Last year I went through Vancouver International Airport (YVR) 15 times. It all started in March, when I headed to Los Angeles for Code4Lib. Then I went to the UK twice (April and May), Ottawa in June for ACA, Toronto in July/August for a family visit, Saskatoon in September for Access, Portugal in October/November for CIGIA, and then Toronto again in December for Christmas.
And in January, I slept.
The majority of this travel was work-related and by about August 2017 I knew I was close to burn out. I don’t want it to come across like I was ungrateful or unhappy to be on these trips. I feel incredibly lucky that I’m paid to attend conferences, deliver workshops, and meet so many great people. I genuinely enjoy travelling. I love it.
But travel is both physically and emotionally draining. Being away from my partner, my pets, my own bed; crossing up to 9 time zones with only half a day to recover before plunging into a full day of teaching; sitting in a tiny airplane seat for 11 hours while I fly across the whole of Canada and the Atlantic ocean in one shot – it’s hard.
That said, travel is part of my job. Since I have a supportive partner and no kids, I can usually be counted on to take up the travel burden. So, in May, things are kicking off again. My travel sabbatical is coming to an end, but I’m hoping that I’ve figured out a few things that will make it less taxing. My thoughts are divided into two sections: Planning and Packing. I’ll cover packing in a subsequent post.
I was inspired to write this by Miriam Posner, who travels extensively for work as well. Miriam posted her list of travel and accommodation requests on twitter.
I hesitated to do this, because I don’t want to seem like a diva, but I finally set down some requests for when people are kind enough to invite me to speak or give a workshop. https://t.co/2EPjRfnrja Do you have a list? I’d love to know what others ask.
— Miriam Posner (@miriamkp) April 26, 2018
I don’t feel like I can provide a list in the same way that Miriam does, because I’m hired as a representative of my company, rather than an individual in my own right. Such a list would have to be applicable to everyone here and that’s not reasonable. But these are the things I ask for when I’m in the planning stages.
- I book my own flights. One flight path is not like another, and I’m the only one who can decide if, for example, one long layover is better than two short ones. Sometimes this means that I take a more expensive flight. If I’m coming up with a quote to provide to a client, I always pad my airfare costs. I appreciate that people are usually just looking to be helpful – it’s so kind – but I’ll feel better if I’m in control.
- I need a quiet place to sleep and unwind. I’m not sharing a hotel room, and I’m also not interested in apartment-style accommodation with other people. I am deeply introverted. I need to be away from people after a full day of being the smiling face leading a workshop.
- I need to know the tech set-up. I’m often preparing to live-demo software, and I need to be sure that you’ll have a stable internet connection, the ability to run presentations from Google Drive, and a good podium computer/the right adapters for my laptop.
- I need to know the room setup. If I’m delivering a training session or workshop, the room needs to facilitate that – the room needs to have a lectern, clear sightlines, tables arranged for group work (yep, I make people work in small groups – I’m a monster), and it can’t be too cramped. If I’m just lecturing, this is less critical, though it’s helpful to know how big the screen is and how many people there are going to be.
- I need a day to settle in. If I’m travelling in Canada or the US I usually don’t insist on this, but you better believe if I’m leaving continental North America that I will need a day. There is an eight-hour time difference between Vancouver and London. Honestly, you don’t want me until I’ve had a chance to figure out where I am and what time it is.
There are also some things that I prefer, rather than need: a hotel room with a kitchenette is a huge plus, but I can live with the standard kettle-and-minifridge setup. A hotel within walking distance of the venue is my preference to taking transit, taxi, or renting a car, but sometimes this isn’t practical. But that’s about it, really.
Why so picky?
Well… I’m not. I think these things are very reasonable. I’m being expected to operate in a professional environment where I display competence, confidence, and am a good representative for my company. This is the minimum list of requirements I have to be able to meet that threshold. I want this thing to be a success just as much as the folks who are paying for it.
It’s hard to stand up and say, “I’m worth this investment of other people’s time and money.” But harder still is travelling extensively under sub-optimal conditions. Please, if you are also someone who travels for work, consider posting your own list. I’d love to see it.