I don’t directly talk about my actual job on this blog much, but some changes on that front have several direct implications on my travel and blogging, and since I don’t have any other blog, I’ll share this news here.
For a little over three years, I’ve had the privilege to serve as an attorney in the federal government, working to protect the rights of American workers and job-seekers. My specific portfolio has largely focused on employment discrimination, with a smattering of other issues relating to worker’s rights. I also served as my agency’s guru on all things LGBT-related. So, as referenced in my post about Election Day in New Zealand, the election results had an extra dimension for me.
Although I’ve been a career employee, I worked very closely with political appointees in the last administration, who relied on me both for my advice and to also effectuate/defend policy decisions they made. So it’s been tough to watch all those people leave the building. The few people who have come and replaced them have been perfectly pleasant in my interactions thus far, but every work day has brought fear; nearly everything that I worked on that the current administration has touched has been reversed, called into doubt, or put on hold.
At the same time, I work with a lot of great career people who aren’t going anywhere, who I enjoy working with, and who are committed to our agency’s mission. In the realm of bosses, mine are pretty good to me, and allow me a ton of autonomy. Plus, as a senior lawyer in the federal government, I had a pretty solid salary and benefits. I was able to buy a condo, and travel a lot. And no one was pushing me out the door. So I decided I wouldn’t do a crazy job search, applying to every conceivable job out there, but rather just explore options as they came up.
I did about 5 interviews total, including 2 rounds for a job that would have had me relocate to New York. The process was really reflective, as it allowed me to think about what it is I enjoyed most in my 9 years as a lawyer, what my career goals are, and what my life goals are. And I didn’t really feel an urgency to go, booking both a July and a September trip assuming I’d stay in my current job.
In the end, though, I did get a job offer for a position that seemed right – even though it entails an extremely significant pay cut. It helped that the week I had to make my decision, it came very close to me having to work on a project that went against some of my strongest values and beliefs (Thanks, Ivanka!). When it comes down to it, I went to law school because of a desire to combat injustice in the world. And while there are a lot of people who can lead content lives doing a job that doesn’t get them excited in the morning, I’m not one of those people. So, come July, I’ll be starting a position at a nonprofit here in DC doing impact litigation in constitutional and administrative law, with foci on workers’ rights, consumer protection, access to justice, and free speech. It’s actually a place I interviewed at in 2009, and again in 2010, so it’s very much a full-circle situation. In terms of the kinds of work I’ll be doing, it’s what I would’ve thought I’d be doing back when I graduated law school. It’s exciting, and scary.
So, the travel part. Since I’ll be taking a significant pay cut, and because I’ll be getting less vacation (at least to start), I’ll be cutting back on travel. Even though I have about 400,000 miles in various programs, and am really good at utilizing miles and finding deals, travel is not “free.” Meals, activities, transportation – it all adds up. (Putting aside that there’s often substantial costs involved in obtaining miles, even if it’s just minimum spends on credit cards.) I’m not crying poverty, and I know my new income will still make me more fortunate than many people, even within America – but it’s still necessitating a bit of a lifestyle change. So, expect to see less trip reporting here.
But for now, I still have 2 summer European trips planned – one of which I’ll probably be taking unpaid leave to go on. The later one, Labor Day weekend, will take me to Hamburg and Lisbon, and I’ll talk about that one as we get closer. The first one, though, has been on the books for a long time. Last summer, while in Sitges, I made some Norwegian friends, as it was a holiday week in Norway. Norway is one of the few countries in Europe I haven’t been to, even though I studied abroad in neighboring Denmark. So I decided I would make it to Norway this summer. As it happens, Oslo Pride is July 4th weekend, so that seemed like a good time to go. I had initially planned for about 10 days of travel, so I figured I’d add in another country; with fairly little thought, I decided on the Netherlands, as I haven’t spent much time there, other than a few days in Amsterdam in college and a 1-night layover back in 2012. I was able to book a flight in business class from DC to Oslo via Vienna on Austrian Airlines in business class using Aeroplan miles, and a return from Amsterdam to DC, also via Vienna on Austrian, using Avianca Lifemiles. In Norway, I’ll start in Oslo, and make my way across to Bergen on the Norway in a Nutshell tour. I’ll fly down to Amsterdam and go right to Rotterdam for 2 nights, before 2 nights in Amsterdam.
Once this trip became a “between jobs” trip, though, I decided to extend the trip, and didn’t feel like ending in Amsterdam was the most relaxing way to end. I wanted something beachy or islandy – especially if I was going to be cutting back on travel a lot. I also wanted it to be (1) easy to get to from Amsterdam; (2) a place where I could use points for hotels; and (3) a place I could find a return flight using miles home. (Thankfully, I had booked the return ticket before Avianca changed its award change fees, so it was only $50 to cancel the ticket and rebook it.)
There’s really only one place that meets all those criteria – Malta! (1) Air Malta has a nonstop flight from Amsterdam; (2) I was able to use points for 3 nights split between the Radisson Blu St. Julian’s and the Intercontinental; and (3) I was able to get a flight on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul…to New York. So #3 wasn’t perfect, as ideally I wanted 4 nights and to fly back into DC. Istanbul isn’t really on the way back to the US, there’s a 4-hour layover in Istanbul, I’ll have to check my laptop, and I don’t like supporting the Turkish regime in any way shape or form, but this is what happens when booking a transatlantic business class award flight for July in May.
So I’m excited. For both the travel and the life change. Travel tips (or life tips) welcome!