TL;DR – here:
Have open source, will travel. And travel more than what the map shows, as I have been multiple times in many of those countries.
Thing is, I haven’t stayed long. With the exception of China, where I usually stay for a whole week, I try to jam-pack as much as I can in my travels, and that usually means I’m in a country for an average of 36 hours before I move on. The craziest ones are the “three strikes” days: wake up early in country #1, fly to country #2, fly out in the late evening and
sleepcrash in country #3. My back still holds a grudge for doing Sweden, Finland and Portugal this way.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, this travel pattern while positively crazy is incredibly productive. While I started to travel this way so that I could minimize time away from my family, I quickly understood it helps immensely to focus and get things done effectively. It does take a toll on planning, but there is a whole lot of things you can do in one day: my daily fare typically includes at least a few internal meetings, a couple of customer/partner visits, the occasional press roundtable and a talk at a community event.
It is frantic indeed, and sightseeing is pretty much out of the question unless it’s a drive-by on the road to or from a meeting. I do however spend lots of time with local colleagues, and that alone helps a lot understanding the place I’m visiting: many tourists may spend weeks in the same place, visit every corner, and yet fail to understand what a country is all about as they lack contact with local people. Me, I will forever cherish the two hours I spent last Monday with 40 students from Egypt, learning so many things about their country.
Another great way to learn about a foreign place is food. It takes some convincing, especially in far away countries, to talk colleagues into ditching the typical 5-star hotel international buffet for a local dive place, but it invariably pays off. I have very fond memories of a Padang place in Indonesia, and I will positively refuse to leave Singapore without a pilgrimage to the Maxwell Road hawker stalls. During this very last trip I discovered Ful Medames and Mulukhiiyah, and I am invariably looking forward to what China will have to offer in my next trip. For the germophobics reading this, know that in four years I have only been sick once, and that was when I couldn’t bail from a lunch at an Italian place in Beijing.
Then again, being with local people makes all the difference. And having a job where I get to meet so many local communities takes all the wear of travel away. I am sitting in my last hotel room in South Africa as I write this: I landed at 5.30am, gave an opening speech at an open source event at 9am, rushed to the office for a PR roundtable, shot a video and had a few internal sync meetings. As I try to pick myself up for my last day on the road, and then finally go back to my family I can’t help but thinking how lucky I am.