Today I drove three hours from my home to a meeting on the Vermont-New York border, an area I was just in less than two weeks ago. I have meetings tomorrow in the Albany area so I drove ninety minutes to a hotel Clifton Park, where my first meeting is in the morning. If you’re keeping score that’s 4 1/2 hours in the car alone, with a 30 minute meeting to break it up.
Tomorrow I’m in wall-to-wall meetings all day, with a couple of phone calls in between. And then I drive to Ithaca to have dinner with Emily before I drive out to my hotel in Buffalo. Another six to eight hours of isolation in a car with high engagement in between. I generally make calls or listen to podcasts in the car, but sometimes I just turn off the noise and just drive in quiet… for hours.
My business life is a balance of isolation and engagement. These are deep swings in each direction, and not for the faint of heart. I’m at once a loner and a social being, and perhaps the thing that saves me is that I enjoy both worlds.
Does this make me strange? Perhaps. Then again, I feel like a heavy reliance on interaction with others is unhealthy. Striking a balance is key, and that emotional fulcrum point is very different from one day to the next.
I drove around Portugal by myself and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Would it have been better with Kris or a few friends? Absolutely. But it would have been different too. And the trip I took by myself will be one I’ll remember fondly despite the isolation.
I take mini side trips to see interesting things. But let’s face it, visiting an old graveyard in the middle of nowhere is not everyone’s idea of fun. Best to knock off my flights of historical fancy whenever I can, but without dragging along people who aren’t as into it as I am.
There’s another aspect to traveling alone; I notice things more. Like an old stone pyramid built as a monument to a long-dead Basque explorer in Victor, New York. Or a monument honoring the Knox Trail near Saratoga this afternoon. Or an old gravestone marking the final resting place of Jane McCrea, murdered by Native Americans who were accompanying General Burgoyne in his ill-fated march to Albany which sparked a unifying outrage amongst the Colonial Army that helped fuel victory at Saratoga.
Make no mistake; I thoroughly enjoy the company of others. I find deep conversation with complex, vibrant people as thrilling as any waterfall or vista I’ve chanced upon (My god I love a good conversation!). And I’ve tried to be what Malcom Gladwell would call a Connector in holding together the cast of characters I’ve become friends with, and pulling others in as well. But the many hours alone in a car ahead of me this week don’t fill me with dread either. If I have the chance to reconnect with an old friend during that drive time all the better.