Very recently I had the chance to visit my dear friend and former roommate in Singapore where he now lives with this wife. The flight from San Francisco is one of the longest commercial flights lasting more than seventeen hours from takeoff to landing. The return trip took fewer than fifteen hours. This difference in time is matched by a difference in flight path and can be explained by the affect of the jet stream.
My company, Automattic, currently employs over four hundred people scattered across the world. Last week I was attending a meetup in Dublin – a jam-packed week where a few of us get together “in real life” to work together. While transiting through the Dallas airport I bumped into Steve, a coworker of mine who I hadn’t yet met. He was wearing a WordPress pullover and maybe something else with a logo on it. Seeing those, I showed him my WordPress bag from Timbuk 2 (something many of us have) and asked if he worked with me. It’s not too rare to meet with coworkers en-route to a specific meetup destination, but Steve was taking personal travel. On my way to meet coworkers in Dublin, I met another coworker at random in one of the larger and busier airports in the US.
After my meetup, I came to England for the Word Camp London event, a gathering of WordPress developers, users, agencies, hosts, etc… When I realized that I had a few extra minutes before I needed to leave in the morning to catch the tube, I decided to go downstairs and grab some of the free food available for breakfast at my hostel. As I stood there starting on my yoghurt, a woman was staring at me with a confused look on her face. After a short pause she asked, “Dennis?” and I realized that it was Britta, one of the friends Amanda and I had in Hannover while we were there last year. In the middle of one of the biggest cities in Europe and in the basement of one probably two hundred or more hostels in London, I randomly met a friend from another place and time.
If the probability of these events happening on any given day were one-in-a-million and considering that I’ve been nomadding for about two years, then we find that the chance of this happening at least twice in that timespan is a little more than one-in-four-million (or a probability of 0.000000265956).
This morning I got out and had the first European coffee in a while and it was mighty tasty. Maybe it’s because I started to develop my taste for coffe in Europe that I like it so much more than in the US, or maybe it’s flat-out better. It’s different in the way that chili can be different in one state or another: whether or not it’s served with pasta, for example.
My flight into Dublin arrived
yesterday a week ago just before 3:00pm local time. It was a particularly long day of travel because three flights were involved and I had started my journey in Tucson at 11:00am local time. That’s a total of twenty hours if I do the math correctly. There was no power or internet access on board the transatlantic flight and a small selection of movies, which made it rough for me since I couldn’t sleep and since my laptop didn’t have enough charge left to make it very far. Thankfully, despite being in the middle of the middle of the middle of the aircraft (the 777-200 had a 3-5-3 arrangement of seats in the economy sections), I was surrounded by a couple of polite women and we all had sufficient room.
Of course, I came to Dublin to work. It had been over a year since my team at Automattic came together in person (excluding our all-company meetup) and we were due for it. Since our team’s focus was recently changed and since we will be working hand-in-hand with another team, it was a joint meetup. The first part of the week was fairly exhausting as we brainstormed and planned for our next year’s worth of work, but as we actually started the work it became a bit more pleasant.
Yesterday we took a tour into the mountains south of Dublin. Ireland is a very beautiful and calm country. There are mountains (literally) of peat and turf that used to be harvested to burn for heating. These hills are bogs-on-mountains and are not only protected now, but some of the most efficient and effective carbon sinks in the world. From nothing more than the carbon-dioxide that the grasses and shrubs suck in, they supposedly accumulate peat at a rate of approximately an inch every thirty years. That figure is really quite incredible.
Back in Europe means back to cheap travel. My friend Donncha is flying to London (from Cork, Ireland) today to walk around the city and take pictures. He told me that his flight cost about 35€, or about $40.
I’ll be nomadding over the next month. Instead of flying home and then flying right back, I’m staying over here while Mandi finishes her semester. She’ll be joining me in May and until then I plan on doing some solo adventuring – hopefully to provide some interesting stories here.
Stragely, though I’m “more settled” in Tucson, I seem to have more time when travelling to do things like write on this blog. Right now it’s my short flight which gives me this opportunity; the first of many.
After visiting with family over the Christmas break, Mandi and I drove out to Omaha to spend a few days with our friends Andrew and Sarah and their two little boys. To our delight, they brought home the newest addition to their family just before we arrive: Missy, the Schnauzer.
It was lovely to relax for a few days and hang out like we used to. Andrew and I used to have more opportunities like these when he lived in Chicago and I lived in Indianapolis.
With Mandi there this time it was easier for Andrew and I to get away together. Sarah has always been generous with me stealing away Andrew when I visit, but it’s hard for me to ask to do so because I know it’s like asking if we can go play while she takes care of the kids. I’m really thankful for that time, though, and knowing that Mandi was willing to help out made it easier.
Even those of us without kids know that it’s life-changing how different kids make things. When I spend the time with them I’m reminded of how little I have to think about things like eating, going to bed, doing house-work, etc… On the contrary, it can noticeably impact Ezra’s and Micah’s moods if they don’t eat at the scheduled times and they seem to fumble around with their bodies and expressiveness as they figure out how to say they’re hungry, just as missing a nap or going to bed at the wrong time can have frustrating consequences. I admire the effort parents put out to bring that needed structure and security in their kids’ lives (and clearly I have none of the structure in my own).
That late-night light-bulb illuminated the lounge
where we laughed and lingered while the little ones
were lulled in their beds and the chill of the winter
was knocking on that lounge door,
was knocking and calling but we couldn’t hear
for the light of that lamp which was warming our spot
in the corner of that lonely lounge
was all that our fascinations were fixed on as we
sat and sipped and shared tales
of the times that we missed
and the times that were yet to be.
We got out into a place called the Old Market in downtown Omaha a few times which was really fun. The city reminded me of Kansas City. He was able to show me some of the places from his childhood which were part of who he is and which are special to his family. He took me to the Drastic Plastic record store and to the Beansmith up the street. We sat and had good conversation right across from the old brick buildings lining the paved-brick road.
In fact, one of the buildings we sat across from had seen its last Christmas and wasn’t going to see another. In 7º F temperature, it burned up just a few nights after we left. Andrew took some amazing pictures of the beatiful remants the following morning. Water sprayed on the building to quell the flames froze before it fell to the ground. If you click on the picture it will take you to his full gallery, and it’s worth a view.
Eventually Mandi and I had to leave. The 7º F chill wasn’t exactly holding us back either. We packed up, took a 4:00am lift to the airport, and came back to sunny Tucson after having been gone for weeks. Her luggage was destroyed in transit and we are waiting for a replacement from the airline. Overall we had a good vacation, but it’s really nice to be back home and back into my routine. I hope you all had a nice Christmas and New Years and had a chance to spend some time with some great people too.
The following post was written onboard a flight a few weeks ago.
You can attribute any typos in this post to my shaky ride through the turbulence high above the Pennsylvania countryside. I’m just returning after a long trip that ended in Philadelphia for the first-ever WordCamp US.
My original flight was scheduled to leave at 1:45pm to Phoenix, where I would layover and then catch a second flight to Tucson. Just before boarding, the gate agents announced that they would be offering a $500 voucher and a later journey for anyone willing to give up their seat on the flight. I’ve been given this offer a few times, but usually I’m rearing to get home or on a deadline. Today, however, I was in no rush and immediately jumped at the opportunity. Now I’m still getting home on the same day, but I’ll take the shuttle from Phoenix to Tucson instead of flying and I have an extra $500 to spend on a flight within the next year (the catch is that I have to buy the ticket at the American Airlines desk inside an airport).
Henceforth, instead of leaving at 1:45pm I left at 6:10pm and had the rest of the afternoon to wait in the airport. Years ago this would have been quite a deal: free WiFi was basically non-existent (it wouldn’t have mattered much because I didn’t have a smartphone and I didn’t carry around my laptop – I couldn’t easily carry it around and its battery didn’t last very long); I didn’t have much flexibility in my travel so I was always rushed in the airport (travel time was wasted time); I didn’t have much real experience at airports.
As times have changed, I’ve grown to enjoy the airport more and more. Today I sat around at a sit-stand shelf at Starbucks and worked on my laptop while planes taxied behind the floor-to-ceiling windows. After a while a small band setup next to the Christmas trees, Menorahs, and lights and started playing smooth Jazz. Like my last layover in San Francisco, it was simply a peaceful time. Despite the rush and chaos, I had the most focused work session I think I’ve had in three weeks.
I’ve come to learn that although airports can seem pretty scary and unfamiliar, they are a warm home to frequent travelers. They’re clean, safe, and have just about everything you could need. I’ve spent time alone in airport yoga rooms and prayer rooms, washed my face and put on a refreshingly clean change of chothes in the bathroom, stared out the windows at things passing by, and sipped plenty a capuccino while calmly working at the gates.
We don’t always have the luxury of time and flexibility, but we always have the choice of how to make use of our circumstances. Travel was always hectic growing up and coincidentally was never considered part of our vacation or part of our journey. Mandi and I have always tried to make the ride special: by stopping in the middle of a long drive to go hiking; by trying to walk around the entire airport during a layover; or simply by finding a place to get comfortable and work.