I do a lot of travelling for my work. HEMA events happen in many different countries, and often the only practical way to reach them is to fly. I used to hate flying, with a passion, but I have come to terms with it over the last few years, and now there are even some things I have learned to appreciate about it.
One of the main disadvantages is that the whole process is uncomfortable, from start to finish. Airports seem to be built to be as uncomfortable as possible, with seats that can’t possibly be good for any body size or shape. The constant starting and stopping, carrying bags, queueing for this or that, and quite possibly standing around for ages in an overcrowded area with too much heating, is not good for my body and my health. Then, once I finally reach the plane, it makes sardines in a can look like they are travelling in luxury.
I often find that if I attend a two or three day fencing event, working with swords for perhaps five or six hours per day, the activity that takes the greatest toll on my body is the discomfort of travelling. That takes longer to fix than the aches and pains of fencing!
Another significant problem is remaining hydrated. I tend to drink a reasonable amount throughout the day, mainly coffee, but also water or juice or suchlike. When I am on a plane or at an airport, it can be more difficult to ensure that I have bottles of water with me, and so I often find myself dehydrated after a day of travelling. I try and make sure I buy a bottle of water after passing through security (where they would confiscate any bottles of water I bring from home), but often I only have enough space in my rucksack for a single bottle; not a problem for a one hour flight, but less fun for a two or three hour flight.
However, one of the nice things about travelling, especially flying, is that I have little chance of being bothered by phone calls, I probably don’t have access to the internet, and so I can just put my head down and get to work on something. A single day of travelling to reach an event often means a good opportunity to write two or three blog articles, or to achieve a significant piece of editing work on a book, or perhaps to prepare some lesson plans. It can also be a great time to catch up on reading, especially if there is a book I have bought a while ago but haven’t made time yet to read. Or, when making a long, transatlantic kind of flight, it can be an opportunity to watch some films and educate myself on movies I probably should have seen several years ago.
Actually, that’s about it for good things about flying. Taking a plane allows me to reach my destination in just a matter of hours, which is wonderful, and I can use those hours to work with relatively few interruptions, which is quite nice, but the whole process takes its toll. Maybe it is not so bad to fly to an event once every so often, but the aches and pains add up when flying two or three times a month for three or four months without a break.
There is not really a take-home message to this, nor a moral to the story. Just some of my thoughts, written while travelling to an event!
Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. I teach regularly at Liverpool HEMA, and help behind the scenes with running HEMA in Glasgow at the Vanguard Centre.