Most mornings over the past few years, my waking thoughts have followed a similar pattern. I blink my eyes to deep darkness, sometimes to broad shimmering daylight, hunt for the phone so I can check the time, although the phone is invariably lost somewhere in the bedcovers after I tried to switch off its beeping in my sleep, check for the clock on the bedside table, which seems to be on a different side of the bed than when I went to sleep, and ask myself three questions:
What time is it?
Where am I?
Where am I actually supposed to be?
Over those years, I have had the pleasure and the privilege (and extreme good fortune) to travel the world for my work. I met interesting people, some of whom are now friends. I had experiences of which I could never have dreamed before I bought that first train ticket. I got to know the layout of airports, the perils of only speaking English, the joys of four welcome banquets in a row, and the constant monitoring of the location of the passport.
Checking into hotel rooms and checking out local attractions allows you to do a lot of thinking. However, in between all those buses, trains, planes, rental cars, and — the inevitable — the meetings, I didn’t have a lot of time to write down any of those thoughts. My writing tended to be of an electronic nature and generally encompassed: The Urgent: “We need this to be working by this time tomorrow!” The Mystified: “Does anyone know where the file actually is?” and The Unbelievably Pampered: “Moroccan marble steam room not very hot. Nul points.”
Being a writer means spending time alone. When you’re travelling, you’re rarely alone. That explains why, when we’re rushing about, we post photos on Twitter. “Look where I am!” “Heavenly view!” “You won’t BELIEVE where I’m staying…” Accompanied by a snap of stars over the Taj Mahal, a roaring fire in a baronial hall, or a beach of pink sand and seashells. I’ve done it myself. “Look at this sunset!” I plead guilty.
Sometimes, though, you can’t say what you want to say in 140 characters. Or even 140 words. Or even 1,400 words. So this is my pressed-flower book of some of the experiences that I’ve had over the years when I was zooming around the world. Every physical journey was a mind journey, too; each experience taught me something, reminded me of something important, or simply made me laugh, and when we laugh, we forget that all is transient, which seems to me to be one of the most important achievements in life that you can hope for.
These days, I travel a little less and write a little more. So some of these posts are my emotions recollected in tranquillity, the front-line reports filed only a little late, while others reflect where I am now.
Of course it goes without saying, which is why I am saying it, that these views from a hotel room are my views alone and do not represent the views of any of my employers. They are my views, my opinions and my pictures. You are welcome to disagree with them. I often do.