One has to admit to oneself from time to time when you're a Type A, Cell A personality, who also understands that the agency world is a service industry, that we all need a break and need to balance the always on, always want to help and be helpful, with the "I want to be alone darling" approach to solitude. Being on the road means for me, simply working someplace else. Being on the road with my wife means working less, playing more, but its not usually a "vacation." It's more of just being together and my working while she shops, but since we both lead highly professional practices we've adopted an always on or in her case on-call approach to things. While I can work anywhere, its not exactly the same for a physician, so her work is mostly notes and billing, while mine is simply an extension from being in the home office or on a client site. Thankfully technology is giving both of us more tools to make it easier to be together more often and to take more short breaks without always being "away."
Sometimes those breaks are self designed, other times they are forced upon us. My so called vacation last week, that was really more of me and my wife spending an entire nine days together with lots of friends, drinking wine, planning upcoming events in San Diego, and in France that are romantically, emotionally and by nature linked to our wine country wedding was a lot of fun, but I am also realizing that I needed some time "away" as part of a very important discovery process around working anywhere.
Now for me, away never means "AWAY" or DO NOT DISTURB. I have the Blackberry for email, my Nokia E90 and N95s for voice calls, and of course my N810 and MacBook Air as well, so staying connected is never that hard. Or so I thought.
You see, Orange France, which just so happens to be the countries biggest WiFi hotspot operator and the new Mac OS Leopard are seriously not friends. While in the past, I could skirt around some issues with a VPN, the new OS is so authentication rigid that I found it impossible to use Entourage to send mail via my hosted Exchange server, unable to even use the Web interface for it due to port issues, and worst of all, I found that regardless of browser (Firefox, Safari or Camino) that even some financial services sites or travel related sites proved impossible to manipulate.
It also impacted my ability to even post to Typepad or to use MarsEdit, my laptop blogging program of choice. While I likely could have used the N810 for some posts, I just resigned myself to the fact that I'm on somewhat of vacation, posted when I could, and left it at that.
While I was able to do a lot at the Vinisud event, banging away on the keyboard instead of drinking wine, wasn't my idea of fun, though I had to get a kick out of the WiFi sign in the Montpeyroux AOC stand, and my winemaker friend Sylvain Fadat explaining how he asked them to install it so "you can work here." Those kinds of friends and random acts of kindness are why Helene and I are such good friends with them, and why I just shipped him a new Asus eee PC (French model) so he doesn't have to lug a humongous Dell or HP around with him any longer.
The week before at Mobile World Congress was so busy that trying to post what I saw was always interrupted by what I was seeing next, or some email from affair. That week, as host to a group of bloggers made being in front of the Mac more challenging, and the occasional hotel WiFi outage never seemed to help either.
Here in Paris, the Pullman Bercy has two networks, one from Orange and another wired network. On the wired network I simply connected my Linskys travel router and all is like being at home and Entourage had no issues. When I'm roaming around, my Boingo accounts, both Premiere and Mobile have been a big help, and the automatic log-on for the Nokia N810 is a real treat. I've used that to make calls over various services, including a real SIP connection from Junction Network's OnSip platform that just rocks.
The so called vacation week also allowed me by necessity to get more familiar with Google Apps, something I'm liking more and more. While it's not perfect, I am leaning more and more for cost reasons alone to moving my business mail, calendaring and contacts over there, thus making less dependent on Microsoft. The word processor, spreadsheet and mail all are very solid, with calendaring and presentation (i.e PowerPoint clone) leaving a lot to be desired. The calendar app lacks a key function a global nomad needs. Time zone setting. I'm having to constantly change the default to make sure time zone sensitive items are properly placed. That's a big hurdle. Plus how it receives items from different versions of the same program are also a bit of a challenge too. But all in all, I'm more pleased with it than I thought I would be. As for the Mail platform, I love it, but I'd also like to take a good look at Zimbra too at some point, especially now that they've been bought by Yahoo. But my guess is time will be the key enemy here, and Google will win the business.
As I wrap up the the European leg of the trip starting Monday with meetings in Brussels and London all week, I have to admit, being away is not that hard, but being away and trying to take vacation in the middle of the heavy season is.
Now I'm back and I feel better than ever...so I guess it's time to find a cup of coffee!