Call me a nomad

Hi there, welcome, call me a nomad! I’m presently on my honeymoon! With everything happening with OverlandfromOz, I thought it best to have some posts that still have currency from www.goannatree.com reposted here in the new forum! I’d love your thoughts and comments!

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Call me a nomad. I’ve spent many many many hours of my life sitting in airport lounges. I’ve even had to sleep in one or two. I’ve been delayed because of tornadoes, cyclones, dust-storms, the American president (one memorable afternoon in Detroit when President Obama made an ‘unscheduled’  – not that I thought that was possible – visit to the city in Marine 1), volcanoes erupting in Iceland (not once but twice – and one of those times the delay ended up being for three – I say again, three – weeks), mechanical failures, crew illness, blizzards, and a plane having hit a bird. I’ve had luggage lost, delayed, damaged, and go missing for up to a month.

Call me a nomad. I’ve watched as airports slowly become wifi compatible and technology friendly. In my experience, size is no great indicator of the likelihood of free wifi (for the record Newcastle Airport has free wifi – if ever you find yourself here in this regional airport). Indeed, the moniker international does nothing for the likelihood of wifi being free. For example, Houston has free wifi, but Sydney, Dallas, and Heathrow didn’t the last time I was there. For all other situations, between Skype and Boingo, I can usually find a way to access a wifi connection, and thus opportunities to connect to home and to the next stops on my journey.

This morning I’m sitting in Newcastle airport waiting for a flight to Brisbane. I’ve watched a number of F/A-18 hornets take off from the military airfield that this civilian airport shares. The children squeal in delight as the pairs of aircraft leave a translucent av gas haze in their wake. There is a buzz of happy chatter, as businessmen talk on phones, children twitter, the loudspeaker interjects quite violently and the television in the corner is too loud.

Everywhere there are signs, even on the large poles that hold up the roof at intervals, inviting “Tell us what you think.”

call me a nomad - Anna Blanch - Newcastle airportThis is a small airport. No moving walkways in sight. The security staff are pleasant as they efficiently go about their business of scanning carry-on luggage, doing random explosives residue testing and generally giving the appearance of competence.

There are only three gates, but the seating is plentiful and comfortable (my favourite kind).

Call me a nomad.

I wondered before I left Scotland how this slightly nomadic existence would really work and how productive I could be. I thought i’d offer some reflections on what has been working and what I’ve been finding challenging.

1. Be Prepared with 1-2 hours work most of the time.

Maybe it is the lot of a graduate student, but I never go anywhere without some work: a draft to edit, a book to take notes from, a couple of journal articles, a research journal to hold some free-writing or some research questions in dot point form to act as a prompt for brainstorming. This habit is helpful for being able to make the most of the odd 30 mins or an hour here and there that might otherwise be dead time.

2. Find technology solutions that work for you

Some items of technology really have broken down obstacles to working on the move. I do travel with my laptop, because I like the keyboard being full size and because I can usually find wifi access if I need it. I also highly recommend a smartphone (I use an Android with a slide out keyboard) for on the road email access, maps, an address book, a phone, and even a pdf reader (if you need it for reading timetables etc). I’ve written about applications I find useful for academic work before. I don’t have an ipad or an e-reader. I use my laptop as an e-reader (although admittedly it is bulky. I am considering an ipad (with a bluetooth keyboard) for travel (especially for Overland to Oz) as my budget allows. I would be interested in hearing from other itinerant academics (or travellers) who’ve found this solution to be helpful or frustrating!

3. A routine is still important

I’ve found that my mornings (from 6am to 12 noon) have been my most productive writing time while in Australia. Although, it is important to be flexible and have work with you all the time, a routine will do wonders. I’ve found that working in a similar kind of place (an armchair, a table, a coffee shop, a library carrel) wherever I am signals to my brain that this is time for work. I occasionally use the pomodoro technique to help me break down longer hours of work into smaller chunks.

4. Work for an hour a day at minimum.

No matter what else is going on, or however much travelling or however crazy the schedule is, there’s almost always a way to fit in an hour of work a day. Some days I struggle or i’m distracted, but it is this discipline that will hopefully help me finish on-time.

5. If you are a scholar/academic/grad student carry a letter of introduction.

Letters of introduction may seem old-fashioned but a letter declaring your affiliation and position will go almost all the way in helping you access libraries around the world. I’ve talked about this in the past when writing about in my archival tool kit. I’ve already found this useful since being back in Australia.

6. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not as productive as you like

Maybe I’m trying to convince myself of this one. But, as i’ve said in the past, put one foot in front of the other, write one word and then another. I was reminded of my own words the other day when I was feeling a little discouraged and anxious about what lies ahead.  I’m having to be even more creative about accessing resources here in Australia – but thankfully, the libraries here are quite good!

How do you handle work on the road?

Listening. Observing. Relishing. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.

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