Sunday, 23 February 2014

On being a Travelling Professional...

I'd like to introduce a new term here: a Travelling Professional.  A Travelling Professional is someone who, like me, has to travel a lot for their work. We can call it "TP" for short.

Actually no.  Let's not call it that.

Are you a Travelling Professional?  Perhaps you're not sure.  Perhaps you definitely are.  Perhaps you’re definitely not, but you’d still like something amusing to read on a Sunday.  In any case, here’s a helpful little list.

You know you’re a Travelling Professional when…

1. All airports and train stations look the same to you.
You don’t notice anymore if you’re in Tokyo or Amsterdam.  All you see is that you’re in an airport, or you’re in a train station.  They've all kind of melded into one big glass-and-concrete structure in your mind, because the only thing you really care about is where you’re going.  You know all those sculptures and installations and special exhibits that people put in airports, to try to make them unique?  Yeah.  Those don’t work.  You might look at them with a passing interest, but all you really care about is buying a sandwich and getting to the right gate or platform.

2. You’re always confusing your languages and currencies.
You tend to get just a little bit mixed up.  You might try to pay with Yen in Finland, or start speaking Italian in Germany.  When you're visiting so many countries in so little time, it seems impossible to keep track of where you are!  Last week I managed to speak French pretty well in Paris, but I kept unconsciously peppering it with German words: aber, und, oder, and so on.  I think the French were a little confused.

Not sure if this girl is part German.. or just crazy.....

3. You’re sick of going to restaurants.
When you’re travelling, restaurants become part of the daily grind.  It might seem nice at first, but after a while the novelty wears off.  You get pretty tired of letting a menu dictate what you’re going have for dinner tonight.  Even the nicest restaurant meal can never replace the pleasure of something cooked at home.  There’s just something so satisfying about deciding what you want to eat, buying the ingredients, and going home to make it.  Last year I spent most of December in a hotel in Stuttgart, and it didn't take me very long to get sick of the local restaurants.  When I came home for Christmas, I had no interest in the standard seasonal fat-and-carbs fest.  Instead I was desperate for fresh fruit, vegetables, and wholesome home-cooked meals.

All I want for Christmas is... salad.

4. You are accustomed to doing things practically everywhere.
Whether it’s doing your makeup on the train or warming up for an audition in a bathroom stall, you’re pretty adaptable.  You used to think brushing your teeth at the airport was weird.  Now?  It’s par for the course.

5. You find yourself feeling irrational rage towards perfect strangers.
Drivers get road rage and travelers get – travel rage.  When you’re tired and stressed, it doesn't take much to set you off.  Just the other day I was on a train, and there were two small boys playing and babbling to each other.  They weren't being whiny or causing any trouble.  They were just being kids.  Normally I would find the whole thing adorable.  But under the circumstances, I hated them.  This is what travel rage does to you.  I was once on a train in sitting in front of a woman munching on carrots, and I was so irritated that I wanted to throttle her.

6. Free Wifi is like the Holy Grail.

You search for it everywhere.  Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to have it in your hotel, but this is never a guarantee.  Of course, there are a lot of networks which claim to be free WiFi, but they can’t all be trusted.  Many are the times that you've clicked on a hopeful-looking network, only to be asked for an email address and credit card details.  The truly free WiFi signal is a rare and coveted prize indeed.  Travelers will trek from cafe to lonely cafe in search of its power.  This is why I often end up eating at Starbucks.  It’s the only way to check my emails.

7. You are extremely conscious of your nationality.
I never gave much thought to being Canadian when I lived in Canada.  Now that I’m abroad, I think about my Canadian-ness all the time.  People often ask where I’m from, and then follow up with questions about Canadian sports or politics.  I often find myself getting into rather intense and lengthy discussions about my country.  I would never have any of these conversations back home.  But over here it’s different.  I’m not just me.  I’m an unofficial representative of Canada.  In fact, I would go even further than that: apparently I am Canada.  “He’s Canadian, you know” they’ll say, and give me a pointed look.  As if I’m somehow personally responsible for every other Canadian person or thing in the world.  A couple of months ago, a Spanish friend approached me and gave his congratulations.  Congratulations? I asked.  Congratulations for what?  He explained that Alice Munro, a Canadian author, had just won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  I guess I must have had a hand in that somehow?

Alright Alice, I'll expect my share of the prize money in the mail.

8. You often wake up disoriented.
Wait, whose bed is this?  Which room am I in?  Which hotel?  Which city?  Which country??  It’s a really weird feeling.  But you’re kind of used to it by now.

9. Your friends don’t get it – you’re not on holiday.
Your friends might express jealousy when you tell them you’re going to Madrid.  What they don’t understand is that travelling for work is completely different from going on vacation.  You’re not going there to see the sights or lounge on the beach.  You’re going there to work!  Although I was in Paris for five days last week, I never saw the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.  I tried to fit in a visit to the Musée d'Orsay, but it never worked out.  And while I've spent several months working in Stuttgart, I've never done a single touristy thing there.  Much as we would like to be, Travelling Professionals are not tourists.

10. You have become a bit of a travel snob.
You've done this travelling thing so many times that you've got it down to a well-choreographed routine.  And you can’t believe that other people haven’t.  When someone packs liquids in their hand luggage, or takes a million years to go through security, you can’t help but roll your eyes at them.  What an amateur.

You're actually listening to the safety announcements on the plane??

It’s a special way of life, this constant travelling.  It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.  Sometimes it’s really fun and exciting, and other times it’s extremely stressful.  Most of the times, though, it’s just Work.  An abnormal lifestyle that’s somehow become normal.  So to all you Travelling Professionals out there, I just want to say – I feel ya.  Oh, and also? Let me know if you find any free WiFi.

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