I am writing this from the library of Lehigh University, where I am to meet with students who are reading a book of mine, and where later this afternoon I’ll do a reading and give a talk. In a little over a week, I’ll go to Toronto, where I give a public reading and am the Guest of Honor at a convention. Sometime in the next couple of weeks I’m also supposed to fly to LA to be on a TV show, although that’s been delayed a couple of times and I expect will be again, but that’s all right because I was in LA a few weeks back to meet with my agents and do some other things — and then was there in May as well as part of my book tour which otherwise took me to more than a dozen US cities. This doesn’t include my recently concluded German book tour, my week sojourn in San Diego, or my trip to Reno for the WorldCon, or to Austin for the Texas Library Association meeting or New Orleans for the American Library Association. For 2012 I have trips planned for Detroit, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and San Diego. I don’t doubt between now and the end of that year I’ll add a few more stops to the agenda.
My name is John Scalzi, and I travel a lot.
I didn’t always. For the first eighteen years of my life I rarely if ever traveled anywhere: A couple family trips to Mexico and few trips to see relatives in Las Vegas and Northern California, and one summer I took part in a school “peccary trip” which had me hunting fossils in the American West. But that was pretty much it. One of the reasons I went to the University of Chicago for college was because I liked the idea of getting away from the place I had known all my life. College saw me travel only slightly more, and then my time in the actual workforce saw relatively little travel as well — my job as a movie critic meant I would travel to LA or occasionally San Francisco, but both of those were only a few hours away. I hardly traveled at all when I worked at AOL.
But then I became a science fiction writer and I started going places.
For what? Conventions. Book tours. Conferences. Workshops. College events. Book fairs. Lectures. And so on. They add up pretty quickly. And now I end up traveling at least once a month and usually more, because I am a writer.
Which I find ironic. Writing is by and large a solitary endeavor — you in a room with a computer or notebook. Occasionally people go to a coffee shop or a library or some other place to work, but it’s still about shutting out the rest of the world and focusing on the computer screen or sheet of paper in front of you. The idea that this would lead to me having to leave the house, and the state, and often the country, on a regular basis when all the other jobs and endeavors I had which involved dealing with other people kept me in one place most of the time… well, as I said. Ironic.
Mostly, I like the travel. Where I live now is far removed from most of the rest of the world, so the constant travel lets me see people I like and places I’ve never been before. Since I am considered to be an interesting person who other people are interested in, much of the time my travel is covered by others, who seem genuinely happy to have me around and treat me well while I am with them, so most of my travel is rather more congenial than it is for other people. There are times when it drags, but that’s more about me than it is about the travel; in a fit of exuberance, I’ll occasionally overcommit travel-wise and then find myself bleary-eyed and dazed and having to be in what I call “performing monkey mode” a little more than I would prefer. As noted, this is my fault, not anyone else’s. I should know my own limits. So if you’re inviting me to travel somewhere and I say no, keep it mind it’s not you, it’s me, and my desire to make sure that I’m not a brain-dead zombie when I show up at your event.
On that note, one of the things that I find all this writing-related travel is doing is stoking a desire in me for travel that’s not associated with me doing some work at the arrival end of it. I have been fortunate to see a whole lot of the US and some of the world in the last few years, but often it’s on the way to doing something else. Prior to this work-related travel, the idea of going places just to go to them seemed like a slightly counter-intuitive concept. But now I get it. I’d like to do more of it. And I’d like to do more of it with my family, which often doesn’t get to come with me on my trips — that whole “school and real work” thing they’ve got going. They’re who I miss when I travel, and I would like to miss them less, and have them with me more wherever I am.
But wherever I am I’m still generally having a ball. As I said, it’s strange such a solitary job has meant so much travel, but, hey, I’ll take it. It’s fun, and I’m glad it happens to me. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.