There Is No Glory In This

As I schlep through the San Jose airport at 5:30am to catch a flight to Los Angeles, I have a moment of nostalgia. I haven’t been here in a while since I’ve dramatically cut back on my travel, but I’ve probably wandered through this airport pre-dawn 50 times.

Thirty minutes ago when I got here, the airport was empty. I just had a morning call with Amy and now I’m watching the gate area fill up with mostly sleepy and occasionally noisy people. The smells are a complicated mix of antiseptic, sweat, deodorant, and perfume with cooking food mixed in. It sort of feels crisp and contemporary here, but in a way that I know will feel dated in a decade, like most airports.

Today is only the third day on the road and I’m already exhausted. Monday was a full day that ended with a flight to San Francisco. I spent the night in Sunnyvale and then had an early morning of video conference calls before going to over to Return Path to have a long board meeting followed by dinner.

As I crawled into bed last night, I knew it would be an early morning since I’m on a 6:30 flight to Los Angeles. I have a meeting in downtown and then head back to the airport for a flight to Seattle where I’ll spend some time at Techstars at the end of the day. Thursday I have a morning meeting at Glowforge followed by a Moz board meeting and dinner. Early Friday morning I fly back home to Denver.

I did something resembling this every week for the better part of 20 years. I suppose I enjoyed it for a while or else I wouldn’t have done it. But whatever it was that I enjoyed eludes me this early morning.

  • It’s nice to be able to reflect and realise you’re in a better place than before.

  • I cld be flippant + say ‘been there, done that’… but you already know that.

    Jason + I discussed this at lunch a few weeks ago – there is no glory in the travel. I mentioned my million air miles; he countered w/ his ‘…over 2 million (prob)’. They all blend together such that the only good flights are the ones you don’t really remember, i.e. they were uneventful.

    Slogging thru airports is part of the price we pay for choosing to do what we want to do. In my case, it was to be directly involved in a bunch of amazing cos in San Francisco over a period of 15 yrs.

  • TamiMForman

    If I may be so bold, I think you do it (and did it) for the connection. Video and phone are great, but nothing beats the in-person connection. You are right that there is no glory or glamour in the travel, but the time with people you admire, respect, are inspired by and enjoying working with is worth it. (Says the woman who had a 4:00 am wake up in Denver to catch a flight to Indy before heading home to the husband and kids in NYC on Thursday …)

    I often say that I hate *going* places but I love *being* places. 🙂

    • Rick


    • That is a great way to put it. (said from somebody that has their picture on the walls of American Airlines Admirals Clubs)

      You know you fly too much when as you board in LAX (I fly out of PHL) the gate attendant says cutting it close tonight Mr. Sugar, we will have to blue tag your bag. The woman behind me says can I get that?? No, I said she can be my companion for the night don’t tell my wife. I get on the flight attendant also recognizes me and says: “but Mr. Sugar first class is full” I say I bought the ticket yesterday. She comes back and hands me a beer before we take off. As we are in the air another comes and gives me a snack. The woman who got her bag blue tagged with me and is sitting behind me says at first I was trying to figure out who you were and now I realize you just fly too much.

      There is no glory, but as you say I hate going places but love being places. I was walking in London last week catching myself thinking ugh I need to be here four more times this year. Then I thought….I get to be here four more times this year.

  • It’s no wonder you’ve won the lifetime achievement award at the age of 40! (The half-lifetime award in your case, as you’ve said). You get out what you put in.

  • “It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.'” (Douglas Adams)

    I’ve found that one thing helps me find some glory in all of my travel: running. My girlfriend said once that she never went on a run that she later regretted. It helps me reset, reversing some of the physical and mental cramps I get from being stuck on an airplane. It helps me soak in some sunshine and see some views that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

    At the end of it all, when the airplanes and the airports and the cities all blend together in my head, I remember each of the runs.

    • You have not been the the Air Qatar Lounges.

  • Rick

    What’s your point?

  • Pointsandfigures

    The unbundling of commercial aviation can’t come soon enough

  • Simone Brunozzi

    I did worse than this for the past 7.5 years (105/110 flights per year, 1/3 of which international, across most timezones). I completely understand you.
    It is actually very hard for “normal” people to understand how difficult it is to handle this amount of travel in a proper way.

  • mark gelband

    It’s how our past choices inform our present that matter. Find – do – that one thing today that helps you feel better about yourself, your circumstance, the world.

  • Dave Katz

    Everything in moderation. When I travel too much I hate it. When I don’t travel I hate being stuck. It always comes down to where I’m going and for what reasons. There’s something refreshing about being tired and exhausted from good hard work that drives results. It’s not fun running around like a chicken with their head cut off.

  • conorop

    I feel the same “no glory” feelings towards an 80-100 work week sans travel. Do you agree?

    • Rick

      80 – 100 hours per week. How many businesses do you have going?

      • conorop

        I personally cap at 60ish hours. I laugh at my friends that put in 80-100. No room for life in that schedule.

        • Rick

          Right now I’m so bored I’m putting in 80 – 100 hours a week trying to find something to get excited about. This sucks!

  • Jordan Wolfson

    I admire your honesty, and maybe I’m reading into it, but it sounds like you might be talking about more than airports here. Nice bit of writing. You ever draw?

    • Good call. Yes – there’s definitely meta going on.

      My mom is an artist. All I can manage to do is scribble.

  • When in LA…make time for the beach. 🙂

    • I was in LA for literally four hours. Next time. I didn’t even see the ocean.

  • “The smells are a complicated mix of antiseptic, sweat, deodorant, and perfume with cooking food mixed in.” Maybe your best line ever!

  • BSchildt

    …but without “this”, there is no glory.

  • ktinboulder

    I think it’s the curiosity and wandering that you love 😉

  • I know I used to love being on the road. But, that was before I had great things drawing me “home” — a great team, community, family, etc. [Typed while sitting on an airplane on a day-trip to SF.]

  • take_it_easy

    We all love(d) tech. Questions to ponder below.

    Is it that Wall st and money are overtaking tech free spirit? Or is it that that there is a realization that money can’t buy happiness? (even though you need to know what having money is to understand what happiness is not) Is it not knowing what makes us truly happy? Is it the hurt to see influence or influential ability of tech plateau? What is my mind/body signaling to me?

  • Don’t you have enough money that you could stop doing this. Couldn’t you just go do what makes you happy/not drained.