There are two certainties for me about a work trip, I’ve come to realize after this past year of travel. (I’ve been to Chicago, San Diego, New York and now, São Paulo, where I’m actually writing this; I’m back by the time you’re reading it. I’m the inevitably jetlagged one moaning in the corner.) The first is, I always end up packing more clothes than I actually need, no matter what. The second is, I always end up working more than I intended.
I was sure I’d licked the first problem on this trip; as I packed in an admittedly hurried state the night before I left, I literally counted out clothes, mentally matching them to the length of the trip. “I’ll be gone seven days,” I reasoned, “so I’ll need seven days’ worth of clothes.” And then I counted them into my case. What I didn’t realize until midway through this trip, though, is that that’s not actually true: I have two overnight trips, so I really only needed five days’ worth of clothes. I tried so hard, but not hard enough.
The second thing is more of my hope crashing against the harsh shores of reality, I suspect. I imagined this trip having more downtime, with evenings I could explore the city and lazy mornings as I prepared for the show. Not so much — I went three full days before I could take any kind of serious break, just because I had deadlines on top of deadlines. (Being a freelancer means that, just because you take a trip for one of your gigs, you still have to hit deadlines for the others, even if they usually take up half a day at a time.)
The same thing happened in New York, as well, to an extent. Before the trip, I had visions of being able to spend time with Chloe on long walks through the city in the fall, or spending time with the friends I only see at shows. Nope; instead, I ended up working 12-18 hour days on every single day of the trip.
On this trip, there’s been a saving grace: Each morning since the second day, I’ve been wandering through the streets on a dérive, something I’m sure I’ve written about here before. It’s walking around with no plan and no map, and allowing the surroundings to tell you what you need to know about where you are. (It’s something from Situationist theory that dug itself deep into my head when I was in my early twenties, and I’ve done it every chance I’ve gotten when I travel to new spaces; I went to art school, so sue me.)
The early morning walks, as short as they are, are my time. No deadlines, no nothing except me, music in my ears — on this trip, oddly, music from 20 years ago for some inexplicable reason: a lot of Ben Folds Five and Supergrass. I don’t know why — and the city. They’ve kept me sane on this trip, giving me something of my own during a period where the rest of the experience belongs to other people. I’ve even got my choice of what to wear during them, as it turns out.