An Academic Coming Out

Sunday, May 19, 2013

An Academic Coming Out

Some time to wander Strasbourg...
We travel for pleasure. We travel to escape. We travel to discover. Then there are those who travel for work. Poor devils.

When I was a student coordinator at a study abroad program in Paris, I organized weekend trips, but they hardly felt like “business” – they were more enjoyable than anything. We’d go away to new places, discovering new things, worrying only about making the train on time and not leaving any (or many) students behind. It was a relative breeze.

Now, as an academic of sorts, I have succumbed to traveling for more professional reasons, attending a colloquium in Strasbourg this past week. This is the beginning of a new lifestyle, globetrotting and discussing academic things, to keep it brief. It requires things like pants, shirts that need to be ironed, and shoes that aren't Chucks. 

It's a strange new world for me.

Business traveler provisions...

The Strasbourg conference centered on tourism and communication – right up my alley. I was accepted to speak, presenting my research on travel blogs and online journalism, something that has yet to be fully explored in the scientific world. Sure, we all read blogs and have an idea of what they’re about, but little, well, no empirical studies are out there, so it was exciting to be among others who were interested in the same things as me (geek alert). It was a fruitful first experience in this new world.

It was also a riot to be the only American there. Outside of Paris, we're quite the commodity, apparently.

Traveling for a goal other than sheer leisure has its perks, in the end. "Business" travel isn't so bad. There’s no pressure to sight-see  There’s no pressure to eat in the best restaurants. Most things are planned out for you. You will inevitably meet new people and make new friends. It’s almost the opposite of independent  travel, where we’re more isolated and more stressed to “see it all.”

Sure, there were moments when traveling alone is tough. Eating alone in a restaurant is not an easy task to accomplish for the timid. I went ahead and had a glass of wine and some foie gras to put me at east, and afterwards it was fine. And at the end of the day, kicking back all alone in a hotel, dancing to the Sugababes or Taylor Swift, well, it helps make up for any downsides (true academics know how to party...).

And though I've been to Strasbourg twice, I discovered new things this time around thanks to the conference. Notably, I was introduced to a “secret” wine cellar under the hospital houses the oldest cask of white wine in the world (with a smell that you wouldn't believe). During a tour of the cellars and a tasting afterwards with my new colleagues, I was, and am, convinced that academic conferences are a great new reason to travel.
Strasbourg cathedral...
Oldest white wine in world...

As long as there’s a wine tasting built in at some point…


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