1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Twelve: Travel

I never thought I would travel as much as I do today.

This year, as an example, for work: Two book tours, comprising a total of 21 stops and just over three weeks. Conventions in Detroit and Phoenix and San Jose and Albuquerque. Festivals in Los Angeles and Nantes, France (with a side trip during the latter for an event in Paris). A working cruise to Mexico. A trade show in Minneapolis. Individual speaking events here and there, like a recent event in Cleveland. Next year: London and Budapest and Aviles, Spain and Dublin, another working cruise, this time to the Caribbean, plus undoubtedly more events not currently scheduled but to be added later. Heck, tomorrow I go to Columbus, Ohio — which is just down the road, but it’s an actual work-related event, so it counts.

And that’s just for work. I travel sometimes just for myself! Weddings, reunions, visiting friends and even — gasp! — taking a vacation with my wife and/or family.

I travel so much that when I have a month I’m not scheduled to travel, it’s a minor miracle (not this month, incidentally — aside from Columbus I have a NYC trip scheduled to do a bit of business and catch up with a pal).

It was, as they say, not always thus. In 1998, I rarely traveled at all — I would travel to New York once or twice for client work that couldn’t be handled over the computer or phone, and Krissy and I would travel to Ohio for one of the major holidays, and that would pretty much be that. When we moved to Ohio in 2001, I think I had one trip to NYC for business, and one trip to Nevada that was cancelled because it was scheduled the week 9/11 happened. I don’t think I traveled anywhere in 2002 at all.

(And before 1998? Well. I almost never traveled as a kid — traveling costs money and we were poor — and I didn’t even get east of the Mississippi before I went to college at the University of Chicago. It was, literally, the furthest away from my home I’d ever been. My first trip out of North America was three years later when I took a college press junket to Israel, and aside from a connection at Heathrow, the first time I was in Europe proper was 2005, for the Worldcon in Glasgow. Australia would wait until 2010. I still haven’t been to Asia (unless you want to point out that technically, Israel is in Asia, which, sure, okay, but come on, dude) or Africa or South America. Or Antarctica. I don’t think I’ll be going to Antarctica. Ugh. Cold.)

I actually didn’t start traveling extensively — more than a couple of times a year — until 2007, when I went on my first book tour*, for The Last Colony. That tour had me out on the road from April 23 through May 10, which happens to be my birthday; on the last stop of the tour, in Richmond, VA, the bookstore presented me with a birthday cake, which I thought was a delightful touch. Around this same time I also started getting Guest of Honor invitations at science fiction conventions; my first actual GoH stint was at Armadillocon in 2008, but others rapidly followed.

The travel started to pile on. And here’s how I knew that my travel life had changed: In 2007, just before that first book tour, I actually had to get a cell phone. Prior to then I made do with using a special dial-in number at pay phones — hey, remember pay phones? — but I figured (correctly) that when I was on tour really the last thing I would want to do after an event was track down a pay phone to call Krissy and Athena. It’s hard these days to imagine life without a cell phone, and I note it’s hard to imagine me, a bona fide tech nerd, not having a cell phone at the earliest possible date. But again, until 2007, I never really needed one. Why? Because, mostly, I was home.

My full travel madness really started happening in 2011, when (after a three year hiatus) I started publishing novels on a usually-once-a-year basis, and each of those novels included a book tour lasting anywhere from two-and-a-half to five weeks. This years’ tour for Head On was actually the shortest one I’ve done since 2007 — just nine stops! — but that’s mostly because Tor has me putting out two books this year, and the Consuming Fire tour will have me out long enough to make up the margin. The tours have come on top of a generally full schedule of conventions and book fairs and festivals and trade shows and so on, with other travel, including personal travel, shoveled in there as well. Since 2011, I figure I’m away on the average of a week every month; a full three months of the year, not at home.

Which is not all bad! I like to travel and see new places and meet new people, and catch up with friends at conventions and events that they also happen to be at; I would not see probably ninety percent of my friends as much as I do if I stopped traveling. I like that when I travel on book tours or for events, people are happy to see me; that’s great for my ego. These days much of my travel goes through a speaker’s bureau, so I also get paid when I travel, which honestly is pretty great. Often I get to take Krissy with me to things, so she gets a vacation while I work, and then we usually have a couple of days where we both get to be on vacation, which is also great. And in a larger sense I like that my job means I get to see the world, which was a wholly unexpected aspect of the gig. I thought my gig was about sitting in a room, writing on a computer. It is, but it’s more than that too.

On the flip side: Going places is cool, but the actual travel is a pain in the ass a lot of time. Airports are a drag, even with TSA Pre. Flights get delayed or cancelled, fucking up everything. I get to travel to cool places, but a lot of the time I don’t get to see more than a hotel, often near the airport. After three days I start missing Krissy and it makes me cranky, which I have to keep to myself. When I’m traveling for work, when I meet people I’m in “on” mode, because that’s the job, and that’s exhausting because I am actually an introvert. It’s difficult for me to write when I travel, so that’s less time I have to do the real work that I’m meant to do. When I travel I’m generally swathed in hand sanitizer, because I don’t know where the people I’m with have been and they don’t know where I’ve been either. Traveling can be lonely. Room service makes you chunky.

So basically, surprise: There are pros and cons to travel.

I travel a lot but I know people who travel more. I have musician friends who have to constantly tour; I have actor friends who if they’re not on a set somewhere have their weekends claimed until the heat death of the universe by media conventions where they have to sign and/or take photos — likewise comic book and indie book creators who rely on those conventions for sales and commissions. I honestly don’t know how they’re not exhausted and sick all the time; maybe they’re extroverts with immune systems made of steel. I do know I’m happy to let them keep their own travel schedules, and I’ll keep mine.

Ironically, I would like to travel more. It’s just that I’d like for that to be personal travel. Krissy and I have decided that we like doing the tourist thing in moderate amounts, and there are lots of places in the world to visit. I think my goal for the next twenty years will be more travel of that sort. It’s a nice planet; it would be nice to see more of it.

But don’t worry; I’ll still be traveling for work too, for the foreseeable future. You’ll find me out there.


( *My first book tour was actually in 2000, but it was cut short two stops in and I was sent home — not because of anything I did wrong, mind you — so I tend not to think of that as my first actual tour.)

20 Comments on “1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Twelve: Travel”

  1. I remember coming to one of your events during your Germany tour (back in 2011 I think), it was a lot of fun sitting in the audience in a red shirt while you read from the upcoming Redshirts! Unexpected to have the opportunity to see one of my favourite writers up close, so thank you for travelling around.

  2. ( *My first book tour was actually in 2000, but it was cut short two stops in and I was sent home — not because of anything I did wrong, mind you

    Wait, what? Tell us a story, Dad! Story!

  3. Being a con dealer also involves a lot of travel, and very little of it can be by air because you have to take the merchandise with you. Before the cutback that was enforced by my getting sick, we were generally on the road at least 2 weekends per month, and Hell Month was a technical term that meant anywhere from 4 to 6 weekends in a row at a con — with the time in between pretty much entirely devoted to preparing for the next one. And yes, sometimes that wore us down enough to succumb to the Con Crud.

  4. How about coming to Israel once again? We would love to hear your thoughts on the situation down here.

  5. I made it to Budapest for the first time this spring (during my second time to Europe), and I fell in love with the city! Young, alive, with great sites and restaurants. From what I gathered, it’s where Hungarians go to celebrate weddings; bachelor and bachelorette parties; etc. The gelato shops are a European vacation for your mouth, amazingly good. At one restaurant I ordered a cheese burger, and it came without a beef patty, in it’s place was a flat block of cheese that had been warmed on the grill. Turned out to be delicious.

  6. What kind of traveling do you do for not-work/leisure?
    Are you a “hang out at a beach” person?
    Eat world cuisine?
    Experience local art, music, etc?
    See historical sites?
    Cruise ship?

  7. @total900 He told the story of his “internet banking and investment guide” book a few episodes ago, look it up. I think it was the first one he published

  8. My son is a consultant for an international firm. Approximately 40 weeks a year he leaves his city on Monday morning and returns on Thursday evening. You’d think he would want nothing to do with travel on his off time, but no. He and his partner go somewhere, often by air, at least two weekends a month and they take huge trips to places like China or Australia or India at least three times a year. Ah, youth! Ah, frequent flyer miles!

  9. One thing DH and I have found is that planes, although they are necessary for getting you to your destination in a timely fashion, take some of the romance out of travel. We’ve rediscovered the fun of decompressing in Amtrak trains and/or by renting a car and making part of the journey a road trip. YMMV in Europe and other places where public transit is an art form rather than a slog, Top Gear notwithstanding.

    It was good to see you at HawaiiCon a couple of years ago; glad that Krissy could accompany you, and a nice surprise to find that some of your friends we know and hold in high esteem also.

  10. I like nerd tourists. I’m still chuckling at how everyone gathered for a Jack the Ripper walking tour turned out to be a Doctor Who fan. And then our tour guide showed up wearing blue Tardis earrings!

    Although I don’t own one myself, I guess the nice thing about travelling with devices is that you can be a nerd by reading in public, without anybody being jealous or labelling you. But don’t read Redshirts: they’ll still be jealous if you laugh out loud as you read. Read Old Yeller: they’ll be OK with crying .

    I like the far side cartoon captioned Nerds On Shore Leave. The freckle faced sailors are coming down the gang plank saying, “First we’ll hit the museum of natural history, then the national portrait gallery, then…” I think it’s fine if we sf and f readers have nerd tastes. It’s fine by me if normal people like to spend their hours beach-ing and bar-ing and stuff, while my sort of people are more likely to collect books and photograph parking lots.

  11. My wife is willing to put up with a lot from my job because we get to travel with the kids for two weeks every summer. We’re both in education, and that gives us summers off (sort of). Our goal is to take the kids to all 50 states before my son finishes high school. We have five states left and two summers to finish.

    Outside of Alaska and Hawaii, we have New Jersey and the Carolinas. The Carolinas are in the middle territory that is too close for a long-term trip and too far for a weekend trip. (I live in Kentucky.) We’ve driven through New Jersey twice, but we don’t count it because we only stopped at a rest area.

    Our destinations of choice are national parks. Before we were married, my wife spent a summer working at Yellowstone. She planned that we would go together, but I had to stay for a summer class as a condition of my graduate fellowship. My wife and I did get to drive out to Yellowstone together. I took a train back. We took the kids to Yellowstone this summer, repeating many of the same stops from our first trip.

    Traveling is expensive, but we make it a priority. We’d much rather spend money on a trip than a new TV or smartphone.

  12. I first saw you at a reading at the San Diego Westercon
    Lots of fun , missed you in San Jose but hope to catch you in Dublin

  13. Go to Antarctica if you get a chance. Trust me on this. Since the only cruises down there happen in the austral summer, the temperature doesn’t really get below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It’ll be the closest you’ll ever get to going to another planet. And remember to bring your camera.

  14. If you’re thinking of going to the 2020 Worldcon in NZ, that would make an excellent choice to take Krissy along and do the tourist thing at. They’re nice people and have an amazing variety of things to see in a fairly small area. It is, unfortunately, winter, but a lot milder than the winters you’re used to. There shouldn’t be any snow, for example, unless you head into the mountains.

  15. What do you think about carbon emissions from air travel? Do you consider the environmental consequences of travel as related to your profession? I’m not criticizing or shaming, but am genuinely curious about what you think about this issue. Cheers.

  16. How did I miss that you were at a festival in Nantes?That’s sort of in Brittany! (A subject of great debate, that.)

    Did you get to visit the Ile des Machines and have a ride on the elephant? I went last year and it was fantastic.

    My 13th year living in France and I still haven’t been to Paris.

  17. So when you leave do the cats miss you? Do they have any particular behaviors when you come home from a long trip?

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