It was September, 2016 on a Sunday afternoon when I was sitting on a flight from Cleveland to Toronto, and I couldn’t believe this is happening. Just one of those boring small flights, more on the ground than in the air, but it was a milestone in my life. It was the beginning of my new assignment.
In my other life, when I’m not collecting coins, I help product teams make their products accessible to people with disabilities. This means that when you use a web site, a software or a mobile app, with the right choice of technologies and design, you can make those products useable for people who can’t hear, see, or have other disabilities such as not being able to move their hands. I won’t get into the great details, but this is exciting. I’m fortunate to say that my job has been my other hobby for the last 20 years. However, I don’t mix work and collecting for the most part, so I didn’t write about it on the blog unless it was necessary to understand the background.
So, I got an assignment where I am responsible for training accessibility to different product teams. When a team needs me, I schedule time with them, and provide a training at their location. For various reasons, in person training proves to be much more effective in this case than online education. Not to say that online materials are not useful, but there is something to helping people to understand in person that accessible solutions make such a big difference in people’s lives.
As part of my new assignment, only this year I have been to 10 countries, 25 cities, and met with over 2000 people. For fun I started calculating how many miles did Baldwin fly to have yet another fun fact, but it took too much time to make it worth it. Due to circumstances, Baldwin couldn’t come with me to a few trips, but he has been to seven countries this year.
So, if you ever wondered, what am I doing all year long visiting numismatic museums, this is the reason. Traveling is not anything new to me, I have always enjoyed it, sometimes I had more opportunities than in other years. I think the longest time I haven’t traveled anywhere outside of my immediate area was for 15 months. I was always looking for the opportunities, and opportunities always found me.
It was more than ten years ago that while I enjoyed New York City, I worked there enough that I ended up staying in my hotel room for days. I’m still sorry for the time I wasted there, but I had to learn. When a trip only includes airplanes, taxis and hotels, it is not travel. It is a business trip. Yes, it is possible that schedule is tight, a lot needs to be done and there’s no time for other things. But most jobs don’t require you to work 24 hours. For that matter, not even 16, so after the 8 hours of sleep, there is usually time left to spend. Not much, but enough. After all, one has to eat, go places, meet people. Why not do it the fun way.
I decided that I will turn business trips into travel. Of course, work comes first, so I have to give up on great ideas, for example in Atlanta I wasn’t able to go to the money museum, my flight in was late, sleep, work and had to catch another flight home, the whole trip was less than 24 hours. That’s that, at least some warm weather in December, so this is what I got to enjoy. But my criteria is that there has to be something during each trip which differentiates it from the boring flight/hotel/flight business trip. Coin collecting just came to the rescue. Most places that I visit have a coin club, a coin store or a coin museum. It just takes some time to find it. With a little preplanning, I can find numismatic related activities in my off-work hours. If nothing else, sometimes it is interesting to collect the coins of a country I’m visiting, but normally I aim at much more than that. In other cases, there isn’t a numismatic activity, or I have been there before, so I plan other outings, or meeting with friends I know in town. I think only the Atlanta trip was the one when I didn’t do anything extra. And talking about the other rules, I don’t extend my trips for the sake of doing more. As I travel quite a bit, it is not fair to the family to stay longer than necessary. I build the fun into the free time I have. The only exception so far was when I worked in Hungary and extended my stay to visit my parents.
To me travel is not necessarily vacationing. The value of the trip is not where I have been, but also whom I have met and what kind of things I have been exposed to. Personally, I find work related trips much more rewarding than vacations. Don’t stone me yet, let me explain. A trip set up solely for vacation requires planning from scratch. A work trip already assumes that I know some people, I will attend a conference, I will be exposed to the successes and problems of the place I’m visiting, and I will have people to talk about it. I find that during a day or two working with a team, I learn much more about the local culture and issues, not to mention the language than what I would get during a vacation. It just works better for me personally. An organized trip can be more helpful than a random one. I’m not good at just walking around and getting to know the town. If I’m alone, I might just walk by so many interesting things I don’t even have an idea about. Working with people I always feel that I get a special insight into a city or a country.
If I have time, I try to plan my trips whatever it is, a museum, a restaurant or just walking downtown. I’m fine with not sticking with the plans later, but I don’t like not having a plan. It usually appears to be a waste of time. I like to call museums in advance and ask them to give me a hands on tour, which can be very helpful in case of a coin exhibit, because there’s practically nothing I could enjoy behind the glass, though I can’t complain about the museum in Cambridge, but I got an excellent guide. I look up interesting places to eat, restaurant menus, local events to attend, or even interesting streets to walk on, and make a plan on how to get there. This is important so that I don’t spend my time figuring out things, or to find out on the spot that it is not going to work. And when even better ideas come along, so be it. There are of course the kind of places where walking down the streets can be interesting, downtown Toronto, Cambridge or Bratislava were a few examples. There is a crowd, things are happening, there are great smells to inspire me to try some food, dessert or coffee, but when I visited these cities I already knew that this is something I’d be interested in, and I didn’t just walk out of the hotel to see what happens. Of course when all else fails and for lack of better, I did that too, and it never turned out to be anything exciting, as I had no idea about the environment, and it took me more time to explore than to enjoy. Different cities can have a different feel to them, so when planned right, it can be interesting how they are different. The combination of sounds, smells, environment and weather almost makes each place unique.. There are some places which are so special that I can recognize them even after several years.
This is why I’m around the world visiting coin museums. I hope there is more to come, so far my assignment is the same. There are some great plans for the next year, but more about it on this blog later.