The Travel Wall

This year I’ve been traveling a lot. My Dopplr report for the first half of 2009 says I spent 69 of 181 days on the road. From April 1 to July 31, I spent exactly 50% of my time away from home. It is all for a great cause, making Drupal documentation better, and it sounds exciting to be such a jet-setter, but it isn’t really all that glamorous. Maybe if I was in my 20s again and single it would be a more exciting year, but popping in and out of home life and a relationship, spending long periods of time completely out of my element, often all alone and not speaking the local language, is just not as sexy an experience as it sounds. Working, presenting and moving around suck up most of my time, so I’ve had limited opportunity to even get to explore where I visit.

All of this go, go, go is due to an awesome grant from the Knight Foundation that covers my travel expenses but does not cover my actual time on the road. (Note that the 80 hours of time listed have already been spent, at home, just doing doc work.) So, in addition to the constant flights and moving around, I am also still, ya know, actually working to pay my bills while traveling. My employer, Lullabot, has been amazingly kind and considerate of my schedule and I would’ve dropped long ago if it wasn’t for their patience and care of me. (BTW, I work for the best company EVAH. This entire thing wouldn’t be a reality if it weren’t for them.) But I do still need to earn my paycheck every week. This is the real world after all and there are things like mortgages involved. I have been spending some of my vacation days as I go, but I’d like to keep a hold of at least some of them for actual family time at some point too. Speaking of kindness and patience, my partner Colleen has been a fricking rock star about all of my time away. (And yes, big note to self to never do a grant again that doesn’t compensate my time as well.)

Through all of this, one thing I have come to understand about myself and traveling is that I consistently hit a snag in my travels right about 10-14 days in. Once I am away from home for that long, I stop caring about where I am. Even if the people around me are awesome, the scenery gorgeous, the new experiences lining up, I just don’t care. All I can think about is getting home, getting back to my life. I call this my “travel wall.” (I do think that if Colleen was with me on the road, the wall would be extended quite a bit, since she is the biggest chunk of my life that is sorely missed and simply can’t be filled by anything or anyone else.)

I don’t want this to sound like it is all torture or something. I am having a blast meeting tons of very cool people. I’ve made lots of new friends, had some really wonderful times and I’m looking forward to more experiences coming up. I’m just realizing that I have some limits on how much fun I can have and the limit seems to be an actual number of days I can count down to. Scheduling myself to keep the line on the travel wall is hard for me because I am always trying to fit as many events into a trip as I can, to get the most bang for my buck, especially when going overseas. I also do want to actually visit some of these cool places I go, since after this year, I doubt I’ll travel nearly so much again in my life. 😉

So, all of this is to say, if you meet me on the road and I’m looking a little glassy-eyed or under-motivated, chances are I’ve been on the road just a little too long and I’m hitting the “wall.” It totally isn’t a statement about the company I’m keeping or the event I’m attending. I’m gearing up to leave for Europe again tomorrow, heading to Drupalcon Paris, and this will be a 13-day trip. I’m hoping that this trip’s wall will be on the long side since I’ve just recharged at home for just over four weeks (!) and the first few days I will be spending in Copenhagen, with three days off to sight see and I get to stay with a friend (OMG, thank you, Camilla). Also, Copenhagen and Paris are my two favorite cities. While Drupalcon is always a bit exhausting (so I’m sure by the last day I’ll be zombie-like), I am really excited to be in the hive energy of the con and see a ton of people I dearly miss. I’m packing my crash helmet to make a good go at ramming the travel wall one more time.