I am in Europe on a ten-day stretch for my paying job. Right now, I’m smack dab in the middle of a two-day furlough in Geneva.
The job took me to Germany; personal preference took me to Switzerland. There are two big reasons I’m excited to be in Geneva, aside from the fact that I’ve never been before, and I dig seeing new places.
The first reason is CERN. CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. It houses a number of particle accelerators and detectors, including the Large Hadron Collider—where the Higgs boson was first detected. The CERN laboratory is on the border between Switzerland and France, and is only a few kilometers from my hotel.
The second reason is my friend Tamara. I haven’t seen her in nearly five years, and she is spending my furlough time with me here in Geneva. While Tamara is not Geneva-specific (she lives in Paris), my memories of Geneva will now be Tamara-specific.
But I’m saving my geek-out about CERN, and observations about mine and Tamara’s complimentary geekiness, and other stuff about Geneva, for next week’s post.
Because I’ve got a few things to say about work travel and Frankfurt first. I was in Frankfurt to set up a trade show (and will return tomorrow for tear-down). Back in my L.A. days, I spent a good bit of time traveling overseas to work trade shows. Those trips were grueling and edifying, at the same time. This trip has proven no different.
Here’s an example of the grueling part: spending the last four hours of a ten-hour flight with the worst motion sickness I’ve suffered in many years. Once you get to the work, it’s not so tough. But trying to accomplish the simplest of tasks when you still don’t have your feet, and everything feels curvy and inverted, is grueling. To me, at least.
It’s the edifying part that makes it worthwhile. Being in a new place where you don’t speak the language is a good way to tune up your cognitive skills and situational awareness. Also, traveling with work colleagues affords the opportunity to really get to know them. And either forge a new friendship, or cement one that was already there.
After the day’s work was done, we had several hours left to explore. This time of year, it doesn’t get dark ’til late. One friend on this trip, Aimee, did what I didn’t make the time to do before we left: read up about Frankfurt. It was great to travel with such a well-informed companion. I learned that Frankfurt was heavily bombed during World War II, so most of the buildings only date back to the 1950s. It took some navigating to find the old parts of town, because they were few.
Also, Aimee had read that the Ebbelwei-Express was a nice way to tour the city. €8 gets you a bottle of Apfelwein (a slightly vinegary apple cider), a packet of pretzels, and a circuit throughout the city and across the Main River. All with German music playing throughout the tram.
So, I had some really cool and fun experiences traveling for work in another country, just like I did way back when. Here’s what’s different: back then, I’d let my imagination wander, and maybe have some idle chatter about the things I’d conjured, and that would be the end of it. Now that I’m writing fiction with a fair degree of consistency, could those idle thoughts be the seeds of a scene, or maybe even a story?
If you plan to read any of my fiction, don’t be surprised if you come across a ghost who haunts Frankfurt, terrorizing tourists from the Allied countries. Or a chase scene set on a tram, with the protagonist trying to evade pursuit while Oompah music plays. Or even better yet, an American protagonist trying to shake a ghost on the Ebbelwei-Express!
Okay, maybe not, but I’m still rather pleased with myself. This writing habit seems to be paying dividends. Not money dividends, but creative / inspirational ones. I’ll take that.