When people hear I’m a consultant they often ask if that means I get to be a “glamorous jet-setter flying first class and staying in lush hotels on someone else’s dime.” That’s not my reality, but IDK, for some people it could be true! Good for them! For me, it often means I get to take on cool projects which can almost always be conducted remotely. Giving me great flexibility to jet-set on my own dime in “basic economy.” A category so low it doesn’t even get called by name when boarding.
The freedom to work from where I want is one of my favorite perks of this job. Recently I took huge advantage of this when I had four destination weddings in six weeks (it was almost 5). Yes, you read that right. I love weddings and I love to explore, so rather than RSVPing “no” I thought, “what a fun logistical and financial challenge to work out!”
The weddings took place in increasingly further locations from my home base of Portland: Central Oregon, Texas, Hawaii, and Italy. I was psyched. I was also a little terrified. All these events were happening across the months of April and May… which were shaping up to be some incredibly busy work months for me. Planning calms me down, so I spent a lot of time mapping out how exactly I was going to work while travelling, and how I was also going to turn each destination into a “work trip.” Somehow, I managed. Actually, here’s how:
I arranged meetings and coffee dates in each location.
This was the most obvious and easiest of ways to make sure I stay on-task with work – to actually have meetings and talk shop. Some meetings were informational. For example, a longtime friend of mine who works in national parks and forests and I met for brunch in Bend, OR. We spoke about the parallels between her field and museums, including how the government shutdown impacted her sector. We also caught up on what trashy TV we were currently binging (YOU on Netflix). Some meetings were critical to ongoing project work. From the oily beach of Galveston, Texas I was able to close out close out one phase of a project, transitioning from data collection to data analysis with my research partner (also the bride in the wedding I was attending).
Perhaps one of my nerdiest interests is touring State Capitol buildings. I just love looking at the different kinds of architecture and seeing how the state choose to represent itself. Usually this is a passive hobby; I’m in the city for some other reason and the building is just there. Hawaii, though, was different. I knew my chances of getting out there again anytime soon were slim… So, I purposely booked flights to Maui with a three-hour layover in Honolulu just so I could run out to see the Capitol. It was awesome!
I found cultural points of interest to tour and explore.
Creating engaging learning experiences is a big reason why I got into the museum field. There is something so magical about being confronted with new places, objects, content, experiences – whatever and then getting to think about it. Does it excite me? Does it confuse me? Am I challenged? All of the above? Access is another thing I often think about. I recognize how lucky I am to get to go to these cool places and see these amazing things; I have many people in my life who are unable to do this. So, I’ve made it a bit of a personal mission to share what I am fortunate enough to experience, and share what I see, feel, and wonder about. While in Italy, for example, I climbed the Duomo, visited the Uffizi, visited the Bargello, visited the Medici Chapel, and more. I was obnoxious about taking and posting photos and videos. But I don’t regret it. Climbing the Duomo was hard – but I got to commiserate with people about the trek and gush over the Tuscan views with them too. Visiting the Uffizi was an overwhelming dream for this art history student; when I lost my shit over seeing Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes, I had several other art history buffs losing their shit with me. I may have been flying solo during these excursions, but I never felt it.
I shared what I was learning and doing with people.
My typical work hours are 7 AM-4 PM PDT, Monday-Friday. On the road they look more like 5-9 AM and 9-11 PM every day (including weekends!), with a sprinkling of quick calls or email checks wherever the Wi-Fi is free... which means at lunch or on coffee stops I’m usually quite distracted. This is true no matter the time zone, and this is the part of my work life I often don’t blast on social. Checking email, programming surveys, tracking responses, editing reports, etc. is boring stuff. It’s also the stuff that I have to do so that I can continue to take advantage of perks like attending all these destination weddings. All these things also happen in the oddest of places. If you received a professional communication or deliverable from me it could have been sent from a vacant beachfront restaurant in Maui before it was open for breakfast service, my childhood bedroom (with my dad hovering behind me, making sure business was good), from an airport in Germany where a waiter was telling the correct way to eat white sausage (“Next time, try it without ze skin.”), or from a small B&B in Maine after a grueling 30 hours of travel.
I worked some weird hours and in random “offices.”
A big part of prepping for two months of travel was managing expectations – which is also a big part of my work in general. I take on projects and plan out timelines in a way which is both responsive to the client’s needs and works well with my estimated project flow. When things shift, I work with clients to adjust while also being clear that I book my time and workflow around what we initially estimated or contracted for. Adjustments can be made, but I have to factor in commitments to other clients and in my personal life when doing so. I have found that being honest and reiterating that I’m an office of one, and a human with a personal life, was instrumental in maintaining my sanity and ensuring clients felt cared for (I mean… no one pushed back or complained…).
I set boundaries.
Anyways, I’ve officially been home in Portland for two full weeks. I don’t have any more weddings or trips planned for a while (that I know of). Worklife is falling into a familiar routine, and I’m pumped to begin planning out a summer spent at home.