2020 Travel Break
For the past 10 years or so I’ve traveled quite a bit, for both work and fun. In 2020, I am drastically cutting back, planning, for the first time since 2007, no international travel. Why? A number of reasons actually. Top of the list is my desire to spend more time with my immediate family in the US Midwest. But, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Because I’ve been a public person for only part of my working life, people who know me from my technical keynotes and talks, courses, or technical writing associate travel with the entirety of my professional life. However I’ve been working for 40+ years and a public person for only ~ 15 years, so there’s more to the story. My recent spate of travel is simply one phase of my work life.
There have been significant periods of time previously where I didn’t travel at all. For example, for the first 7 years of my daughter’s life, I didn’t get on a plane — by choice. Then I chose a job (technical classroom instructor) which allowed me to work locally, so that I could be home with my daughter everyday after work.
Yet because in this recent travel phase, I travelled more often and to more locations, I now reflect. Where did I go? Far and wide, kind of... The red dots on the map below show my travel locations over the past roughly 10 years. Google tracked my precise locations over this time period, making it easy to produce a map, using the Google Maps ‘Your Timeline’ feature.
What surprised me first about this map is how LITTLE of the world I’ve still actually visited. This got me wondering about what kind of traveller I have actually been on this go-round.
Middle-aged, Solo Female
Not exactly a super-common travel profile, right? Because of my profile, the first thing I noticed is that I tended to visit to Europe and Australia most often. Although I did travel to some developing countries, that was the exception, rather than the rule. I can do it, increasingly however, I just don’t want to.
When I travel, safety is a top priority for me. If I travel to places that have a different security situation that I have in the US, then I select one of the three options shown below:
- Travel with other people — or —
- Plan ahead very carefully — or —
- Don’t go
Are there places I won’t go? Yes there are. If I hadn’t been a single mom, maybe I’d have been less risk averse. My rule was, if in doubt, don’t go. So maybe it’s not so surprising to visualize how much of our world I still haven’t seen in person yet.
When I look back on my 10 years of travel, my first emotion is gratitude. I realize that my situation is uncommon and try to consider my role as a type of ambassador whenever I travel. To that end, everywhere I go I try to learn even the smallest bit of the local language, meet local people, eat local food, etc…
I’ve made a number of wonderful friendships that I cherish with people I’ve met while on trips. Although I have friends from a number of places, for some reason, I seem to connect with people from Australia and from Zambia.
For example, a Zambian student of mine, emigrated with his family to Australia. Unexpectedly, because I hadn’t seen him in 8 years, he noticed on social media that I was going to Australia. He invited me to his home for a home-cooked nshima meal when I arrived into Sydney in 2017.
This kind of thing happened often over the past 10 years. I look forward to cooking wild rice soup (or other local specialties) for friends who make up to my new home in Minneapolis this year.
We are one tech world.
International travel requires time — lots and lots of time. I’ve spent more hours on my way to, waiting at and getting out of airports over the past 10 years than I care to think about. There’s just nothing glamorous, or, really even pleasant about this. And that’s when everything goes as scheduled.
My survival mechanism was to lower expectations.
Forcing me to check (and pay for checking) my correctly-sized cabin bag? No problem. Seating me in a middle seat on a 14 hour flight? Ok. etc…
Next is a really challenging aspect of international travel for me — namely, killer jet lag. Because I am light sleeper (no sleep on planes), international travel results in me losing multiple days on either side of the trip. I used to force myself to work in the destination country (and then back to work when I got home ) with only 1 day on either side. I usually ended up sick. When I finally accepted reality and allocated 3 days in front and 3 days in back, then I no longer got sick, however 6 days of reduced (or no) productivity for each international trip is a really time high cost.
Additionally, I’ve been learning lately more and more about the environmental impact of long distance flights. As we see the impact of climate change almost daily (fires in Australia, flooding in Jakarta, etc…)., reducing my personal carbon footprint by flying less seems increasingly important.
So this year will be a kind of experiment for me. Rather than hopping on a plan to “there”, I am hoping to explore and expand remote collaboration for work. I already work regularly with a number of interns and colleagues via remote pair programming, I am looking forward to expanding this type of work in 2020.
What about you — will you travel less (or more) in 2020?