Monday, April 28, 2014

Travel Season Lessons Learned Exercise

Over the past few months, I have traveled more frequently and further compared to to any other period in my life.  The travel to research the book was stretched out over years, but promoting it?  Just a few months.  I am not done yet as I have a trip to Argentina this summer for an ISA conference and some other stuff ahead, but the pace will slow down.

Since February, I have been to Kansas City, Denver, Waterloo, Sydney, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and now Paris.  What have I learned?
  1. The skiing out west really is better.  Who would have thunk it?  I skied Sunshine at Banff,
    Copper in Colorado and Whistler in BC.  Conditions were different--sunny and reasonably cold in Colorado, mostly cloudy and a bit of snow in Sunshine, and spring skiing at Whistler.  I would have to rank these three places ahead all of the places I have skied except maybe Alta is better than Sunshine (best in the East would be Tremblant and Jay Peak, with Killington being so long ago I cannot really compare it).  Maybe.  Whistler has the best terrain I have experienced, and I only skied a relatively small part of the place.  Copper had the best non-family company (always ski with political scientists?).  Anyhow, I am incredibly lucky, as these trips reminded me, so excuse any whining below.  And my knees held up just fine, thankfully.
  2. There is always more than one talk.  In pretty much every spot I went, my talk coincided with other events that may have diminished the audiences a bit.  That's ok, as I still had plenty of engaged audiences asking tough questions and offering examples from their own research and experiences.  More than a few veterans of Afghanistan attended my talks on the book.  They appreciated the forest that I was able to depict, as they had run into a fair amount of the trees (caveats and other challenges of alliance warfare).
  3. I have lost my immunity to small kid noise.  Sure, my peak-a-boo game is still intact, but the ability to shut out screaming kids has been lost.  Perhaps once one's kid is of college age, one loses that immunity.  Plus the kicking of my seat for half the flight to Paris didn't help.
  4. Frequent flyer programs ain't what they used to be.  Harder to accrue miles when using partner airlines.  Still, for the trip to UBC, the kid's ticket was entirely on FF points. 
  5. The beer is good.  In most places, I was able to find some good local beer.  Even in Paris, where wine is king, I was able to find good beer (and great food) although the Moroccan place ran out of French beer and gave me Heineken instead.  Meh.  
  6. Hotel breakfest buffets are consistently wildly overpriced.  But when one has trouble sleeping, it is hard to find a place that is open earlier....And I have had some trouble sleeping late except for the post-skiing days.
  7. Going to Australia makes all other flights seem not so long, including transcontinental flights to Vancouver and back and the transatlantic trip to Paris.
  8. I am still a big fan of Hiltons and their kin.  Their frequent stayer program is still pretty swell, even as they move some benefits to gold status which is now out of reach.
  9. I am very, very lucky.  I have good friends who are most generous with their time (thanks, Cullen, for showing me Copper), their feedback, and their company (Debbi throws good parties in Denver and it was nice to have a UCSD reunion; thanks to Mona for introducing me to Kansas City and the wacky band of younger faculty).  This project keeps paying dividends, mostly unexpected, including this latest trip to Paris.  Paris was one of the first places I visited to do research for the book, so it is nice to come back here at the end. 

My favorite trip?  Probably the one to Vancouver as it was the only one where I traveled with someone--my daughter--and it is the last trip to check out a university.  We thoroughly explored Vancouver.  Her skiing got cut short due to pulled calf muscles, but I had a great two hours of Whistler.  We had great food, as she is far more interested in a wider variety of food than I was at her age.  It was also a bit bittersweet, as our time together is coming to an end.  We will have some vacations ahead, but college beckons to her.  Our lives (my wife's and mine, that is) and my travel will be far less interesting once my daughter goes out there on her own.  

My favorite kid-less trip was Denver, easily.  Most UCSD friends in one spot, great skiing, met sharp people plus an old friend (also sharp).

Most inspiring trip: Paris.  Hanging out with US/Canadian/European government officials and scholars got me thinking about a bunch of stuff as they had different angles than the folks I normally hang out with, even if they use the phase political will.  Plus the timing--amid the crisis in Ukraine--created a sense of urgency.

Overall, it has been an awesome winter/spring.  I am really enjoying the journey, and I am thankful not just for a cool project to sell but to a very tolerant family for all of my absences. 

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