Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some Things I've Learned Traveling

Over the past year, I've been away from home already about 120 days. By the end of the year, I'm looking at around 180. Next year, according to one of the nebulous statements I've heard about our contract, we're apparently supposed to be on ships a minimum of 240 days.

For those of you who are counting, 240 days is 65% of a normal 365 day year. Since that's just "on-ship" time, and doesn't include the travel days, a conservative 20 of those brings my time away from home up to 71.2%... Now. The reality is, a 365 day year isn't an accurate measure of time gone considering that any normal, "full-time" job works a 40-60 hour work week and typically only 5 days out of every 7, and of course, Holidays are also excerpted from that. So with a 5 day work week, we'd be looking at 270 days, minus say 10 days off for holidays and maybe a paid sick day here and there is, based on my arithmetic, 260 days of work per year.

Again... one process of simple math later, I find that now based on a more accurate set of numbers, I find that suddenly I'm gone alternatively 92.3% of the year... or... factoring in travel days...


Let's recap... In my interview in October, I was told that the requisite travel would be 50-60%. By any measure, assuming the number of days we're "required" to be on ships hasn't changed in the contract since they signed it before we got hired, then the majority of my interview was either a misrepresentation or an outright lie.

Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity or carelessness. a paraphrase of a fine rule of thumb I often observe when making assumptions about people. It's hard to stick to within the entertainment industry, but still... I suppose it is rather likely that what really happened is just that no one higher up than myself bothered to do the math. That seems likely since no one within miles of the entertainment industry seems to like crunching numbers.

Now, the real question is - "Ok, Sean. What are you going to do about it?"

...No clue.

At any rate, the experience hasn't been without benefit.

For starters, I'm away from home for 37 days this round... which is far too much, but on the positive side, I'm visiting 13 countries. A few of which I haven't been to before. I'm on my way to Oslo, Norway at the moment, which is cool. I've already iterated on any number of blog-type forums the places I'm going to this trip, so I really don't need to do that again. But the truth is, the travel has at least been interesting.

It's also managed to solidify my real-world understanding of economic policy. Without succumbing too much to confirmation bias, I think the majority of what I already believed was exactly correct. This is often one of the bonuses of running your beliefs through a very stringent critical review process - even internally, the ability to make counter-arguments to yourself (and have friends who are capable of challenging you as well) until you're satisfied that the logic is sound, the premises make sense and the supporting data is valid. Besides which, let's be honest, most of it is basic common sense.

For example - London, like many of its European counterparts is a city of extremely high taxes in a country of high taxes. As I drove from London to Harwich, a town about 85 miles Northeast, I passed the time chatting with my driver. He was a very nice guy named Dave, who owned the taxi company and liked to go to Florida for motorcycle rallies. He mentioned that Harwich is growing as a bedroom community for London... few people can afford to live in the city-limits anymore. But more importantly, business are leaving London quickly. Higher corporate taxes have pushed businesses to find alternate places to hold offices, as they do everywhere. Far from governments free-loading on the backs of businesses wealth, they only manage to push them away. Add to this the cripplingly bad math of socialist health systems, cronyism, mercantilism, and the impossibility of "good" central planning, the reality of Europe is that it really is a horrible place to live overall.

In spite of the recent downturn in the value of the US Dollar, which has precipitated a subsequent decline in the standard of living in the United States, our purchasing power is still comparable (at least nationally) to England's, which is easily the highest of any part of Europe. This means that as much as we've experienced a decline (and believe me, I think America is in some of it's worst economic times in terms of real-value that it's seen in a long long time), it's still a better place to live than anywhere in Europe.

Social freedoms aren't much better over here. I guess in that instance it just comes down to a "pick your poison" sort of argument. You want to be able to drink at 18? Cool... move to Germany. But then, you can't get a driver's license til you're 18 either, so you won't really be that mobile as a teenager. Sure, that might not matter much to you if you live in Berlin - but try living without a car in Warnemunde or someplace even more rural. If you live in Amsterdam, apparently you can enjoy marijuana (if that's your bag... zing!), but if you are a cartoonist, you might be persecuted or fined if you "offend" someone... muslims perhaps. Personally, I tend to prefer the speech guarantees to the US over being able to smoke pot. I suppose that's not surprising since it's something I've never done nor plan to ever do, but the main point is that with free speech I can (and do) argue for it's legalization, whereas the pot-smoker's in the Netherlands have less power to argue for freedom of speech. Not all freedoms are as fundamental as the ones built into the Bill of Rights.

Even with the extreme hits it's taken over the past 60+ years, it, combined with the remnants of a much more free economic system are still keeping us afloat.

I get so sick of socialists yapping about "market failures" and how government always needs to step in and "fix" things. I have yet to see a failure of the market to provide necessities and amenities for people - certainly not one that was caused directly or indirectly by governmental action, whether that action was "beneficial" to certain businesses thus providing artificial (monopolistic) support destroying the ability for anyone else to compete on a level playing field through subsidies and protections, or through excessive taxation, hindering regulations and political biases, the failures are those of government. There are no clearer examples of that on a day-to-day basis than ambling about in Europe.

...can't wait til I go to St. Petersburg.

On the flip side of my sort of negative comments, my extensive travels have confirmed another one of my deeply held beliefs, in general. People are basically the same, everywhere you go. We all have the same sorts of needs and desires, and by and large, people are just really good. That makes me smile. It also means that whatever stupid governments do, and how poor mobs are at making large-scale decisions... individuals are fantastic. They're interesting, often smart, unique and typically worth meeting, everywhere you go. Makes me feel like the world is probably alright - no matter how bad it might seem from time to time.

That's been a wonderful aspect of my travels. And I have a few more places I need to see. Australia/New Zealand. More of South America. Antarctica... and... Asia, which I'm not going to get to for a bit yet.

But... it's also excedingly tiring, and I can't keep doing this without a raise. Let's see what happens in December and January.

Speaking of work... think it's time to go do some.

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