How I love and hate travelling

18 August Friday 11:30 am, Toronto Time / 25 September 8am, Kunming Time

I started this particular post over a month ago as I was heading to Toronto from Chicago. It was a particularly hard trip. North American routes of travel compared to Asian ones are a big step down in terms of comfort. My flight had arrived in San Francisco from Sydney. The next flight to Chicago was delayed for three hours because of a thunderstorm, possibly the precursor to the hurricane that hit New Orleans. When I arrived in Chicago, the flights had stopped for the night. It was mayhem. I had to pay for an expensive hotel room in an ugly little complex near the airport, sleep for only five hours, and come to the airport in the morning. I was unable to get on the first flight because they didn’t know where my luggage was – so I had to find it myself, and check onto the next flight.

My friends who travel understand that business travel is different than personal travel. My friends who don’t travel, when pressed, seem to understand this concept as well. These days, almost all my trips are business trips with personal days attached.

It seems so ungrateful to complain about travelling, to feel so utterly awful about it. Especially when the North American trip was 90% holidays, and 10% work. And who gets the chance to travel as much as I do? First of all, I travel about a third of the year for work. Second, I live in Australia, a land where most people get four weeks a holiday a year, somewhat like the Europeans, and not at all like the North Americans who are pressed to get two weeks of holidays, unless they work for the government, are schoolteachers, or have some other sort of professional luck. Thirdly, in Australia, many companies offer long-service leave – three months of paid holidays after ten years of work.

But here’s the bonus: I work for in the HIV/AIDS sector. Years ago, before the advent of antiretroviral medicines which keep most people living with AIDS alive for years, our organization decided that employees would either burn out from the emotional pressures of working with a fatal illness, or they would die before working for ten years for our organisation. So we get half-time long service leave – 6 weeks at five years. Sweet, huh? Six weeks on top of my four weeks of holidays equals ten weeks this year.

So, this year I’ve been using that leave and adding on personal travel to the business trips. And I’m exhausted!

The things I love about travel are obvious. New sights and sounds. Food! All types of different food. Seeing friends. Meeting new people (though less so these days – I tend to prefer catching up with people I know, or spending time alone with my thoughts). Most of all: time to think, or not think, and have that time illuminate both the life I’m living in Sydney, or how that life fits in with all the other places I’ve been and travelled.

The things I hate: all those hours in the airports; uncomfortable seats in airplanes, getting sick, sleeping problems, exhaustion, expensive cabs or really long public transit rides to airports. Having my friends in Sydney forget where I am (and who I am!) – for the most part, because of my travel, I have to maintain my friendships in Sydney because it’s too difficult for them to keep track of me. The loneliness, especially in a completely new city if there’s no one to hang out with, can be unlike other loneliness. Not managing to exercise or eat properly.

I’m writing this now in Kunming, China and need to rush to get ready to go to a workshop. I have a sore throat and feel sicker than I have in weeks. I’m unable to sign onto my blog to post this – the internet connection in the room (good) is not connecting properly to my blog (bad). This post is pretty boring really, but I guess I’ll post it anyways. Sometimes life is like that.

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