June 2nd, 2007

I’m on a train from Washington DC to New York, plugged in, wifi-ed up, I just need a latte to complete the picture. This is one of the first job trips I’ve come on that I strongly resisted. I’m teetering on the verge of becoming one of Them. Those terrible people who jet around the world, burning up our carbon resources, and complain about it. I promised myself that when that day came, I would change my job, or how I do my job. Not just pay for more expensive accommodation and flashy trains with plugs and internet. Though it is true, I can get through an awful lot of emails in transit, just as long as my laptop battery lasts. I flew Virgin Atlantic here, located four empty seats near the back to sprawl across, watched Blood Diamond, and spent the remaining hours on my computer. Thinking about Africa and the Poles, and the weird thing that they’re both on this same planet, and most of us know nothing about both. I think I got through about 150 of the 300 awaiting emails in my INBOX. Delete, reply, respond, follow a ding dong, think. Yes, actually stop, and think, before replying. And reply properly. I cannot believe that email is helping increase our society’s efficiency.. it’s just making it faster and less careful, not producing a better product or answer.

The boat is still lovely, my haven, I knocked down a wall inside it last week. So satisfying. The creation of space. Is that what we need to do with our emails? Knock down some internal divisions, create a spacious room to think in out of three cluttered cupboards of unnecessary communications? My life has swung from one end of the spectrum (physically isolated, remote, peaceful, fulfilled) to the other (multi-tasking, multi-location, multi-conversation, multi communication, action action action. Or rather, meeting email meeting.) Weirdly, this is perceived to be a Good Thing. To be Making a Difference. While still Playing the Game.

I’m tired, I’m really tired, and the polar year has only just begun. There’s so much going on, it’s so exciting, there’s so much enthusiasm. But I just can’t keep up. So how do They do it? Those Bigwigs? The chief executives? The working mothers? The heads of state? What I’m involved in is such small fry, but it fills my hours and days. And I see the same in almost all my friends.. friends who have jobs they enjoy at least.. time consumption, inner tiredness, enthusiasm and committment balanced by a question mark about Life Priorities. Why does it have to be all or nothing? or does it?

The irony is, sitting on this train, laptop open, I opened this document to write a blog. But not this blog… the other one, the one that says how great my job is.

July 8th, 2007

in another hotel, on another continent, the same white sheets, the same shampoo, I actually had to think hard earlier to decipher what country I was in and thereby deduce tipping etiquette. I’m in Australia, Perth to be precise, and you don’t tip here. Thank god; one less thing to get wrong.

Today’s novelty, today’s realisation of what I have become: the Business Traveller. I forfeited the price of one nights accommodation because my room was so disgustingly smoky; I changed hotels and demanded broadband and smoke-free; and the last of my firsts: I ordered room service. Sitting on my big bed eating asparagus soup and garlic bread off a tray, and proper china bowls (ie.not plastic take-away), the food was well worth AUS$3 extra for it to be delivered, the room was well worth the AUS$7 extra for all the perks of being nice. I never thought the day would come that I would rave about a Comfort Inn!

I have a month of meetings in Australia and New Zealand: Tourists in Tasmania, Students in Sydney, Science Teachers in Perth, IPY folk in Christchurch. Not so onomatopoeic at the end there. Los of birds with one stone, in this instance I do feel the ends justifies the carbon. Kind of. Talking of which, yesterday saw the Live Earth concerts around the world, Antarctica included. I had mixed feelings about the energy and wealth on show but on reflection, it did put a new twist on climate change into the news again, and get people talking. I logged onto the Live Earth webpage during the event and was mildly surprised (in a good way) about the options to make a difference: pledge to install two energy-saving lightbulbs and the site tells you the implications. I even went so far as to input my own details into the carbon calculator, flights, flights, more flights, and all.

The result dismayed me. Not because of the the huge number (which I was certainly expecting) but by the fact that even with visiting multiple countries in a month, my total carbon footprint was about the same as the average american. Ouch. This world is in trouble, it’s true.