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How to Take a Work Trip across Three Countries with Your Three Kids–and No Partner–without Losing Your Mind

I’d been planning a Cuba trip for a while–I had work to do there and in-laws to visit, and I hadn’t been since early 2013–but for one reason or another, dates just weren’t lining up. Finally, the calendar cleared and I secured multiple assignments that would help pay for the trip, so it was game on– time to book flights.

Except I wasn’t traveling alone.

Four passengers = four passports and four visas. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

Four passengers = four passports and four visas. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

My oldest daughter, who would turn six during our trip, had been to Cuba twice, but the youngest, ages 2 and 1, hadn’t yet met their abuela and tias and tio. With a mother-in-law who’s in her 90s, it’s not as if I have the luxury of putting off a visit with the grands. Yes, I needed to work–covering everything from the papal visit to restoration projects and new entrepreneurial ventures–but I also needed to make sure my kids and their father’s side of the family were getting some quality time together.

Only my husband wasn’t going to be a part of the equation.

A complicated immigration status would keep him at home in New York while I sat on airplanes and hauled two suitcases and as many strollers through three airports in three different countries with three children, starting out at 4 AM in New York City and ending up 15 hours later in Havana.

“Are all these kids yours? Are you a sadist or something?” That’s what the US Immigration officer asked when I came back to the US 10 days after I’d left. I just gave him the evil eye. My kids are great travelers.

My two-year old looks out the window on our approach to Mexico City, our layover on the way to and from Havana. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

My two-year old looks out the window on our approach to Mexico City, our layover on the way to and from Havana. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

That being said, enough people asked how I managed to make the trip alone that I thought it might be worth sharing my clutch tips about how to travel alone with three kids on a work trip without losing your marbles.

1. Pack light.
Yes, you’re traveling with kids, but trust me: kids don’t need nearly as much stuff as you think they do. I managed a single carry-on for all the in-transit essentials: diapers and wipes for the youngest, a change of clothes for each, passports and all other IDs, plane tickets and documentation, my laptop and wallet, a camera, a book, my phone, and a coloring book and pack of markers. Kids–even kids who travel a lot, like mine–can be entertained for a good long while with seat back safety cards, barf bags (make puppets!), headphones, and tray tables (sorry, passenger in front of us; I’ll try to keep it gentle).

Don’t pack the entire toy box. And as for all those things you think are essential: My rule of thumb when traveling is to not pack items you can buy at your destination. A caveat for Cuba is that you probably should pack all the diapers you’ll need; diapers can be tough to find and are expensive and of poor quality. Ditto wet wipes.

2. Stay organized.
Keep all the paperwork you’ll need in airports close at hand, organized and accessible. Bring along a notarized letter from your children’s other parent–even though many airlines don’t require them–in which that parent gives her or his consent to take your children abroad. You probably won’t need the letter, but you don’t want to be in a situation where you need it and don’t have it. Because my children carry both my husband’s last name and my last name (and because this confounds so many officials), I also carry birth certificates, a copy of our marriage certificate, and vaccination records as evidence of our respective identities and relationships.

3. Accept help if offered and ask for it if it’s not.
The toughest thing about a 14-hour day of travel was–I kid you not–finding a way to go pee without worrying that my one year old would tumble head-first out of her plane seat and onto the floor. Pressing my five year old into service worked for much of the trip and those tasks where I needed an extra set of hands, but never when I needed to go to the bathroom. I searched for a trustworthy-looking adult and asked them if they could watch my kids for a few minutes.

4. Trust your oldest with age-appropriate responsibilities…
… and reward them with praise (and, if you can, a special treat) for shouldering an extra load. My five year old pushed one of her siblings in a stroller through all three airports and even operated a special elevator by herself when we couldn’t all fit into the elevator for a single trip. I knew that she was a little scared, but I also told her I was totally confident in her abilities and that I was watching her the whole time (which was true). When we had a free moment, I bought her a small bag of chocolate-covered coconut as a thank you.

5. Know your danger zones.
I wish I’d thought to ask whether my airline, Interjet, had milk on its afternoon and evening flights, as both of my youngest children drink milk from bottles. It does not– it only has milk available on morning flights. On the last leg of our return flight home, I had no milk and kid #2 spent the last 20 minutes curled up in the fetal position on top of his tray table.

6. Ease your reentry.
I scheduled in a two-night layover in Mexico City on our return trip, mainly because I love Mexico City, my former home, and because I had some reporting work I needed to do there. But it also ended up being a welcome way to transition between Cuba and home, what with a comfy hotel bed, running water (which we did not have in Cuba), and a room service splurge. If you can break up your travels into more manageable bits, it will be easier on kids… and on you.

7. Take advantage of Trusted Traveler, Global Entry, and similar services.
When booking your tickets, make sure you elect for TSA pre-check if you’re eligible, and take advantage of your trusted traveler/Global Entry memberships if you have them so you don’t have to wait in line for ages when you return home.

8. Bring snacks. Lots of snacks.
Cheerios, fruit chews, apple bars… these are my go-to snacks for kids when we’re on the road or in the air. A snack produced with a parental flourish at the precise moment preceding a meltdown can prevent crisis.

Also, if traveling in areas where you’re not the one in control of when, what, or how you’re eating (as was the case at my in-laws’), bring some breakfast basics for your kids. Instant oatmeal is the best choice; it packs flat, weighs practically nothing, is easy to make, and is filling.

9. Have a clear work plan.
I had A LOT to do in Havana, and while I had my sister-in-law and niece to help care for the kids, I was still the one who had to fit all the usual parenting tasks in at the beginning and end of the day. Being organized before I landed and staying organized each day by following a work plan I’d set for myself was essential to not losing my mind.

Book Fests & Bookstores: September Appearances

Yes, yes, I know: Pope Francis in His Own Words was published two years ago.

So why am I starting a book tour of sorts right now?

Well, as you’re probably aware, Pope Francis will be visiting Cuba and the United States next month, and it seems like a prime time to reintroduce the book to English- and Spanish-speaking audiences (did you know the book has been translated into about 15 languages?). Plus, I received a few lovely invitations to do so, and I couldn’t turn them down.

If you’re in one of the cities below, I hope you’ll spread the word and join me at one (or more!) of these events:

Decatur Book Festival: Decatur, Georgia, USA
I’m grateful to my alma mater, Emory University, for inviting me to participate in this beloved book festival. I’ll be signing books in the Emory tent from 3-4 pm on Saturday, September 5.

Brooklyn Book Festival, Bookend Event Series: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Before I head out of the country to cover Pope Francis’s visit in Cuba, I’ll be talking about the book and signing copies as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival. My generous host is the delightful Hullabaloo Books, and I couldn’t think of a better bookstore to have a conversation about Pope Francis. This is an Official Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Event.

This event will take place at 8 pm on Tuesday, September 15.

Cuba Libro Bookstore: Havana, Cuba
I’m so excited that I’ll have the chance to talk about the book the day before Pope Francis will be giving his mass at Plaza de la Revolución in Havana.

This event will take place at 5 pm on Saturday, September 19.

Would you like to add Pope Francis in His Own Words to your bookshelf or inventory? Need a speaker or expert to interview about the Pope? Get in touch by emailing me: writingjulie[at]gmail[dot]com!

BinderCon LA: A Review

I’m just back from Los Angeles, where the second iteration of BinderCon was held this past weekend on the campus of UCLA. Described by organizers Leigh Stein and Lux Alptraum as “[a] symposium to empower women and gender non‑conforming writers with tools, connections, and strategies to advance their careers,” and by male trolls on twitter as a “militant” man-hating mafia (no, really), BinderCon included keynotes, panels, workshops, speed pitch sessions, and plenty of time for socialization.

I’m a pretty critical person. If you know me, you might consider me to be the most critical person you know, and I’m ok with that. When I criticize, it’s because I really believe things and people can be and do better. But even I can’t find anything to criticize about this conference. In fact, of all the conferences I’ve ever attended–and I’ve been to a lot–this one is, hands-down, the very best, and here’s why:

1. It is extremely well-organized.
If you ever attend a conference and pay close attention to the organizers, they always look harried and frazzled and seriously stressed, and there is inevitably something that goes wrong. This wasn’t the case at BinderCon. Stein and Alptraum were always busy, but they were focused and present and had clearly prepared so well that I, at least, wasn’t aware of a single hitch. This is likely due to the fact that they had assembled a team of volunteers and arrived on-site a day before to train them. No doubt there were a hundred other actions taken behind the scenes to make sure that things ran smoothly, and that’s what a great conference should do: seem almost effortless from the vantage point of attendees.

2. It makes the conference accessible.
With ticket prices over $100, organizers knew that the conference wouldn’t be financially accessible to everyone who wanted to attend, so it made scholarships available. Twenty-two of the participants were scholarship recipients.

3. It sets a tone for attendees.
I’ve been to plenty of conferences that felt like a loosely held together jumble of presentations, all to be passively sopped up by attendees. At BinderCon, participants were invited to engage repeatedly, and in multiple ways. For one thing, they all agreed (by virtue of being there) to a code of conduct, which established an atmosphere of collegiality and respect. Organizers made a phone number available to which participants could send a text if they experienced a code of conduct violation. But the tone-setting went beyond that, and was reinforced in multiple ways via multiple media. Inside the conference agenda, participants were encouraged to be friendly (engaging other writers), responsible, and bold, owning their own space and sharing of themselves generously with others, engaging in challenging conversations, and taking breaks if necessary. More than one participant took to twitter to remark on how easy it felt to connect with other attendees, even though they typically found networking events and conferences socially challenging.

The atmosphere of active attendee engagement was also a core feature of panels and workshops. Many workshop facilitators engaged participants not solely through Q&As, but other exercises. The assumption was that everyone had something valid and valuable to share, and I suspect most attendees would agree that their “take-aways” were all the richer as a result. Because I was a panelist, I know that the BinderCon organizers who handled programming planning specifically set out to create this type of environment; it didn’t happen by accident.

4. It wasn’t intended to just inspire.
One of the common features of conferences is that you feel energized by attending– by connecting with like-minded folks who share your interests and by the new knowledge or skills you’ve acquired–but one of the things that typically occurs is that you leave without a sense of how you can apply these things in your life at home. Facilitators and planners were required to create actionable, resourceful take-aways for participants, actually useful tips, strategies, or information that could be applied after the conference ended.

5. Its values were reflected in every aspect of planning and programming.
From the bookseller to the photographer on hand for headshots, supporting women and their work was a value that was evident the entire weekend.

6. Keynotes were conversations, not speeches.
Two of the three conference keynotes, including the first one of the weekend, were conversations, not just speakers pontificating about their own ideas. To me, this was one of the single-most effective ways of establishing a sense of what participants could expect from BinderCon. It was incredibly refreshing to have two powerhouse people in conversation rather than one person plucked from a speakers’ bureau, reading prepared remarks they’d probably read a hundred times before.

7. There was actual diversity in every room.
Lots of conference organizers–like lots of publications–say they want diverse attendees. Far fewer conferences actually DO have diverse attendees. BinderCon could (and should) be a role model in this regard. If you’re a conference organizer, you don’t have to guess at how Stein and Alptraum brought together a diverse spectrum of women and gender non-conforming writers; Alptraum explained the process in this piece she wrote for The Advocate.

8. The conference managed to provide value to writers at various stages in their careers and in various genres.
If you’re not a writer, you might not realize just how much a feat that is. But from inviting writers and editors to host topical tables during a networking lunch (an essayists’ table, travel writers’ table, and freelancers’ table were a few among them) to organizing and offering speed pitch sessions in which writers could connect with editors from magazines as well as literary and screenwriting/TV agents, there really was something for everyone at BinderCon.

9. It provided practical added value.
A few weeks before the conference, after seeing the agenda, I tweeted to organizers that the only thing that might please me more would be if someone was on-site to do headshots for writers. And don’t you know it, they were actually already in the process of identifying a photographer to do just that? A local professional photographer came in on Sunday for headshot sessions (plus free make-up, provided by Glam Squad), offering free headshots… or $25 for non-watermarked portraits. It was a deal.

10. Everything started and ended on time.
Do I even need to say how amazing that is?

**
The next BinderCon will be held in New York City in November. Learn more here.

After a gaffe, the decision to be more deliberate

Like every other freelancer I know, I get stuck in the not-so-mentally-healthy “feast or famine” mode way too often.

That means one or more of the following:

-I take on a little too much work, work I can do, and do well, but which makes me a little nutty and has me in front of the computer too much.
-I take on a job I don’t really want or that doesn’t pay as well as I’d like because I’m afraid that if I don’t take it I might regret my decision when a dry spell rolls around.
-I spend extended periods in triage mode, ordering and reordering my to-do list by deadline rather than other factors that should probably take more precedence.

This isn’t good, of course, but for a long, long time–far too much of my career–I’ve felt that it’s inevitable, just part and parcel of life as a freelancer.

I’ve made incremental improvements every year, saying no to projects with ridiculously low fees or turning down some projects that felt far too fluffy, but there’s always more progress to be made… as I was reminded yesterday after making a terrible online gaffe involving an overly candid email sent to recipients who shouldn’t have been cc’d on the message.

The email, sent late in the evening, long after people with 9-to-5 jobs stop working, was a symptom–and an embarrassing one–of a larger problem. Despite recent vigorous efforts to scale back–unsubscribing from mailing lists that clutter my inbox and waste my time and saying no to a couple projects that didn’t pay well and were puff writing I don’t want to be doing, for example–I realized that there was (is!) still a lot of work to be done. I need to be more deliberate in every area of my work, and the first order of business is developing a better system for dealing with email.

I don’t know about you, but pretty much every time I look at my inbox these days, I already feel exhausted, even before I make a keystroke. There’s so much junk mail masquerading as important messages demanding my attention. There’s the feeling that I have to have my inbox open from the moment I’m awake until the moment I go to bed, in case an editor or source sends a message requiring urgent attention. And on and on and on. But the reality is, the less time I’m looking at my inbox, the happier and more productive I am. The less urgent everything seems–and is. And, obviously, the less likely I am to feel so depleted that I hit “Send” when I really need to give a message a second look and make sure that it’s appropriate… and addressed to the intended recipients.

This isn’t about slowing down, necessarily, though I feel like lots of freelancers write posts about that, setting goals that are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. The reality is, this is not a profession for folks operating at a slow pace. It is, however, about being more thoughtful about each action, about taking the time to make sure that every word counts (and those that don’t stay in my head or between myself and my most trusted confidante, my husband), and about devoting time and attention to communication that truly matters.

Have you or do you struggle with similar challenges as a freelancer? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

How to Ditch Your 9-to-5 Job

[Note: This piece was originally published on Matador, where I was managing editor and lead faculty member of the travel writing course. Over the next few months, I’ll dust off some other articles from my Matador days that I’ll be updating and republishing here.]
**

Since quitting my 9-to-5 job as the assistant director of a mental health agency in 2004 and becoming a full-time traveler and writer, many people have remarked that they envy my lifestyle. What they don’t recognize is that they can create the same kind of life for themselves by following a relatively simple set of steps, which I’ll share with you here. I didn’t plan the kind of life that I have now—in fact, I didn’t plan at all; I just quit my job without a Plan B, which is not the best idea for most people. My experiences of living on the edge, though, have helped me identify the top 10 tips for you to ditch your own 9-to-5 job and have a bit more security than I did.

1. Let go of your long-cherished vision of your professional self.
When I found myself unexpectedly answering my boss’s question, “How are we going to work together?” by answering, “We’re not, because I quit,” I didn’t realize that one of the biggest challenges ahead of me was letting go of the career trajectory I’d mapped for myself. By the age of 25, I’d been the first poetry therapist to work in two New York City social service agencies, I’d already reached the middle management rung on my profession’s ladder, and I’d simultaneously begun building my own counseling and consulting business with two colleagues. I was published in an academic journal and I was the director of a board. I was well on my way to fulfilling my high school yearbook’s prediction of “Most Likely to Succeed.” Dropping out of the profession meant I’d be disappointing a lot of people—my parents, who had paid for my Masters degree, my mentor, who had nurtured my learning and my career, and myself, as I’d planned big professional accomplishments by the age of 30. In order to ditch your 9-to-5, you’ll need to begin to let go of whatever conventional career plan you had for yourself and whatever expectations everyone has ever had for you.

Practice becoming comfortable with ambiguity and what others might consider to be aimlessness. Don’t underestimate the work this step takes. Our society is largely structured around the maintenance of the 9-to-5 life.

2. Perfect your pitch.
When you’ve made it through step 1 and you’re starting to become comfortable with the idea of the new professional you, one of the next challenges you’ll confront is explaining yourself and justifying your career and lifestyle change to almost everyone you know. Don’t be apologetic for your decision to forgo the traditional trajectory, but do take the time to develop a pitch or a story to tell when someone asks you why and how you’re forging a new path for yourself. A true and well-crafted narrative is compelling to most people—even those who’d like to see you conforming to social expectations—and it can often serve you well. When I explain how I was once a social worker who had her own business and worked as the assistant director of a New York City agency, then owned an art gallery, and then became a full-time writer, editor, and translator, it becomes a hook for continued conversation and often leads to offers of work and further exposure.

3. Make an inventory of your skills.
Whether you take the time to plan your transition or whether you jump into it headlong, as I did, it’s incredibly helpful to make a written inventory of the skills you possess that can bring you work and other opportunities. As I listed my competencies, I realized I had skills and knowledge that were so second nature to me that I hadn’t realized their potential value as sources of work. In this initial list, include everything that comes to mind—don’t censor yourself at all. If you can cook, clean, write, translate, organize, sing, type, take photos, transcribe, surf, do calligraphy, or make movies, write it down. If you’re short on ideas, ask a trusted friend to make a list with you.

4. Narrow the list.
Once you’ve made an inventory of your skills, review it and begin to narrow down your possibilities for independent work. Subject the items on our list to three criteria: (1) Which of the skills are portable? (meaning you can use them anywhere in the world); (2) Which of the skills are profitable? (meaning that they’ll generate income—not enough just to scrape by, but something to actually live on); and (3) Which of the skills have the lowest demand load? (meaning which will not require you to purchase special equipment, obtain employment authorization in another country, secure a work visa, or otherwise require negotiating red tape and the constant monitoring of bureaucratic requirements and deadlines).

5. Rework the list.
Now that you’ve determined which items on your list are most portable, most profitable, and lowest demand, begin to refine the list a bit more. What are the top five skills you could use to seek work that takes you outside of the 9-to-5 grind? Which skills might lead you to actual job leads? How can you generate work using these skills no matter where you go? Which skills will lead to work when you need it?

6. Plan with a partner.
If you’re in a serious long-term relationship, you need to discuss your ideas and plans with your partner. Ditching the security of the 9-to-5 life and trading it in for a life that is more independent and flexible is not for everyone and it requires risks that may not be acceptable for all people. When you are in a relationship, the needs and abilities of your partner with respect to adapting to your plans need to be discussed and agreed upon. What kinds of shifts may need to occur in your day-to-day life in order to make the transition realistic and to what degree is your partner willing and able to accommodate and support you?

7. Assess your security needs.
If you’re the type of person who needs medical and dental insurance, a 401(k), and a steady, predictable paycheck, then you will need to do some serious planning to fulfill these needs before ditching your full-time job. There are resources for meeting these needs off the regular workday clock (see Freelancers Union for some great ideas), but you’ll need to do most—if not all—of the legwork on your own. You’re now the chief, cook, bottle washer, and human resources director.

8. Be for real.
Before you ditch your 9-to-5, do a searching inventory of yourself. The main criterion? Be for real. Are you a person who needs structure? Do you work best with others? Do you have a hard time scheduling, organizing, or delegating your time well? Do you need the praise of a superior or the affirmation of colleagues? Are you envisioning life off the 9-to-5 grid as one long adventurous, romantic narrative? If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” it’s likely that you’ll find life off the time clock to be a serious challenge. Among the many people who have commented that they’re envious of what they view as my freestyle life, there are a couple who have acknowledged that they’d never be able to follow in my footsteps because they need a boss, they need the predictability of a regular paycheck, or they need someone to assign tasks to them. I admire these people because they know themselves and make their career and lifestyle decisions realistically according to their own personal and professional needs.

9. Create community.
Working off the clock has many advantages, but it can get lonely at times, especially after the initial thrill of working on your own wears off. Be sure that you’ve made plans for connecting with other people no matter what you’re doing or where you are.

10. Assess your progress.
Every once in awhile, take some time to assess your progress. When I stop to think about how my life has unfolded since turning in my resignation and never turning back, I recognize that I work more now than I ever did, but that I’m also happier than I ever was. I also realize, though, that I need to continue refining my short-and long-term plans in order to maintain my current lifestyle. Since I don’t have a boss to sit down and do an annual performance evaluation with me, I need to do constant evaluation myself and so will you.

Writing Advice: How to Work Your Way into More Work

As the completion and delivery of a big project near, I always get a familiar twinge of anxiety: What next, what next? And this: Where’s the money going to come from?

If you’re a freelance writer, you are probably familiar with the feast or famine nature of this line of work, a cycle that can tend to produce thrilling highs and epic emotional (not to mention, financial) lows. In my own experience, everything always works out, but I’m regularly seized by that one moment, however fleeting, when it looks like, just this time, I might be without work.

This happened recently, and I decided to test out a few strategies for keeping work coming in when it looks like the flow might stagnate a bit. Here are my favorite–and most effective– take-aways:

1. Use a rejection to expand the conversation.
I was bummed out recently when a feature I’d been discussing with an editor for a national magazine–one where I’d never had a byline and one that pays well–got axed. “I love the idea,” she wrote in an email after we’d been discussing the story for a couple weeks, “but I’ve just run out of space for the summer.”

Cue the sad clowns.

I didn’t want to lose her attention while I had it, though, so I decided to be the one to close off the conversation by thanking her for her time and letting her know I’d be happy to be considered for any one-off assignments–especially last-minute pieces she needed filed–if they came up. Though it hasn’t result in an assignment yet, this approach has been very effective for myself and other colleagues. If you’re the type of writer who can deliver solidly fact-checked, well-written text on a tight deadline, being willing to take on a last-minute assignment can make you the go-to writer for a busy editor, and often results in repeat assignments.

2. Deliver an assignment with an idea for the next one.
This idea is so blindingly obvious, but it’s also one that I started trying only recently. After filing an initial article with an outlet I’d really enjoyed working with and that would be an ideal space for my work on certain urban topics, I realized that the editor, however much she liked my work, probably wouldn’t be the one pinging me for new ideas. Instead, each time I delivered an article, I would send it in along with an idea for the next piece I wanted to write. Not only did the editor see that I was eager to continue writing for the outlet, it got me in the pattern of always being on the look-out for stories that would be a good fit for the outlet. Suddenly, I had a fistful of fun, interesting assignments.

3. Branch out.
When you’re in that spot of anticipating a possible slump in confirmed assignments, start branching out. A clear schedule is the perfect time to start pitching some new beats or working your way into other genres. I recently picked up an assignment for a book review and a feature about women artists in Latin America; these are a form and subject that interest me, but I hadn’t actively pitched in either area because I’d been focused on other projects. I’m pretty excited about both assignments and am looking forward to seeing where they might lead.

4. Follow-up on dead pitches.
For the longest time, I avoided sending follow-up messages to editors. I didn’t want to be that writer, the annoying one who might be perceived as pestering for an answer about my query. But when I started scheduling follow-ups into my daily work schedule, I discovered that most editors aren’t bothered by them at all. Email gets hung up in spam filters or it hits an editor’s inbox when she’s busy closing an issue. Things happen. A polite follow-up message won’t faze a professional editor, and may result in a confirmed assignment.

What are your tips for ensuring you’ve got a steady flow of work? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Is one lesson of Matthew Power’s death that we need to slow down?

That was the take-away question for me after I read Brad Wieners’ “No Way Is Matt Power Gone” tribute and report in BloombergBusinessweek earlier today.

I didn’t know Power personally, as several of my friends did, but his death was unsettling for all the obvious reasons: He was young. He wasn’t, by any accounts I’d read, interested in derring-do for derring-do’s sake, and, of course, it meant the loss of a gifted storyteller. But after reading Wieners’ piece, Power’s death felt unsettling for another reason: Unless there were underlying medical issues that no one knows about, it might have been an evitable death.

Wieners explains that Power flew from 20-degree Farenheit New York City to Uganda, where the temperature, according to a companion, was between 100 and 113 degrees. His plane landed and he hit the ground running, as most all of us who do this kind of work do. Wieners writes:

“Matt may have been a free spirit, but he paid a New York mortgage and worked hard to afford it. Reviewing Matt’s itinerary—red-eye, trans-Atlantic flight followed by a seven-hour drive to the trailhead the day of his arrival, then joining the expedition on his second day in country—I got a shiver of recognition. I’d have made the same mistake. Not just failing to give heat the respect I do altitude. Failing to give it more time. Departing from New York, where there is never a moment to lose, there’s no way I’d think to schedule an extra couple of days—much less the week Casa recommends to top athletes—to let my body adjust. No one has that kind of time.

[emphasis mine]

I had a shiver of recognition, too. I’ve left frigid, wintry New York for tropical climes–Belize, Suriname, Cuba–and have pushed on upon arrival despite feeling less than ready because, it seemed, there wasn’t any other choice. I’ve taken ridiculous, self-abusing flight itineraries because they were cheaper than the alternatives. I’ve packed my daily schedule from morning to midnight because if I’m going to the expense of on-the-ground-reporting, I want to make the most of it. Writers don’t build a rest day or two into our schedules because we can’t afford them–literally–and rare is the case where a publication is footing the bill for us to have a day or two to acclimate to a different environment. I’ve yet to meet an editor who has said, “You know what? We’re going to spring for an extra night in a decent hotel so you can get your bearings and rest before you go out and report this piece for us in top form.” In fact, I’ve yet to meet an editor who has paid expenses adequately, period.

The idea that Power didn’t have to die is one that enrages. And yet, in a publishing world that’s driven by a news cycle that’s way shorter than 24 hours and balance sheets that favor other priorities over paying for good reporting, it’s not surprising and it’s not likely to change.