I enjoy the sound of a plane’s roaring engines during takeoff. The pilot’s occasional updates while I’m reading the latest edition of The Best American Short Stories. The view of a fairylike, miniature city from the window.
I love so-so airplane food. Turbulence while typing on my laptop. Small children who go through a roller coaster of emotions during their first flight.
Without reverting to clichés, I’m as excited about the journey as I am about the destination.
Before March, traveling was an essential part of my life. I divided my time between London, Amsterdam, and New York (and, occasionally, LA) while running a storytelling and copywriting business and working on my personal writing projects. One of the perks of being a professional writer is that you can do what you love from anywhere in the world. So, I regularly packed up my writing gear (and some other, less important stuff) and flew from one city to the other.
And then, the pandemic hit, changing life as we knew it. In the thick of it all, Markus, the CEO of Roadmap, asked if I wanted to write an article about how the crisis affected me. I said yes. We’ve worked together for years, and I love Roadmap. What choice did I have?
It’s not so much my job that’s changed. If anything, I’m busier than I already was, and I’m grateful for that. Especially in times like these. Everybody wants to double down on storytelling and content creation, and I still like to help people tell their stories. But I work in a completely different way now.
Usually, I switch locations during the day. I type away in my office, in coffee houses, and on the couch. During breaks, I roam the aisles of independent bookstores, have lunch with a friend, or stroll down the pier to take in the sights and sounds.
I miss my favorite NYC coffee house, where the baristas make sure my black tea and chocolate chip cookie are waiting for me in the morning so I can get writing right away. These days, I worry about the baristas — the young mother who tried to complete her master’s degree in between shifts; the thirty-something stage actress who invited me to her play last year; the manager slash artist who was saving up to move to Europe. I hope they’ll still be there once the smoke clears.
At the same time, it’s interesting to see that as human beings, we always find ways to connect. We’re endlessly inventive that way.
I write a lot about IT, Artificial Intelligence, and robotics — fascinating, exciting fields. But in my personal life, I’m old school. I think nothing beats live, face-to-face conversations. They’re much more meaningful. And yet I’ve come to see the beauty of technology. While social distancing, I’ve gotten to know my clients a lot better. People who usually give one-syllable answers spontaneously share their life stories. I’ve learned the names of my clients’ spouses, children, and pets. A few days ago, I comforted a consultant’s toddler over Skype when she bumped her head into the desk. She offered me her teddy bear as a sign of friendship.
Under these extraordinary circumstances, I’ve virtually met a few new people as well, some of whom I can’t wait to meet in person. In a very short time, I’ve gone from despising video chats to embracing Zoom.
Journey of sorts
I never would have thought such genuine connections could be built over Wi-Fi. As it turns out, technology is our lifeline these days. Roadmap, of course, has known this for a long time.
Years ago, Markus came to my office and showed me the Roadmap app, which had won two BTN Innovation Awards in New York. I could see why. “This is what every traveler needs,” I said. (Incidentally, I never lie — not to clients or loved ones. I’m not good at it and I don’t like it.) Being my own travel manager, I’ve had to compile a list of go-to places for each of my favorite cities all by myself. It has taken me years.
I was supposed to attend the opening of Roadmap’s NYC office this year. Obviously, we’ve had to shelve that plan — another reason why this pandemic sucks. Let’s be honest: it just does. Like everybody else, I can’t wait for it to be over. I still believe meeting up in person is crucial to the human experience.
But, in the spirit of traveling, let’s try to see the pandemic as a journey of sorts. One that allows us to meet each other in different ways.
I’m sure those plane engines will roar again sooner than we think.
-Written by Annalisa Koukouves