You know the expression, “too much of a good thing?” Well, I’ve always loved travelling. Since I was a kid, there was nothing better than taking a trip to the airport and flying off to some new destination (or even old destination). Some folks like to be homebodies, and I get that, sometimes there’s nothing better than just hanging out at home and crashing on the couch. But for me, going somewhere new has always been the best. There is something about packing a suitcase and going to the airport that is exciting- the beginning of a new adventure.
But I think I may have crossed a line in the past few weeks. Wow I’ve been travelling a lot. I thought when I decided to leave NASA that I was done orbiting the earth, but on a recent trip I actually flew around the planet twice- on the same suitcase! I have gotten more familiar than I ever thought I would with airports in every corner of the planet. I know TSA representatives by sight. I know what time of days different security lines are longest. I am an expert at rapidly undressing and unpacking in the security line. All of the little nuances of travelling have lost their mystery. I’d write a manuscript for a Hollywood movie about this, except I think that was done a few years ago.
Despite the drudgery of Uber and TSA and boarding and luggage and modern airlines, there really are some upsides to travelling. The best and most obvious is seeing new places and meeting new people, something that never gets old. One of my favorite things to do when overseas is to try to learn the language. I’m usually fairly bad when it comes to accents, and I have to hear a word a million times in order to remember it, but one thing I don’t lack is the willingness to try. I’m sure I’ve offended people and made them laugh all over the world, but I just don’t mind trying to speak other languages. Self-confidence is not one of my weaknesses (and that can be a dangerous thing!)
I joke- except it’s not really a joke- about speaking a foreign language in the U.K. because the Queen’s English is so different than American English. I recently had dinner with a very famous Scotsman; I was ashamed to admit that I didn’t know him even though many of my friends were impressed that I got to meet him. We talked for more than an hour, and I must say that I was extremely impressed with this gentleman, he really was a great man and had lived an impressive life. But after dinner I confided to my friends- I literally did not understand 50% of what he was saying, because of that thick Scottish accent. We all got a tremendous laugh out of that, but it taught me a good lesson. Even if you’re struggling to understand others, you still need to make an effort. You might learn something, make a good friend, and you’ll be better off in the end, even if a little embarrassed.
The benefits of travel far outweigh the annoyances for sure- new languages, food, seeing sights, learning history, etc. So when I had a free day on a recent business trip to Zurich, I took advantage of it and some friends took me around to see the sights. Wow! It wasn’t my first trip to Switzerland, but it had been a long time since I was there. I ate some amazing fondue, “Rösti” potatoes, wine, chocolate, etc. Shopped at several Omega watch boutiques and bought some Swiss Army knives. Visited Zurich and Lucerne and Engleberg and Titlis and Rigi. Most of all I enjoyed the view, which just cannot be properly described, so I’ll let my photos speak for themselves. Most pictures I take are on my iPhone, but a trip like this require a proper camera so I brought my Canon 1DX, and it was worth it. Nothing beats using a great camera like that when you have spectacular scenery.