I got out of Birmingham International Train Station and got into the Uber. I closed the door and sank into the seat, shattered. That was the final leg of a rare 4-day whirlwind trip across Europe. I was wondering how many miles I put on this week alone. Then again, after a year on the new job, how many miles did I travel for work anyway? Did I go around the world? And what did I learn from all these travels in planes, trains and automobiles?
Flying has taken me to two vastly different cities this year, two places I never visited before. I am not a musician and I never listen to country music. However, there I was in a honky-tonk in Nashville, away from the cold UK spell in March. A local musician was doing her best rendition of Dolly Parton’s Jolene. It was a perfect mix of warmth, the smell of barbeque spices, a local brew and the southern drawl coming out of the speakers. You even sing along after a while. You can forget about all of that when you get off the plane in Milan. It’s all about design, dah-ling. There already was Andy Warhol pop art at Malpensa Airport. The whole evening with Car Design News got me even more immersed with fashion, car design and circularity. When I got off the subway the next day, the Duomo and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II towered over me. Breath-taking. I love flying (sorry about the carbon footprint) but how else can you get quickly to the places you need to go to? Turns out all the beautiful people love it too and they know where to go. You should have seen the fleet of private jets lined up in a row at Milan’s Linate Airport.
The first time I ever visited Birmingham almost 9 years ago, it was a nightmare to get around by car. I got a ticket for driving in a bus lane by accident. That was a charming souvenir to get in the mail a few weeks later in Michigan. I never drove into the centre of that town ever again. I am a car guy indeed but my appreciation for the railways only got deeper, especially over the last year. Heading down the M42 from the airport, you could see all the new roads and new bridges in preparation for the new HS2 railway. Any quick way to get down to London is welcome in my book, no matter how long that gigantic worksite is going to take. I am amazed that I did not travel by train more this year because the network in Europe is phenomenal. I can leave Birmingham at 9h00. I can work while I am traveling and be in downtown Paris by 16h00. Of course, just keep an eye on the strikes or the delays here and there. Case and point, I will point to my memorable race to London from Germany
In the end it is always about the cars. All over Europe, I was fortunate to see behind closed doors what our clients can do with our software. It truly is inspiring. Here are a few other random observations.
· The Lucid Air is really striking in the metal. I mean, there I was in Tennessee visiting the Acropolis and there it was. Yes, I really enjoyed writing that sentence.
· The same observation goes for the Rivian Amazon van. Just as the sun was setting it looked futuristic in the desert.
· In the UK, the garages are just too small. It is not convenient to use them to you know, park a car in it. My Michigan garage was big enough to easily park two cars, a motorcycle, and a barbeque. Then again, some cars will never fit anywhere…
I am fortunate and thankful to work for a company who appreciates and understands the needs of its workforce. In the office or not people get their work done and then some. I really enjoy working from home most of the time. However, there is only so much that can be accomplished via Zoom. The biggest takeaway from last year is travelling remains one of the best things you can do in life. First it is great to meet clients face to face, wherever they may be. Second, there is something magical about experiencing life somewhere new, somewhere you have never been, out of your comfort zone. You can feel the neuro-synapses lighting up in your brain. It puts your mind in another dimension. Travel indeed forms the youth (and the seasoned). In case you were wondering I went around the world indeed. Almost 1.5 times to be exact. And now, off to Frankfurt for the 2023 Automotive Innovation Forum. See you there!