Apr 082007

So I’m trying to sleep this morning, since things will be crazy today doing family stuff, and I just can’t do it, because I’m thinking about the fact that tomorrow I’m flying off to California for the quarterly MoCo all-hands meeting.

Previous remote jobs I’ve held that “required travel” required a lot less of it than this one. I don’t mind traveling, but I sure hate the means by which I have to do it. The last few years have turned air travel from a minor inconvenience into a major pain. Increasingly much of my travel time is spent on tiny little planes that are ill-suited for someone my height (and to be frank, width). And I get to spend increasingly ridiculous sums of money to do it (more accurately, I suppose, the company does).

This seems counterintuitive to me. I know the airline industry is having rough times, but making your customers uncomfortable and unhappy doesn’t seem like the smart way to go about fixing your industry.

A year or two ago, I realized that my travel was a lot more pleasant if I scheduled my trip with a longish layover in some airport along the way — say two or three hours. Enough time to stretch my legs, get a bite to eat, surf the net or play a game for a while. This plan worked well until they started moving all flights under around two and a half hours to regional jets. Now if I try to break up my flight into two roughly equal length parts, I wind up on regional jets the entire trip.

So I’m back to using Atlanta or sometimes Cincinnati as my plane-switching point. Which doesn’t lend itself all that well toward taking a nice long break, since it’s only about 45 minutes away from home. Not a ton of benefit in taking that long break that early on the way out, or that close to home on the way back.

I miss the old days before airlines used hubs, and you would usually just fly nonstop between whatever two cities you were traveling between. Might have been inefficient for the airlines, but man did it make air travel nice.

I wish we had high-speed trains in this country. I’d so much rather travel by train. The seats on Amtrak are so comfortable, with good legroom, footrests, and you can recline and relax very nicely. Not to mention that you can get up and find a table to sit at to eat, and so forth. Just not a particularly time-effective way to travel when you need to be somewhere. Looking quickly at Amtrak’s web site, I find that it would cost around $380 to get from here to San Jose, California, but would take a little over two days.

Now, on the other hand, if I could get Internet access on the train, then I’d be able to work and so forth along the way. In theory I’d be able to use my cell phone as a modem most of the time at least.

It’s an interesting notion. I don’t know how reasonable it is, but it’s something to think about trying once to see how it goes.

 Posted by at 7:26 AM

  7 Responses to “The joy of travel”

  1. […] The joy of travelPrevious remote jobs I ve held that required travel required a lot less of it than this one. I don t mind traveling, but I sure hate the means by which I have to do it. The last few years have turned air travel from a minor … […]

  2. When I traveled between Imperial, MO and Kansas city, MO last year on Amtrak, I spent a lot of that time able to use the ‘Net via my cell phone. There were some spots where I couldn’t, but not a ton of them.

    I’d be more concerned about shower and sleeping arrangements over two days (more the former than the latter).

  3. Just got back from a 20 hour train trip from Halifax to Montreal here in Canada, which worked out to being cheaper than the corresponding plane flight. I worked for about 75% of the time I was awake (about 12 hours) on my current contract, and managed a good level of productivity. Arrived at my destination well-rested and showered (yes, my train car had a shower).

    More people should investigate this option of travel: it’s more pleasant, usually cheaper, and easier on the environment.

  4. I might seriously consider train as an option for an upcoming trip, if for no other reason than to try it once and see how it works out.

    Would be super-nice if they offered WiFi on the trains, but it doesn’t appear that they do (if they do, they don’t mention it on their web site). One issue is that coach class doesn’t have a lot of power outlets, apparently, so every now and then I’d have to go hunt one down to charge my laptop.

  5. There is a nice Verizon hack that allows you to tether your phone as a modem and just pay airtime minutes. If your phone is NOT EVDO capable (i.e. just 1X) then it’s usually as simple as getting the cable, installing the drivers, and connecting. If your phone can do EVDO, putting it into 1X-only mode may do the trick (it’s all on howardforums.com)

    I have used this hack to blog a grand West coast road trip. We got service in some very remote places. I’ve also used it on Amtrak heading up from DC to NYC.

  6. My Treo 700p is high-speed and works quite well via either Bluetooth or USB, but WiFi would still be even faster. However, it certainly does the job.

  7. Travel cal be either fun or it can be grueling if one is on a time budget and racing around– a lot of stress. I agree with train travel being the way to go, but it does cost you in time. If your alone though it is one way to get a lot of computer work done provided your between cell cites or your wifi can pick up a signal. I find it’s a great place for meeting other interesting people if your up and about in the diner.