Sing like a Lombard

They say that in a choir if there is no conductor moderating, one could end up singing louder than required. That dear friends, is the Lombard effect. And the title was to inform you that without moderation we would probably have sung like no tomorrow about our adventures in Lombardy…

We were fortunate that while based in Amsterdam, one of the cities Mel had to frequent for business was Cremona. Now the main gateway remains Milan (here), with two airports in the city (Malpensa and Linate) he preferred the latter since it was nearer to town. But flights to that airport were limited and sometimes of poor timing.

So what did he do?

Instead, Mel (and Suan) took budget flights to nearby Bergamo instead. While it was not nearer from a physical location standpoint, it was less crowded on the roads. After all, Milan is a metropolis and traffic conditions quite tough. And because of this we had the opportunity to drive the ‘countryside’ of Lombardy. Definitely recommended. Not quite like Tuscany, many a time the weather was gloomy, wet and cold.

However do not be mistaken that Lombardy is unwelcoming. For we climbed cliff-top towns, did ‘pilgrimages’ and pretended to be music students. All within this diverse and beautiful region. Have to admit it is not high up on the ranking of tourists but you would be missing out if you write off Lombardy.

Wanna know more? Perhaps read our story here to decided if you might want to add lombardy on your bucket list.

This is not a post promoting Lombardy. We are not paid to do so!

Anyway this ends our Italian series. Time to switch back to the good ole’ US of A. Watch out for it! We are surely a singing louder and louder…

Tour Boeing’s factory

This is incredible. And the post (here) really piqued our interest in visiting Everett. Where’s this place you ask? Well, it’s near Seattle and if you had read the link, you’d know that this town is home to Boeing. Yep, we’re talking about the folks who make a lot of the aircrafts we fly on.

We are sure you agree it is incredibly complex to build an aircraft. And enormous ones too. They have to be not only sturdy and safe but also efficient to operate too. That’s a fine balance to achieve and an incredible feat + amount of engineering effort is expended in the design and manufacture of each airliner. Noticed we said ‘liner’. Because today the airplane is no longer just a craft. It has evolved to be not only large to accomodate a lot of passengers, but it has also tacked on much more in amenities too. It all started with the flat beds in business class and we have ‘graduated’ to having showers and little apartments on board too…

Unlike mass market software, mass market passenger aircrafts cannot fail and reboot. That’s the difference between Microsoft and Boeing in our opinion. Hence a greater interest in getting there to see how these giants of transportation are put together.

One day. Perhaps we can visit the shipyards where the giant cruise ships are constructed too. You know, they are like little cities these days! But for now, it costs a mere US$16 to visit the Boeing plant. Would you go if you are ever in Everett?

A job that brings you places

Imagine that. A job that actually requires you to live in a different city each month even as you worked on a full time, permanent role. And be paid with benefits too… Isn’t that the dream of nomads of this world (hey the certificate is still available here) to have such a sweet spot?

If this (read article here) is truly available to you, would you jump up and take the offer?

Some time back, we wrote about mobile talent (here). It may not be exactly the vision you get when looking at the instagram posts of those who claim to be successful digital nomads. In fact it’s more conventional. More like working 9-5, what a way to make a living (barely getting by) but for shorter stints and in different locations. We gave some examples in that post but we are sure some of you dear readers would know of more. Care to share any?

Our own experience was one of moving around the world not many many times over a short period. Instead, we stayed for a number of years in a different location each time. And on different continents too. That gave us not only the opportunity to experience very different work environments but also the chance to explore a broad area while domiciled temporarily (albeit for a few years) in a fixed spot. And it gave depth to our soujorns too.

Our rationale: being in a particular place for too short a period of time may not sufficiently give you an all rounded experience. For the slightly longer durations we stayed facilitated us learning a new language, being able to prepare local food and building life long friendships.

Would this not count as being a nomad?

Are you overworked?

If one reads history like Mel does, then it did surprise him that despite the improvement of labour rights over the last 150 years, we are all working harder than the serfs of the middle ages ever did!

Really you ask?

Well if you believe this report, you’d think that these poor serfs had it much better than the average office stiff/drone today! To think these near slaves have 150 days off in a year? And some of us work weekends these days? Because the article cited sources, it was the ever inquisitive Mel that did some researching into the history of the supposedly dreary lives of peasants 5-600 years ago. In the western European context (his favorite).

The findings:

  • Farming, as it still is today is intense, but usually only at field rotating, planting and harvesting. In between its like watching grass grow (literally). Yes this is simplifying it, but like herders the serfs watch their farms – to keep away pests etc. It is not back breaking planting throughout the whole year. Many a time it was spent drinking ale…Statistics are hard to get, but Mel found out that some monastery in England was giving their serfs a gallon of ale per day in the late 1300s according to historical records.Ok, shortage of clean drinking water was another reason…but still, ale?
  • Serfs probably spent more time on other things such as maintaining their tools, homes etc. Which is actually not so far off from what farmers do today. And for the womenfolk, working on fabrics, housework etc while minding children. We know of some folks in the US (ladies) who quilt in the fallow months today (not medieval times).
  • Sundays were definitely a day off – as serfs file off to church. If you look up the feast days of medieval England you will find 45 of them. Not sure if each and every one of those are days of revelry or rest. But they are days off the farm.
  • Serfs had to work for their lords as part of the feudal contract (yep there’s one) and this could be 2-3 days in a week. But at the same time they also participated in the manorial lord’s activities such as feastings, joustings, hunting etc. Yes it would be callous to compare that to work vacations, but hey that’s a comparison!
  • And serfs did also have rights – such as help from the lords during crop failures, a medieval sort of social security. Just like unemployment benefits. Who foots the bill? The manorial lord of course!

It is not a totally fair comparison, because today we have mostly 5-day work week. Which means 104 days of weekends + the paid vacations and public holidays.

medieval-feasts
45 days of this every year? Wow.

Conclusions

With many now working long hours in the weekdays (12+ in many cases that we know of) and some hours over the weekend, we can safely say we might not have it that much better. Ignoring the threat of plagues and wars, materially yes but socially and leisurely perhaps not.

Would this convince  you to be teleported back to medieval times as a serf?

Corporate Nomad?

We’ve heard a lot about the digital nomad, you know the folks who are location independent working mostly (perhaps not limited to) on creative projects for their clients across time and space. While others claim to run product “distribution” companies that seem to be manageable from remote etc…sure…

But how about them corporate warriors?

So we decided to look up the term “Corporate Nomad” on the wordpress search engine.

Surprisingly there was quite a list of posts. But did the search results meet our desired outcome? Well, not really. You see, we were looking for corporate drones who are on the move frequently in their job roles and still found the time to travel and blog about it. No, not writing about their 2 week vacations, we mean actually living off a suitcase (temporarily or a short time) yet have the flair to write and share their moments of adventures with us.

Do these folks exist? If so, in what kind of job roles? Does any of the following fit the bill:

  • Management Consultants (eg the sort with the large consulting firms etc)
  • Project managers/consultants (building stuff)
  • Procurement/sourcing managers (buying stuff)
  • Regional sales or marketing execs (selling/BS stuff)

For Mel, he meets with the first kind alot. Usually on assignment for 3-4 months, these consultants/analysts work from the client’s office in various locations.So apart from the long hours in the office, they do have opportunities to explore a bit too (remember this post)!

And they actually do!

Do you know of any other job roles that may turn one into a corporate nomad? Tell us!

Off again for another week of travel

One of the things about working corporate is the amount of time that one needs to spend on the road. I am having it easy and only travel 5-6 times per year. I have peers that are perpetually on the road.

So this post is not about going off FROM work (which I prefer), but going off TO work.

There has been a lot of thought and research into the perceived impact of too much business travel. There has been some contradictory ones too that suggest that some amount of travel does boost a person. Frankly like all things, moderation is key. There are those who relish being on the road and do the utmost for the duration of the journey (aside from work that is).

Business travel
Why is it only these cities?

To be honest this was my life prior to re-joining the big G in late 2012. For nearly 18 months prior, it was an incredibly hectic schedule covering 10 countries in Asia. Sometimes I wonder if these kinds of job roles are designed wrong. Without sufficient support, it is more than a stretch!

But then when I was working in the big G, something happened. Then you are suddenly thrown from a wonderer’s life to one of dreary drudgery in an open concept office. Where the only fun thing seems to be constantly hounded by people asking you why things aren’t the way they are expected to be, and being an annoyance at that. It dawned on me that that’s not the kind of corporate life I wanted either.

So the search begun for a goldilocks environment, one where there is a touch of travel on the occasional side, and enough time to ‘deliver something of value’ to the corporate masters that send me my pay check every month end.

Well I think I have found it. A smaller outfit, less people, less complexity. Aah, heavenly. Quiet. Let’s call the place where I work now little C.

Yeah, here in little C the usual office politics are still there. But you know? At this point in my life I don’t give a hoot. The only thing I now care about is how I can finish the work in a satisfactory manner and get back to my own life – such as writing and posting this post. Where else would you think I can find the time to do all these writing anyway?

So I travel a little and spend a good amount of time at the office in the home country. Which means I have time to consider where our next journeys will be. It is quite securely funded from the job, we have no mortgage. Perfect timing to accelerate that travel handprinting. I also spend time with the missus too.

But lest you think little C is an easy place to work, let me reassure you that it takes quite some effort to be in this position. And that is to work smart. Then you can have your work-life balance that so many people apparently crave but then do not know what to do with it. Sorry I digressed, let’s brings me back to the topic of travel handprinting.

Memories.

We believe that only things you can bring along with you are memories and not your worldly possessions when you expire. And I read an article recently that reminded me that memories are made when you experience the moment – eg the first kiss, getting on your knees to say “let’s apply for a HDB flat” etc (it is a very Singapore thing). If you create memories you are hallucinating or worse, having a neurological disorder.

Travel handprinting is our ‘childless’ way of building memories in our lives. Sprinkle in friends and family, the melange is attractively sweet and contenting. And contentness weeds out stress. Stress appears to be the source of many maladies. Thus we acknowledge that we have been fortunate to be found in this position, despite our humble beginnings. No stress, live every day as if it was your last. How time flies. Its’s almost the end of 3 months into 2016. It seems just days ago that Christmas was celebrated. Now it’s Easter chocolates that are making the rounds!

It’s a Sunday morning. And I am here at the airport lounge.

Bided farewell to the missus early in the morning and slept on the taxi as it ambered ~42km from the west end of the tiny red dot to the other. Soon I shall be on a flying piece of aluminium arriving Tokyo 7 hours later. The start of a week to memories from the business travel which I will write about, but it will not be the same memories I wish for – that the missus is here with me to make them.