My wife, mother-in-law, and I will be in Paris when this blog is posted on March 25. I am traveling to Cardiff, Wales, to attend a semiannual meeting of the International City-County Management Association’s (ICMA) International Committee and have included some time to do sightseeing in England and France. I always feel obligated to explain that these trips are appropriately done at my own expense with no contribution from any government agency or ICMA. The City may receive some incidental benefits from my participation on a professional committee, but I enjoy travel and will be the primary beneficiary of this adventure.
We are usually able to attend these meetings every other year, after we’ve had enough time to save some money for increasingly costly air fares, hotels, and meals. Last year, the meeting was in New Zealand, where I would love to visit; but my budget dictated otherwise. I was able to make the meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2009, where I moderated an international discussion on the economic crisis. Participants included local government officials and economists from Europe and the U.S., and I was able to take away some useful perspective that I believe I was able to apply in Albany.
I am sure there is something wrong with a person who essentially attends meetings for a living and chooses to attend more while on vacation. The reason I do it is that I enjoy the chance to exchange ideas with people I would not ordinarily have the chance to meet. A British colleague made a great presentation on performance audits at a meeting in Dublin four years ago, and I gained some insight from his experience that would not have been possible without the opportunity to hear and question him.
I’m also looking forward to showing my mother-in-law some great places in Europe, where she has never been. My wife has laid out a travel agenda that is likely to exhaust all of us and is sure to produce some group crabbiness. My hope is that we are still speaking to one another after a safe return from our travels.
As we prepare to leave, I always feel some trepidation about the long jet ride and the many inconveniences of being away from home. I don’t recall many trips where everything has gone exactly as I’d hoped, and I doubt that this one will be an exception. I am equally sure, however, that we will learn some important lessons and have some great stories to tell when we return. It should be a great vacation.