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Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: The Importance of Travel


a blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach


The bald guy in row 5E of business class has folded his Le Monde and is now watching Ironman on his private video console. One row ahead of me, the 10-month old from ‘15-minutes-south-of-Miami’ sleeps on her Juicy Couture sweat-suited mother’s lap. Marly and Me fades to credits, and I wonder when the drink cart will come around again.

I’m currently on my fourth return flight from France in one year. Since I decided to move there, I’ve gotten pretty good at this traveling thing. I always take the same two flights, Boston to Paris, it’s always a Boeing 767, and I always sit in the second of the four row deep economy section between business class and the giant cave of coach in the back. I feel less like a sheep in this little area and I have easier access to the bathroom. The food and drink trollies start at the row before mine, and the seat-picking app on the airline’s website says my seat is “priority”… for the life of me I don’t know why.

But it makes me feel important. I like feeling important.

And I can watch business class. As I do, I constantly wonder whether their wide-load super-reclining seats and glass glasses of free drinks merit the $5K they spent for 7 hours of not even spa-level pampering, but the serenity their exclusive flight attendants work so hard to achieve wafts back a few rows, and as I smell the scent of fresh baked cookies I can almost pretend that I’m there. Ok, not really.

To fly business class you are either important or rich. I like to think the creative looking types in business are traveling for work, and I wonder what it is they do that could require their presence in another country. Then I become extremely jealous of the dream jobs I imagine for these very important artists.

I once had a teacher (one of those near-deity drawing teachers at CalArts—Mike Mitchell), who said during an anecdote about Yellow Submarine “…at the time I was working in New York, London and Rome.” My chin hit the floor and I thought, how cool would that be? Jet-setting about, different cultures in need of my skills, c’est la classe! Traveling for any job sounds attractive to me, even something mundane like reprogramming cash registers. I often envy the traveling businesspeople I see in airports, whose work must be bone dry, and I suspect, inherently evil: exploiting indigenous peoples, pillaging natural resources, breaking environmental laws… but still, they’re lucky.

The last time I traveled for my currently neglected career was exactly a year ago, for The International Festival of Animation at Annecy, France. Even though my MFA thesis film qualified me as a student filmmaker, and I had to pay my own way, I felt awfully important. Since then I haven’t made any new work that could get me invited anywhere, but I did do a copious amount of personal travel, to see a pregnant best friend, celebrate my father’s 65th birthday (he’s so psyched to be a senior citizen), and decide whether I really want to move to France. The personal travel was pretty great too.

Maybe traveling for work isn’t so amazing after all. It seems that people who travel for work eventually hit a wall and start to hate it. They want to be close to home, near their friends and families, not catching shuttles and sleeping alone in hotel rooms. As my life starts to settle down, I see that traveling for the special people in my life is just as important as traveling for work.

The winter I just spent in Maine was the first time I lived with and near family since high school, and now I get it. Home is good, and life is about love and friendship and family. Living in France, my new life will be full of all the cultural benefits and drawbacks that come with living in a foreign country, but in the end I want it to be my home, where there are people I care about that care about me. And I would rather travel not because of what I do, but because of who I am. That, above all, is what’s important.