Travelin’ Man

On June 17th, I left my office, got on the A train, and headed to JFK to grab a flight to SFO. Since that day almost two months ago, I have spent six nights in my home in NYC. And it’s not over yet. Between now and labor day, I think I’ll spend another six nights in my home in NYC.

Between June 17th and Labor Day, I will have been to 14 different locations, visited London three times, San Francisco twice, and taken countless flights and trains.

There are some of you out there for whom this is normal. Certainly sales and business development people, investment bankers, consultants, and others live this kind of work life and it’s normal to them. And there are people like Joi and Esther who live on the road and I have no idea how they do it.

Traveling is not normal for me. Back in the late 90s, I never traveled. The joke was that I’d look at a deal if it was between 34th street and Canal street, between 1st Avenue and 10th Avenue.

I don’t like to travel. I don’t like flying, I don’t like staying in hotels, I don’t like jet lag, I don’t like missing my exercise routine, I don’t like waking up and not knowing where I am. I am a creature of habit and feel like I am at my best when I can lock into a routine.

But gradually over the past couple years, I’ve embraced travel and have come to terms with it. It really started with the work I did personally in the aftermath of the bubble to get a handle on things. I learned to deal with stuff I didn’t want to do, starting with air travel. I still don’t like to fly small planes, but I can get on a commercial jet without any apprehension. I don’t like it when the plane bumps around, but I’ve learned how to chill out and deal with it.

The big-time travel that our family has been doing since our youngest was in second grade (2002) has also been a big part of my about face on traveling. We’ve been all over the world and we’ve had a blast. I want to do more of it, not less. I want to see as much of the world I can see, experience different cultures, languages, tastes, and smells.

And then there’s our business. When we started Union Square Ventures, Brad and I were not focused on location. We wanted to invest in the best web applications and services we could find. But we knew the NYC market cold and had a reputation there. We knew we could win deals and make a name for ourselves quickly in NYC. And that’s what we did.

A couple years ago, we started looking outside of NYC and we’ve now made four investments in San Francisco and are looking to make more. We’ve made one investment in London and are open to making more. You can’t invest in companies if you aren’t willing to spend face time with them.  So that means travel and the more companies we invest in outside of NYC, the more I’ll travel.

Honestly, I am torn about it. I still hate to be away from home. This summer has taken a toll on me. I am out of shape. I’ve hurt my shoulder and it’s not getting better. I’ve lost weight. I have bags under my eyes and people tell me I look tired all the time. I am tired a lot of the time.

But I am also energized. In June, I was a bit burnt out on the web. I wanted to be inspired. This summer has inspired me in a bunch of ways. We’ve closed a bunch of new investments while I’ve been away that are taking us in marginally in some new directions. Our firm runs like a well-oiled machine when I am away. I can focus more on other things. I have met literally hundreds of entrepreneurs in Europe who are bucking the odds and doing it the hard way, staying at home and showing that you don’t need to be in silicon valley to change the world. And last but not least, I’ve got a brand new blog and a new domain.

I’ve also been able to have my family with me for much of this travel, particularly in Europe. As my kids get older and start fending for themselves, I hope the Gotham Gal will do more traveling with me. Travel sucks, but it sucks less when you are with your family.

So I’ve become a traveling man. I guess I’ll have to start really using dopplr.

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#Blogging On The Road#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. ceonyc

    You should start picking up a mobile workout routine… one you can do in a hotel room. No matter where I am, I start out with 2 ab exercises (… and…, pushups, and some squats or kicks. You don’t need any equipment, videos, pads, etc…

    1. fredwilson

      Shoot me first

      1. ceonyc

        haha… Well you said you were out of shape because of your traveling, so I thought I’d offer some tips–unless you just wanna carry around a yoga mat wherever you go.

        1. fredwilson

          I don’t like to exercise at home or in a hotel roomI like a bike, a yoga studio, or a gym

          1. vincentvw

            How about running? I found that that’s pretty compatible with whatever location you go to. Also a somewhat interesting way to get to know your new neighbourhood, though biking’s more spread out.

          2. fredwilson

            That was my old routine but my knees have given out on me which is why Iswitched to biking

  2. bryc3

    I get the “you look tired” comment all the time. this was the first week in over 6 months I wasn’t on a plane at least twice. that’s pretty much been my routine for the last 3 years. my carbon footprint sucks, but once you’ve baked travel into your routine it can be really enjoyable.a few pieces of advice for those in relationships that are just beginning to travel- be sure to clearly communicate your schedule with your significant other. we try to sit down each Sunday night and discuss what the upcoming weeks travels looks like. surprise trips or extended stays that aren’t planned or discussed ahead of time will take their toll on any relationship. another suggestion is to find ways to prioritize one on one time when you’re home. I block out lunch with my wife every Monday which helps her feel like the time gone creates added flexibility when I’m in town.

    1. fredwilson

      Great advice Bryce

  3. Todd Savage

    I hear you, Fred. Travel can be brutal on the body and the mind. It certainly isn’t getting any easier with how poorly run our airline system is these days. However, I have had times where a trip can be energizing and you bring new energy back to your office environment. I guess always best to look at this in a positive light.In my profession, it is very important to get out and meet people in person. However, I have been utilizing video conferencing more and more as the technology has gotten good enough that it feels like a real time meeting. Again, I always push to meet in person, but I have found video conferencing to be effective. Don’t know if you can utilize this at all, but you may want to give it a try.

    1. Louis Berlan

      [Edit: replied at the wrong level of the thread…]

  4. Louis Berlan

    Interesting thoughts about being a creature of habit, Fred. It usually takes me a while to feel comfortable somewhere, and I’ve found that it’s limited my travels, or rather my enjoyment of them. One of the things I’ve found a little bit disappointing in traveling is that I’ve never found a way to integrate quickly into a place, and get a real feeling for what life there is like (rather than just the touristy things). In terms of American cities, Los Angeles is probably the worst in that respect.Oh and the plane aspect – I actually like planes, flying, etc. It’s too bad that US airlines and the crappy airports we have are changing that around very quickly…

  5. Jauder Ho

    If you clock sufficient miles to get upgrades regularly, then things usually are not too bad. I used to clock 120+k miles for almost a decade and while not always fun, gave me the opportunity to see and work at a lot of different places.Tip: is extremely helpful in finding good seats. I like exit row aisle myself.

  6. m

    I don’t travel that much for work, but I really do enjoy traveling for fun. I’ve gotten a little more concerned about my carbon footprint as I hop on planes that take me around the world a couple of times a year, and ones that take me across the country every couple of months. Do you buy carbon offsets for all the flying you do? (I know you have many charitable and political interests, so this is an honest question, not a finger wagging.)

    1. fredwilson

      Not yet but I’d like to. It would be great if the airlines offered that as an option when you book