It’s 7:26am on a Sunday and I find myself waiting with wet hair in the middle of a winterly breeze. People around me look either bored or tired, some of them are still drunk from going out last night. The breeze slowly turns into a gale. What makes up for all this is the fact that I’m waiting for a train. A train that will get me out of here.
2013 was a year of much more travel than expected. In terms of international trips, I only spent six weeks in Colombia and paid a short visit to Norway and Sweden to celebrate Chris Guillebeau’s world travel ventures and meet my #MoSho compadres, Milo and Michael. But I did a lot of traveling within Germany – so much, indeed, that it became slightly annoying for the first time I can remember.
At the time when I was writing Productive Anywhere, I still enjoyed the life as a hub traveler: I moved to a new place, stayed there for a month or two, and used that time to combine work with relaxed exploration of the area. After that, I spent a good amount of time in two of Germany’s larger cities (Hamburg and Cologne, specifically), from where it was still easy to get around.
The landscape is flying by outside, while the sunrise paints the sky in the most beautiful colors. This is what I love about German trains: For a bystander, they look like they could reach escape velocity any second, but if you’re sitting inside the movement will be completely smooth and surprisingly quiet. Lay back and enjoy the scenery. Write on your laptop, have some coffee, discuss politics with a friendly stranger. Still the perfect office.
Last year, many things changed. I found myself spending a lot of time on the secret island, a place that is about as remote as they come. If you look at a map, I’m closer to Denmark than to Germany. Hamburg, the nearest larger city, is four hours by ferry and train1 – and the ferries only operate every so often. Try to travel after 6pm and you’re out of luck. From the island, getting to Cologne will take more than 8 hours. If I want to spend a weekend visiting my friends and having some Kölsch, I have to add two extra days for the journey. Not a big issue, but if you go there once every 3 or 4 weeks, it can become too much.
Hamburg Airport. Checking in, I’m put on standby. Security is slow. The gate employee is stressed out: The airline had agreed to give a dozen employees from another carrier a ride, mixing up the seating order in the last minute. The aircraft seems to be filled up to the emergency seats. 30 minutes go by, everybody boards, but I have to wait.
When I looked back at the year 2013 during January, I decided to change a few things about my travel approach. I wanted to embrace on-the-road-productivity even more, and find more satisfying ways to explore the world.
It’s my second moderate proposal, and here’s what I came up with:
- Pack even lighter. I’m not exactly known for lugging around a warddrobe drunk and a butler, but the more you move, the less you want to schlepp. That’s why people like Earl travel with nothing but a tiny backpack. If you ever find yourself stressed on the road, pack lighter and see what happens.
- Overcome my mobile internet aversion. As a blogger, my love-hate relationship to the internet is almost laughable. One thing I thoroughly enjoyed when working on trains was the lack of wi-fi. It allowed for more focused writing and more enjoyable leisure time (to read books or hang out in the on-board bistros). But as my trips became larger and more regular (and my work more dependent on web access), this didn’t seem viable anymore. Mobile internet is here to stay; I might as well put it to use.
- Schedule trips wiser. When a friend throws a party, I have a hard time not going – even if going requires me to do a cross-country trip. While I enjoy this a lot, last year I probably overdid it a bit. Opposed to my hub travel approach, moving from a to b, back to a and on to c, only to come back to a once again all the time gets stressful, so I’d like to reduce friction by planning my trips smarter.2
- Keep going. Most people think that starting a life of travel is the hard part. For those of us who did just that, stopping is more complicated. As I’m still hungry to explore, all I aim for is to make things a little smoother – and, wherever possible, bring along the right company.3
Two minutes before take-off, I’m finally allowed to board. It certainly took some time to organize this trip, but it fits perfectly into my schedule. I don’t carry anything but a jacket and a small backpack that weighs less than 7 kilograms. At my destination, a dear friend is waiting, and a very special someone is about to arrive. Should it be this easy to fix my travel discomforts? Who knows. For now, all I care about is this: The doors are closed. My seatbelt is fastened. And I’m about to take off to Lisboa.
Whether you’re an avid traveler or not, constantly moving around the world (or merely visiting the next city) can be stressful. When that happens, spend some time looking at what exactly annoys you – and find a way to fix it. Improving on the details can make a huge difference for your travel experience.
- I try not to drive, even though that would be faster. [↩]
- What’s closely related: I still have a hard time believing it, but – for the first time since 2008 – I have something like a real “home” again. And I can hardly imagine a more beautiful place to be. Speak about an impact on my travel plans! [↩]
- I feel that people make me feel at home. [↩]