The Perpetual Nomad

I’m on the last stint of a 2 month mission-driven trip, taking my Shuttleworth Fellowship/Coko mission to the world. By the time it is concluded, (the last leg is Singapore which I leave for in a few hours), it will have included 3 continents, 5 conferences, funder meetings, partner meetings, the onsite facilitation of 2 publishing workflow products, some workflow consultancy, and the facilitation of a 3 day PubSweet meeting. Also, a large number of meetings, both remotely and onsite. This isn’t the first trip like this I have made this year. I asked Yannis and Jure from Coko how many months they think I traveled in total this year as they know all my movements. I thought it was around 5 months, but they both thought it was much more, perhaps 6-7. I dunno, can’t really be bothered working it out but that sounds about right.

It has been great, but also it is hard to do this without a cost. While work benefits, there is a personal cost – essentially you give up any idea of a normal life, and also you can expect a health cost. Traveling is hard on the body. You eat at odd times due to the constantly changing time zones, it isn’t always easy to eat well, you experience erratic sleeping patterns, the on-demand nature of socialising can wear you down, plus you can pretty much forget exercise (not to mention the cumulative total of 5 or 6 days that I have spent sitting still on planes this trip).

I have tried to work some exercise into this routine – namely surfing. I love it. Also, it’s one of the best ways to meet ‘normal people’ – people not connected to what I do. Sitting out the back of the wave you meet everyone from theology students to t-shirt designers to Department of Conservation workers. You don’t meet too many assholes 🙂 It is a nice way to just be a human amongst humans. Surfing is a really interesting sport. Out on the waves, you are just another surfer, enjoying surfing and nature together. Its good for the ego to be the clumsy schmuck who can barely stand on a 2ft wave! Surfing is pretty awesome. But it is not the most practical of sports! Also, it doesn’t always work out when planned – I stopped for a few days in Portugal to work and surf, and fell sick… This is often the case, that when you stop in the middle of a travel stint, your body gives up all defenses and you get sick. Over 2 months, I got about 6 or 7 surfs in, not nearly what I had imagined when I started out. So, I’ll have to look for something else to play that role.

Also, although I had time with friends and seeing some awesome people, when I look back, it is hard to see it as anything other than 2 months straight working. Seeing friends was squeezed into brief moments ‘in between’ when I could grab them. I also try to schedule in breaks now in long trips, but they don’t always pan out, I’ll keep doing it though as when they do work they can really help to refresh.

I’m not complaining! Just important to reflect upon this for myself.  I have thought I want to get more of a balance on my life and spend more time in some sort of ‘normality,’ but actually, when I look at next year’s calendar and muse on what’s going on, I count around a possible 15-20 Coko events excluding any conferences etc that we would be invited to. That’s at least 4 PubSweet community meets, plus a Coko team meet, plus some potential Editoria-specific community events, OS Bazaar events like the one we just did in Berlin, Open Source Alliance for Open Scholarship (Superfriends), and a large Coko publishing conf, PagedMedia meetings, plus I want to spend some 1-to-1 time with the crew in Athens and Slovenia and everywhere. On top of that, there are some things I really want to do such as visiting some of the Shuttleworth fellow Fellows for some potential collaborations which are looking pretty interesting. My first trip next year is Jan 10 (to keynote at a conf in Canada), it’s an early start and I don’t see me spending much of the two months after than in any one place. I mean… I ain’t complaining – it is my choice to do these things and I do it for a reason, I like to see the mission progress, and I like being in the middle of it all –  but also I actually don’t know how sustainable this pace is going to be anymore. Especially when I actually want more of a work-life balance. Tricky when your life has been your work/mission for 20 years (first as an artist, then open source, now open source/open access/open science) and you feel it is time to change gears. I mean, I know how to travel, and I have always held the position that you have to do whatever is necessary to further the mission, but as I get older (49 now) the toll of this kind of lifestyle is heavier.  So, I guess I’m going to have to do some thinking…

Anyho.. just pondering…I’m off to the airport now to fly to London (from Athens) so that I can fly to Singapore for a final conference. Then San Francisco on Thursday, a few days later I’ll be in NZ….tally ho!

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