Hoiden Loner on a Sharing-Economy Business Trip

Texas travel letter and thoughts on solitude: Austin brands itself as Weird, though its original inhabitants claim the weirdness is lost through SXSWs hipster status and over-commercialization. Nevertheless – first place in the U.S. that I ever visited where topless is yay and weapons are ney! Austin is probably what you’d get if you put San Diego & Provincetown in a Texas blender. Anyway, with rising prices and loaded L.A. people invading the real-estate market, you should probably go before it becomes completely unweird.

  
I was a lonesome traveller arriving, but never felt lonely. Probably due to my Hoiden personality? 😋 (scroll through the photos below to find out what Hoiden means..). As a mother of 2 small boys, I treasure family time, but always appreciate the small stretches of being completely on my own – whether on a plane or walking between meetings – and the feeling of being unconnected, completely independent and free. A sense of being an outsider, observing the world around from a distance. Where you’re not required to interact or participate, and somewhat invisible. In my opinion, travelling alone is something everyone should do once in a while. It reminds you of which state your relationship with yourself is in. How comfortable you are in your own company. After all, drilling down to the core of our inner person, we are all here in this world by ourselves. In an over-crowded and hectic world, solitude to me feels like taking a medicine, or a vitamine shot.   

If you feel uncomfortable eating out or sitting at a café all by yourself (or, like me, just love to read), you can bring a book. Being alone also makes you more open to spontanious, unexpected surprises. And you get much, much better service. Just to mention some perks.

I’ve travelled alone frequently since 2006, but rarely get the opportunity nowadays – vacationwise anyway.. If not for the security/safety situation and for the fact that I can’t switch gender for just a few months’ time, my ultimate dream is to hitch-hike and backpack from Europe across Middle East to China. Bucket list!

I often travel alone to various places for work, but due to the nature of our industry and the closely tied global network, I always meet people I know. And I usually spend both my mornings, daytime and late nights with a combination of familiar & new industry people. As you try and keep the trips short and utilizing them as efficient as possible, evenings also consist of business networking, and I very rarely have time for much other than sleep and get up-to-date on the most urgent items in my mailbox in between.

This trip was different, as I arrived without knowing any other industry colleagues travelling in for the SXSW Interactive, and entered in as an outsider and visitor. I had communicated with Morgan who’s in charge of SXSW Eco and SXgood with UN Foundation and a few other people, but knew that she was up to her neck in work all week. Also, Oslo Business Council organised their own lounge, but I didn’t exactly travel to Austin to network with other Norwegians (even though they’re great people) 😋

Instead, I have had every opportunity for being open to meet new people. And so I did!

Arriving at Houston airport, I met some really sweet girls from England & Scotland, and carpooled to Austin in a shiny white road monster – gate crashing the first leg of their Texas road trip(!). Good conversations and chemistry – it turned out they were all managers at the Lidl head office in London. With a passion for country music & rodeos, there was a whole lot of loud singing going on. All the country classics; unexpected and really fun!! 

   
Arriving in Austin, I had booked a room through AirBnb in a private flat, as the hotel prices were really high. My host Chilee had recently moved in from Las Vegas, and shared it with a friend from the South. While the other guest was a woman from San Fransisco, a director of a big IT company. 

Filling my days with conferences and seminars, my evenings were unplanned. I had some invitations to various networking events and parties, but didn’t really know anyone well. So I pinned the venues in my SXSW app, and went out exploring. And I had some amazing meetings with inspiring and engaged people from all over the States – and other regions of the world;

  • Saturday breakfast with Jim from Seattle and a girl from Dublin
  • Coffee and mutual sharing of all-time low life challenges with a heavily tattooed and rocker-style writer and former PR Director from London (yupp, the classic 40-something self-realization stage, but amazing conversation)
  • Lunch with an environmentalist couple from Argentina/Chile, where he was a client of a Sweedish shipping company 
  • Dinner with a group of friends from Washington 
  • Nylon party and concerts with George from San Diego, two girls from South Africa and a couple from Israel. Arriving at the party, I bumped right into Swedish artist Sara Larsson, and it turned out she was among those entertaining us(!)
  • Sunday breakfast with two Indian guys, a Mexican girl and a Chinese girl
  • Sunday lunch drink at Coyote Ugly (just to have been there..) spent discussing war & peace with a U.S. Army veteran (Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine etc) from Alabama with Norwegian ancestors, who’s jaw dropped when I told him his last name was the same as that of the new big Norwegian oilfield (Kastberg)
  • And Sunday dinner with a really nice guy from Austin, as I discovered a small Indian place off the beaten festival tracks. Learnt a lot about Austin!

Not to mention all the mind-blowing innovators, entrepreneurs, speakers and panelists I was able to discover during these days! 

By the way; I got some great tips alltogether ref to the best of Austinn, that I’ll have to save for my next trip due to the purpose of this one, but meanwhile I’ll share them with you;

  • The locals’ own intimate festival “Eeyore’s birthday” in the woods – hippie style every April (apparently lots of nudity too)
  • Pop-up flea markets in South Congress
  • Restaurant Odd Duck and small charming shops along South Lamar
  • All-year swimming in Barton Springs Pool, which used to be the big gathering area for hippies & locals cooling down before A/C was common

   
  

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
    
      

Happy campers; Updated advise for business & pleasure travelling with a baby

crying-baby

My 8mth son will be quite a vagabond before age 1; with visits to New York, Connecticut, France (x3), Italy, Monaco, Netherlands, Sweden and Argentina. Without a “global” and independent job, I probably wouldn´t have had either the thoughts or opportunity to travel so much with a baby. But even while on maternity leave, some work (especially presentations/speeches) has to be done to keep in business. And being still such a small fellow – currently extremely attached to mum – leaving him behind is of course out of the question. Travelling with babys of course leaves plenty of opportunities for stressing out a) baby b) parent c) co-passengers. So what do you do, when there are some travels you really want/need to go on, yet don´t want to jeopardise the comfort and happiness of the new family boss (or your fellow flight passengers)?

For me, I´m trying to keep things simple, and here are my rule of thumbs;

1) I always try to make sure – both for shorter and longer trips – to create/plan plenty of time and slack in both ends, so that it´s not becoming stressful and frustrating (=for him and/or me). To me, who prefers being at the airports as short as possible, this doesn´t come natural, but it sure works.

2) I always pack very light for myself, probably as a result of trying to travel efficient and without checked in luggage. It still works, even though “light” is now measured differently. With basic necessities (incl. laptop) in the nursing bag, and some toys he hasn´t seen for a while, or an extra remote control(!), we´re ready to go.

3) All papers/passports etc easily accessible, yet outside tearing apart range of baby

4) BabyBjörn One fixed under my jacket – leaving junior dangling as a baby kangaroo facing all interesting, exciting people and things to see – and making the transport slots all play, it works really well. He flirts & giggles to the people in security lines, the air stewards++

4) In case of crying baby while waiting in queues, it normally works fine to do some hip-shaking/swinging dance moves while he´s attached (even though I´d never ever imagine doing that sober, in public, during daytime..).

justin_babyairplane

5) Crying baby on board; Alternatively, also while singing songs you don´t know the words of, throwing baby up in the air – in general play & have fun 😉 Or talk in a very quiet voice, almost whisper, which makes him try to hear what I´m saying. PS: And since I still nurse him that´s of course a great trick up the sleave when everything else fails.

5) My son has a great radar for whenever I´m trying to focus on something else than him while we´re alone (even when he´s apparently sleeping..), so trying to read, work or any other thought/consentration-requiring stuff is just something I´ve given up 😛

6) Extra food & beverages for baby and mom. Low blood sugar is no good for trying to stay calm, and baby also comes with a great radar for sensing your stress level (=crying baby). So most important rule is (as when meeting wild animals outdoors) stay calm and carry on… Do not awaken the beast within(!)

7) If possible, invite a friend/relative to join. Always a great recipe for success when the number of adults outnumbers the kids.

8) Before starting to walk, they´re not so independent. And quite content when mum/dad is around with the full focus on them. So enjoy while it lasts.. (I don´t expect being able to bring my guy around like this in a years´time from now). Plus, it helps having just one if traveling alone. You make a great team.

9) Don´t forget; travelling is actually a great way of spending several hours close to the little one, without no other optional activities do be occupied with, so might as well try to make the most of it!

Bon voyage!!

P.S: To avoid provoking any other traveling parents out there, my advise of course don´t apply for kiddo´s with colic etc.

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