It’s quiet. Eerily quiet.
Returning home after a long stretch of touring is a strange sensation. The closest comparison that comes to mind is whiplash. You go from a constant state of motion, with nearly every moment of life pre-scheduled into thirty minute blocks in Google Calendar, with most choices already made in advance, with the same set of clothes, and same set of travel companions…to one silence, one bed (your own), and one dog (your own).
For the last 45 days, I have been in that state, traveling across the country from one region to another, with over sixty live appearances scheduled. My life was a delicate balance of keynote addresses, panel discussions and debates, TV and radio interviews, teaching workshops, performances with my band (both full concert and acoustic), and the delivery of a TED talk…while maintaining the ship so to speak (booking, emails, social media/website maintainance, shooting and editing video, payroll for my band/crew, etc.).
I spent an average of 4.45 hours per day on a tour bus, sometimes at lengths up to 25 hours at a time, in one of the three same seats – even though we have a bed that everyone rotates using, I didn’t sit or sleep on it once. The five of us shared the same air in that small bus as well as a single one or two-star motel room, night after night – our guitarist brings his own cot. Last evening was the first in over six weeks that I didn’t share a bed or feel (and in some cases, hear) four other people sleeping.
Most meals were pre-determined: the hotels offer pretty much the same variety of breakfast. And when is on a healthy diet, that means the choices are even more limited…usually, the default is a shriveled pre-boiled egg in the fridge and a cup of tea. Lunches are often pre-catered luncheons were I speak while lawyers and/or law students eat. If our show is at a venue later that night, it’s usually pizza and beer (which I’ll skip), or if we’re playing another law event, usually catered with a spread of finger foods. Of course, we try to visit grocery stores and interesting restaurants whenever possible, depending on the schedule.
This morning, I boil some water to make my own non-shrunken eggs. Then I realize: there are no eggs. There are no groceries because I’ve been gone for so long. I’ll just have some tea. I’m looking at my desk and there’s a stack of business cards seven inches high, contacts that I need to follow up on for more speaking engagements and performances.
When I talk about the tour and reflect on the trip itself, I mostly focus on the extreme highs and lows: the innumerable people working in law who said hearing my story changed their perspective on our case and approach to institutionalized discrimination, the fans who traveled far and wide to see our show, the radiant beauty of cityscapes and nature viewed through tour bus windows. I think about the arguments with other the band members, the stress of loved ones hurting at home while we were stuck across the country, of the bus breaking down or overheating. Rarely does the mundane routine come to mind. I never think about how I was constantly surrounded by noise or how much of my waking life was spent moving on a diesel-powered bus and how that motion distorted nearly each of those moments, preventing me from being able to truly reflect.