Friday, August 10, 2018

Travel advice

I was recently asked for advice on working when travelling. My life has involved a fair bit of working while travelling, although I know lots of people who do this far more often than I do. Nevertheless, I've picked up a few lessons (although my ability to apply them can vary) that I'm happy to share:

What to always have with you--
  • Multivitamins. I find they help give my body a boost to compensate for the disrupted diet and sleeping patterns.
  • Spork. Invaluable for when you are forced to grab a meal from a supermarket or small shop. 
  • Protein bars. A good, filling and healthy option to have with you. 
  • Powerbank. Get a decent one to keep your phone alive. 
  • Book, notepad and pen. Always have something to read and write with. 
  • Headphones. Travelling without them risks a Hellish experience. Drown out the background noise of people chatting, chewing with their mouths open (a real pet hate of mine), noises from TVs or other peoples music, or, even worse, muzak. Buy some decent ones, but keep in mind you'll need to carry them around, which means stuffing them into your bag/hand luggage. 
  • Plug adapter. Goes without saying, but be sure to get a universal one.
  • Moisturiser, chewing gum and paracetamol. The first is for tackling dry skin from long-haul flights. The second is to take away any bad tastes when you're unable to clean your teeth. Finally, flights can really get to the head, so pack a painkillker. For long journeys you should always have a small packet of toiletries to hand in your bag. 
Working on the move--
  • Avoid wandering around aimlessly at airports or railway stations. That's easy if you have access to a lounge, but even then the temptation to be restless can get the better of you. Find a place with a view of a departures board, settle down and focus on doing something.
  • The above doesn't mean stay still the whole time! You should stretch your legs and always keep your posture in mind. But avoid going wandering when you take a break. 
  • Set a realistic work target for the journey, e.g. you'll finish the book you're reading or draft the outline of a paper. Avoid drifting between tasks. 
  • Always take the opportunity to use a power socket to recharge electronic devices or keep them charged when working on them. 
  • Download some white noise tracks to help drown out background noise. I also have an iTunes playlist I put together of loud classical music to listen to when working on the move. 
  • I'm a big fan of one of Alan Whicker's pieces of advice for travelling: always leave time for a coffee. Travel should not all be rush, work, rush, work, rush, work. I usually grab a coffee before settling down to work. If possible, I'll stay and work in the cafe/restaurant. 
  • Have audio books or podcasts to listen to for those times when you can't read a book or work on your laptop. There's nothing worse than standing around, usually in a queue (e.g. at passport control), with nothing to do. 
  • Keep it light. I've been trying to work on my iPad instead of my laptop. It's smaller, more portable and easier to work with in the often confined spaces I find myself in on flights, trains and buses.
  • Ensure you've downloaded and can access the documents you want to work on. Don't assume wifi will be available or reliable. 
Other general travel advice--
  • Keep one credit card in your hand luggage and separate from your wallet. Helps if your wallet is lost or stolen. 
  • When flying: drink lots of water, enjoy some alcohol but only when eating and keep it moderate, set and stick to a time to watch a film (usually when eating), and on long-haul flights you must make time for sleep. 
  • On a plane, food can end up everywhere if you hit turbulence. Use a napkin to protect you! And be careful when opening a carbonated drink. A plane bumps around, and there's nothing worse than spraying yourself and nearby passengers with your carbonated drink. 
  • When working on a train be sure to keep your luggage in sight.
  • Always have an escape plan. Always know where the exits are. On a plane, count the rows to your nearest exit. If something happens and visibility becomes a problem, you'll now know how many rows you need to to climb over or pass to get to the exit.  
  • Whenever possible go with an airline or travel provider you like and book a seat that you'll be comfortable working at. It's not always advisable to fly the cheapest ticket you could find. Join one airline loyalty programme in each of the three major alliances (Star Alliance, One World, SkyTeam) and always use your membership number when booking. It's not just for the airmiles (you should, if possible focus on one airline or alliance for them), but to give you an edge if it comes to being upgraded, not kicked off the flight etc. 
  • Chose your seat wisely. According to most surveys, 6A is the golden seat on a plane. And I'd certainly go for an A, which is a window seat and generally more private. One of the best things about flying is the view, so enjoy it. 
  • If you're only staying for a night or two, then avoid using drawers in a hotel room. Keep your stuff in one place. Simpler for repacking and helps prevent you leaving stuff behind. 
  • For long-haul flights, when you get on a flight, set your watch to the time of your destination. Helps you mentally adjust and think about your plans for what to do and when on the flight. 
  • Get some sunlight and fresh air as often as you can. 
  • If you're having to fly economy long-haul then have a good meal at the airport. Economy airline food can vary, even within companies. Generally, however, it's awful. 
  • Be polite, well-mannered, educated and considerate. Airports can be stressful for even the most seasoned traveller. If you do find yourself stuck behind the disorganised, chaotic family at security then being ignorant and obnoxious isn't going to get you far. If there is a problem then make yourself heard, but be polite and friendly. If something's not right then address it ASAP. 
  • Security clearing: we all know it will happen, so prepare in advance. Put your watch, money, keys and anything else into a pocket in your jacket or bag before you get to the scanner. Have your laptop and iPad in an accessible place. Everyone should know the rules on liquids by now. If possible, avoid lanes with families or the elderly in them. Once your trays have passed through the scanner, don't stand around at the conveyer belt sorting out your belongings. Collect your trays and sort your stuff out at one of the nearby tables. 
  • Buy a decent bag for travelling with. Ensure that any small suitcase you buy has a small compartment on the outside that you can access without much trouble. 
  • Packing light is never easy. General rule for me if travelling for more than 2 nights: a blue suit that travels well, light grey trousers, a pair of decent dark jeans, another jacket (usually a tweed one), a mix of coloured non-iron shirts (I usually go with Charles Tyrwhitt), knitted ties (they're timeless and travel well), polo shirt, a t-shirt/other top, jumper (depending on weather), 1 x gym kit (with shorts that can also be used to swim in) packed inside trainers. The only thing I'm still working on finding are a pair of boots that work formally and informally and so remove the need for packing a pair of Oxfords or brogues. 
  • Unless you're at the front of the plane, don't be one of those people who rushes to stand up as soon as the plane has arrived at its gate. All you're going to do is spend a few minutes awkwardly standing around in the aisle. 
  • When it's time to board the plane, if you're not eligible for priority boarding, are on your own and are carrying only a small bag then there really is no point rushing up to stand in a queue to board as soon as possible. If you wait until the queue is almost at an end you're likely to be able to stroll onto the plane where you can then put your bag under the seat in front of you. 
  • Finally, if flying in economy then don't recline your seat without checking the situation behind you. I know this is a controversial issue, with it starting rows and even fights on planes. Planes are confined spaces, and obviously its worse in economy. I think it's ok to recline only when the row behind you is an exit row, the seat behind you is empty, the person behind you has reclined and gone to sleep on a long-haul flight, or sometimes if the seat is occupied by a small child (but keep in mind the parents might need to move around).

Friday, August 03, 2018

Dante Plaques video

A very brief video about tracking down, photographing and uploading onto my Instagram the various Dante Plaques to be found around Florence.


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Does Brexit Spell Boom or Doom for European Integration?

For my first day at the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University London I return to a familiar theme in my research: what might Brexit mean for the future of Europe

The blog post is a summary of the report I edited for the European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs. 


Quick video comment on 'Collapse: Europe after the European Union.'

I recorded a very brief comment about my book review, for the LSE's Brexit blog, of 'Collapse: Europe After the European Union' by Ian Kearns. Full review here. Quick video comment below.  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Dante Plaques

A year in Florence would have seemed incomplete without reading Dante’s Divine Comedy. I knew I’d read the 14,233 line poem as soon as I was offered a fellowship at the European University Institute, based in Fiesole, just outside Florence.

The poem isn’t exactly an easy read with some translations making it much harder than others. I found Mark Musa’s The Portable Dante (Penguin Classics) to be the clearest, not least thanks to the very helpful introduction. What also helped was discovering the book The Dante Plaques: A Florentine itinerary from the Divine Comedy, which is a guide to the 34 Dante plaques put up by the Commune of Florence in 1907 (after a decision to do so was made in 1900). Written by Foresto Niccolai and translated by Mark Roberts, the book was invaluable as I tracked down the plaques that are scattered around central Florence. The plaques show lines from the poem that refer to real places or Florentines, with the latter being a mix of famous families, men and women that Dante either condemned or saluted. 

I tried to post a picture on my Instagram of each plaque as I reached the part of the poem the plaque displays a quote from. For each plaque I quoted the English translation of the lines as shown in the Niccolai/Roberts book. With each photo I provided a short text giving details of the plaque’s location, and providing some context to explain what was going on in the canto from which the lines shown are taken. While the Niccolai/Roberts book provided invaluable material about who is being referred to in the plaques, I did find myself wanting more information about the cantos from which the lines are taken. I’ve tried to provide a little more context to each quote. I soon gave up trying to post pictures of the plaques as I read the poem because the lines quoted on the plaques are not evenly distributed through the poem. 

I've put the complete set of photos and text into a single document which you can find below. I hope it helps others understand the Divine Comedy, Dante, and his beloved Florence.  

You can find the photos on my Instagram.





Monday, July 23, 2018

Received some advanced copies of my new book which will be out later this month. 'Understanding Brexit: A Concise Introduction' is available from Policy Press or all good book retailers. 

"An indispensable guidebook to the labyrinth of Brexit. Tim Oliver shows not only how Brexit came to happen and how it is unfolding as a series of processes in the UK, Europe and the world. More importantly, he shows how to study and analyse it." Henrik Enderlein, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin

"An excellent introductory text for the generalist reader and for students coming to Brexit as an academic subject for the first time. If you have not read a book on Brexit, this should be the first you read." Michelle Cini, University of Bristol


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Impact of the UK’s Withdrawal on EU Integration

Today the European Parliament's Committee on Citizens' Right and Constitutional Affairs published 'The Impact of the UK's Withdrawal on EU Integration,' a report I put together with Garvan Walshe, Catherine Barnard, Linda Hantrais, Matthias Matthijs, and Steven Peers.

The full report can be found here: 
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/604973/IPOL_STU(2018)604973_EN.pdf


Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Collapse: Europe After the European Union

I've reviewed Ian Kearns new book 'Collapse: Europe After the European Union.' The review can be found on the LSE's Brexit blog. I've long worried that both pro-Europeans and some Eurosceptics fail to think through what Europe would look like without the EU. This book shares that concern. 

This book is filled with inconvenient truths for pro-Europeans desperate to believe all will be fine and Eurosceptics determined to be rid of the EU but who have given no thought to what Europe would then emerge. 

Review here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/07/03/book-review-collapse-europe-after-the-european-union/


Thursday, June 28, 2018

House of Commons Defence Committee has published its report 'Indispensable allies: US, NATO and UK Defence Relations.'

The House of Commons Defence Committee has published its report 'Indispensable Allies: US, NATO and UK Defence Relations.' The report quotes written evidence I submitted last year with Nick Kitchen. Nick also appeared before the Committee to give oral evidence. You can read the evidence here and the report here.

Complete text of Critical Reflections on the EU’s Approach to Brexit.

Between March-April of this year I published three posts with Spectator, the Clingendael Institute's online magazine, in which I examined what the EU might have got wrong about Brexit.

I've put the three posts into one document that is now uploaded to academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/36933781/Critical_Reflections_on_the_EUs_Approach_to_Brexit 


Monday, June 25, 2018

Critically reflecting on the EU's approach to Brexit

A short video giving an overview of a three-part series I wrote for Spectator, the Clingendael Institute's online magazine, looking at what the EU might have got wrong about Brexit.
You can read the full series here: https://spectator.clingendael.org/en/node/4289


Friday, June 15, 2018

Europe's Brexit: a short piece for the LSE's Brexit Blog


In this piece for the LSE's Brexit blog, I outline some of the conclusions of my recently edited book, Europe's Brexit: EU Perspectives on Britain's Vote to Leave

These conclusions cover how the other 27 Member States and EU institutions approached and continue to handle Brexit.