evening market in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Image: 501room / 123rf.com A bustling evening market in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

As someone who travels frequently, what are your top tips for making the most out of long-haul flights and staying comfortable during extended periods in the air?

Most importantly, be as comfortable as possible, as you are most comfortable at home. When you get ready, pick the most comfortable outfit, put on the most comfortable shoes, and pack your carry-on with essentials for a pleasant flight experience. Check-in as early as you can so you can pick the seat you want, and if you know your bladder is small, preferably pick an aisle seat so you can jump out without bothering too many people. I can usually sit for many hours without having to move. I am a lover of movies and series, so in-flight entertainment excites me and keeps me entertained for the long flight.

How do you typically combat jet lag when travelling across multiple time zones, and do you have any tried-and-tested strategies for adjusting to new time zones quickly?

I'm generally not used to sleeping long periods of time, so I don't have to deal with or combat jet lag, even across multiple time zones. I like arriving a day or two early to help adjust to the local time. On arriving at your destination, I strongly suggest you try and force yourself to sleep and once you have adjusted to the time zone, start experiencing things.

What essentials do you always pack in your carry-on bag to ensure a smooth and stress-free flight experience, specially when it comes to skincare, hydration and  relaxation?

This is important. I take all entertainment things, so I carry my laptop or an iPad and headphones. But importantly, I also carry the basic goodies I need on a long-haul flight. For skincare I use L'Oréal. I've got the L'Oréal Men Expert Hydra Energetic range, which includes a face wash, a moisturiser and of course I use sunscreen. If you are flying during the day and the cabin's windows are open, you should apply sunscreen. I also recommend you travel with your own toothbrush and toothpaste in case you don't like what you're going to get on board.

For those who struggle with motion sickness or discomfort during flights, do you have any tips or remedies that you've found particularly effective in easing symptoms and ensuring a more pleasant travel experience?

I don't suffer from motion sickness or feel any discomfort on flights. I'm easygoing. But I think for anyone who does experience motion sickness, over-the-counter medications are available. Additionally, relaxation techniques and personal entertainment can help alleviate discomfort during flights.

As someone with a busy schedule, how do you manage to find time for travel?

I make time to travel. You will never reach a point in your life where you find yourself available to travel. Retirement is too far for you to say you will travel then. I’ll have too many broken bones to enjoy travelling. So I make the time. Even if you find yourself losing money in the short run, do it. If you have leave days, take the leave days. Travel while you're young and are able to travel because the future isn't guaranteed, and anything can happen. If you can travel, do it.

Are there any destinations on your bucket list you're particularly eager to explore, and why?

Yes, yes, yes! I want to go to Japan, I don’t know why. It’s not like an anime thing, it’s nothing like that, it’s just the culture. It’s something I think I must do in the next year or two, Japan. Then I want to go to Iceland. I want to see volcanoes, I want to do all kinds of crazy things. I also want to go to Antarctica. I’ve had a chat with my wife Liesl about this and she is not about it at all. I’ve got a lot of convincing to do there. And lastly, I want to go into space. I don’t know how I’m going to achieve this. Maybe we wait for one of the commercial guys to make it viable, but I want to go to space.

How has travel influenced your perspective on different cultures and communities around the world?

It’s truly opened my eyes to what the world is like. When you live in your own country, you’re in this bubble that exists in your own world, in your own life and that’s it. But when you travel and see other things, you realise there’s a lot more to this world than your own little bubble. I love that travelling allows me to grow. I like experiencing local activities in international places — local bars, local restaurants and seeing the different perspectives the locals get to experience, and their different cultures and communities. 

Who’s your favourite airline and why?

For me, Turkish Airlines stands out when I look to travelling eastbound. When there’s long travel time, with Turkish Airlines you can experience Istanbul with their free  Stopover and Tour Istanbul offering when you have a layover of six-plus hours, conveniently allowing you to experience two destinations/holidays in one trip.

What’s your favourite travel destination and why?

Interesting, I don’t know. I like North America, it has a bit of my heart. It is because of how we grew up, the TV we watched. Next I’d like to go and explore Miami, Texas and Los Angeles. I don’t know why I’m saying this, but I feel Japan will probably be one of my favourite destinations once I’m back from there.