Most consultants work from large towns and cities. Most mines are distant in some far place. Some lucky consultants may be able to drive to the mine site. Most consultants have to fly and spend a day or weeks away from home. Here are some tips on those long flights from the city to the distant mine.
Try to go business class. It is far more comfortable, particularly for over-night flights. The argument is that sleeping well overnight enables you to arrive fresh for a day’s work. Conversely a bad trip crowded at the back of the plane leaves you in a not-decent state to do a decent day’s work. You need time to recover from the standard fare as compared to being able to get going immediately after a business class over-night. The only issue is the cost-benefit of the more expensive ticket versus a good as compared to mediocre day’s work.
Most mining companies that I work with allow their staff to fly overnight on business. And so too should their consultants. Especially if the consultant is going for a meeting to be held the day of arrival. If the consultant is young and not in the upper ranks and is going for a week or more of work at the mine, it is not unreasonable to accept that the flight may be standard.
I resist flying on a Sunday to get there to work on Monday. There are few enough weekends in life (and fewer still left to us older folk) without having to mess them up leaving after lunch or worse before lunch on Sunday. Monday is a work-day and start of the week. Travel then if you must.
An aside on this one: conference organizers are the worst in this regard. They seem to regard it is their holy duty to mess up Sundays by having a social get-together on Sunday night and to start the conference on Monday. I applaud the Brazilians who have said NO WAY and demand that Paste 2013 start on Tuesday.
I will skip over the obvious pieces of advice including:
- Leave a copy of your passport and credit cards in the office.
- Travel light with the fewest cloths possible—nothing is worse than a heavy bag dragged from hotel to meeting room and back again.
- Check your luggage—I have never lost mine and do not have to fuss cramming a bag into too small an overhead bin.
- Check your bookings when made by the travel agent—too often they get things wrong—or worse you do. Undertake a mental image trip along with the e-ticket.
- Take a good book and a set of quality earphones for the iPod—the type that blots out ambient noise is what I like.
- Get a big wallet into which the passport fits—Swiss Gear makes a fine one. And you can strap it to your belt for safety.
- Never exceed the permitted import quantities of cigarettes and booze—or if you do act innocent. I normally make sure that I carry the bag from the duty free store most prominently and plunk it at every occasion on the immigration and import agent’s desk. I always make sure there is just the permitted amount in the bag.
- Never answer that you are going to work when asked by the immigration official or when filling in those annoying little pieces of paper so beloved by officials. Always say BUSINESS is the purpose of your trip. If asked what business, tell them you are going to look at a mine to see how good an investment it is. They love the idea you will funnel money into the country.
- If you truly are going to work as a consultant, then make sure the company has obtained the correct visas and permit. Don’t go otherwise.
Those are the few that come to me. Let us know if you have other tips.
Now to another aspect of mining consulting travel. Don’t do it too often. I quote here from Scott Turow’s 1993 novel Pleading Guilty. He is writing of lawyers, but what he writes is equally true of consultants to mines—and truer now than when he wrote this in 1993.
Here met is the Flying Class, a group ever expanding, whose real workday is spent in the sky, whose true office is an aisle seat on a DC-10, folk who have so many million award miles they could fly to Jupiter free. These are the orphans of capital, the men and women who have given up their lives for the corporate version of manifest destiny, who are trying to fling far some company’s empire in the name of economic scale. I had an Uncle Michael who was a travelling salesman, a sad sack with an ugly brown valise, one of those lacquered boxes that seemed welded to his hand. His was regarded as the fate of a misfit. Now it’s a badge of status to be away from home four nights of the week. But on God’s green planet is there anything more depressing than an empty hotel room at ten at night and the thought that work, privilege, economic need not only claim the daylight hours but have, however briefly, entitled you to these awesome lonesome instants in which you’re remote from the people and things, tiny, loved and familiar, that sustain a life?
And yet! The impulse to travel lies deep in our heart & soul. Witness the longings of Ulysses as captured by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known—cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end.
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, my own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.