Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Up early and often

I've grown pretty philosophical about jet lag.

When I first started working, it was something to shoulder through or fight. For the CEO of my first company, it was a point of pride to step off a plane and into the office. He'd put in a full day, no matter whether it meant falling asleep in meetings by lunchtime or wobbling a bit unsteadily on his heels at 4 pm. Predictably, it bred a culture of emulation that made everyone arrive at work, worthless, on the day after a long trip. The machismo is great for 25; impractical by 40.

The flight and travel magazines always have suggestion about achieving the right water –alcohol mix, getting sleep on the plane, avoiding certain foods. I took the occasional sleeping pill to relax on transcontinental flights, managing to pull a few hours rest. But one sad day a combination of wine with dinner, cold meds, and the little blue pill all hit synergy: I got up to stretch my legs and woke up with beneath oxygen mask after passing out in the aisle. Now I avoid all three religiously on flights.

Arriving a day early to adjust is expensive, and there's always that temptation to go sightseeing rather than to go to bed.

Melatonin works great: a couple of tablets 30 minutes before bed on the first two night does help me to sleep through the night without waking at 3 am. The alternative is to plug in a podcast when I wake up and quiet my fin down by listening to an interview or commentary.

Lately, though, I have tended to just go with it. Expat's tend to live off of the land anyway, making do with life as they find it and taking the opportunities brought by the unexpected. Same with jet lag; rather than fight it, I am simply accommodating it. Up early in the morning, take advantage of the couple of hours of quiet to think, read, or write, maybe prepare a recommendation or have a plan outlined ahead of the breakfast meeting. In the evenings, well, what's so bad about going to bed at 8:30 or 9 if I'm tired?

And if I don't wrench my body to a new cycle while I'm away, then there's that much less accommodation that has to be made when I get back. Win-win.
Now, if only I can find a way to make people stop scheduling 7 am breakfast meetings.  Too much heavy food; too many heavy eyes.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm not leaving (thanks for asking)

I've arrived in Chicago; crowded plane over this morning but I got a solid eight hours work done and was feeling pretty bouyant on landing.  I checked into the hotel and changed, then met the client group for a late lunch. They were local, one had moved around a bit, they were interested that I live in the Netherlands.  "Why?" is always the first question; "When are you moving back?" is always the second.
Maybe I need a better answer to the first question.
But, seriously, I'm getting tired of the second.  People generally live somewhere other than where they were born or grew up, and have gravitated to their current residence for a job, a neighborhood, or a lifestyle. Yet, nobody asks when they are leaving. Living globally, though, it's always a question.

It may be heightened by my age and circumstances, I suppose. If I moved over on a job assignment, then I'd naturally return when it was over. If I was having a midlife crisis, maybe I'd have come to my senses.  If I was serious about my patron, I'd move closer to his location.

Twice this past week, clients have suggested that our relationship eventually depends on my willingness to move. My next 'o kin asked it when I was at the reunion. My corporate parent insisted on it before I left; even the Dutch were confused that I wouldn't want to go back when the division was closed. (My landlady has told me to move within 6 months, but that's different).
Seriously: I'm not moving.  'really.  I like it here; I'll make things work for everyone.
(Oh, and the answer to the first question is "I like the Dutch, the balance in life and the opportunities: I've set up my business here and my connections are all local now.  It's been a great place to live and, with the kids grown, it's been a wonderful choice."  I wonder if that is how Gauguin talked about Tahiti?)

Art credit: Sarah Bishop.  She does lots of wonderful works: her website is worth a browse.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Small-footprint Sunday


Since I left BigCo, I have been downsizing my carbon footprints in lots of ways. I chucked the car, bought a bike, ride the train, and, now, I'm doing the microHotel . Really, how much do you need when you check in?
citizenM is a new hotel that opened adjacent to Schiphol. I had an early flight and the Ibis had no specials, so when Bookings.com coughed this up as an alternative, I decided to give it a try. The train ride up from Maastricht took longer than usual: Sunday track-work forced me to ride the snelbus from Weert to Eindhoven. An oxymoron if ever…the bus is absolutely never more than pokey. So, it was sunset when I popped up from the basement recesses of the Schiphol station, blinking at the bright orange signage and following the walkway around past the rental cars. The Sheraton glistened seductively in the Dutch light, but I was not to be lured (not for over 200 euro a night, anyway). I'd seen the modules of the microHotel being lifted into place over the past year, and expected capsule-rooms with mattress-mats along the base that I could sit in but not stand. The brochure promised free wifi and mood lighting it would be a good giggle if nothing else.

I was actually pleasantly surprised. It's a very plastic, themed hotel that is, nonetheless, very stylish, comfortable, and friendly. It feels a bit like an upscale hostel in the public areas: there's a commons-area grocery and bar that attracts lots of people to the worktables and snacks all day, and the naturally gregarious (and young) traveling crowd fills the place for (relatively) cheap beer as the night goes on. The loners (mostly older) gravitate towards te free computers; everyone ignores the television. A good sign.


The room is a bit of a space-cabin, about as big as a small bedroom, a quarter of it is filled wall to wall by a bedshelf against the window. It's huge when you get in, like an acre of windowseat. There's no discernable workspace, so you end up sprawling things over the bed like you are working on the floor. The bathroom arrangements are…innovative. There are two glass cylinders, one for the toilet and one for the shower, capped by constantly shifting mood lighting. I never could find the trick to just having dim, shifting hues to provide a Northern-lights backdrop to the evening, but it's kind of cool. And that's it: it's sleek and functional, modern and more than comfortable. And what do you really need in a hotel room anyway? (right, a view with more than a runway... )

The disappointment was the mood-pad, the electronic command center that keeps the room rolling. Mine couldn't find it's connection to the room, rebooted when I held it, refused to sip electricity from its charger, and generally misbehaved . The (lovely) staff and the (condescending) IT guy fiddled with the box and the connections, resetting the box and then rebooting (honestly!) the room. All that happened was that my keycard got inactivated. It's a pity: the thing looks fun. The whole room is branded Philips and it should be a showcase for their consumer technology. Instead, I end up thinking that Philips hasn't quite got it all figured out yet. The folks in the bar tell me that they just request the manual control up front each time they arrive.
A good night's sleep, a short stroll to the airport in the morning, prices lower than the Ibis. 'just see past the ubiquitous theme branding (worth a case study all by itself), and it works better than the traditional hotel.