by Danny Ziemann

40,000 miles.

As I sit here with my cat, waiting for my laundry finish so I can finish packing for my next trip tomorrow, I can’t help but reflect on what my last 30 days has brought me:

30,000 miles.

And in the next four days, it’ll bring me 10,000 more miles.

Let’s just call it 40,000 miles.

Had I been asked last year to predict what my life would be like at the current moment, I would have listed my goals and experiences that I knew were in the pipeline—graduate school, a 5k, my second book, domestic travel, gigs.   International travel would have been somewhere next to “run a marathon without any advanced training.” I’m happy to say that I’ve successfully accomplished all my goals while maintaining a relatively sane headspace (except for the marathon), and I’m ecstatic to be taking my 6th overseas trip tomorrow.

The cliché is that traveling makes you more worldly:  a “citizen of the world.” This is true, though how one lets their experience shape his or herself is different. This could include facing intense post-travel depression; a desire to move away, volunteer, or do “bigger things” in life; or the desire to never leave home again. I’m happy to report that my travel experiences so far have been overwhelmingly positive.

I tend to view my travels from two perspectives.

The first is quantifiable:

  • 40,000 miles flown
  • 565 mph speed
  • 80 hours airborne
  • 13+ flight segments
  • 10 airports
  • 10 border controls
  • 3 airport burritos consumed

To give perspective, I drive about 30,000 miles a year… and I really work hard at packing those miles on my car! The fact that I flew 20-25,000 miles in four days honestly blows my mind.

The second view is qualifiable.

How did I grow emotionally? Was I forced to confront any of my personal biases? What did I learn about my musicianship? Did I feel uncomfortable at all? Do I feel more connected to people all around me? While some of the questions I still don’t have answers to, every trip makes me feel more connected to those around me. I learn a lot about my views on life from the perspective of an American. Ultimately, the fact that I can bring my passion and skill to strangers who love the genre of music I play makes this earth feel much smaller than it is. My biggest takeaway is probably identifying that community knows no physical limitations or boundaries.

(Just a quick side note—it’s amazing how many people want to talk to me about our recent presidential election. No matter how far away, you can never escape home!)

From a more lighthearted perspective, traveling also allows me to foster opinions on things I never knew I would care about:   my favorite airplane (Boeing 787), favorite airport lounge (Turkey), and favorite airport food (San Francisco & Denver for their burritos). I talk about frequent flyer mile accumulation with my travel-savvy dad (100,000 miles in case anyone wants a travel partner!) and our individual airline status. This stuff feels weirdly commonplace now.

While it’s not easy to balance traveling, teaching, gigging, and being a full-time graduate student, I make sure there’s time for traveling. I feel a paradigm shift, although I can’t articulate how—looking back I’ll surely have a much clearer picture. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the ride!

Danny Ziemann is a contributing writer for Behind the Bridge and adjunct professor of bass and cello at SUNY Oswego.