Esther Dyson

Introducing Road Warrior, a new weekly feature. This week: travel tips and tales from digital visionary Esther Dyson.


Don George
November 5, 1997 1:00AM (UTC)

at Wanderlust, we believe that now as never before there exists a community of people bound not by their place of birth or residence nor by their adherence to a particular political belief or religious creed, but quite simply by their frequent-flier miles: These are the road warriors, and like any community, they share certain practices and proclivities, fetishes and faiths.

This week, Wanderlust proudly launches a new department dedicated to these men and women -- Road Warrior: Adventures of the Business Traveler.

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Each week, Road Warrior will feature an interview with a notable road warrior, presenting a mix of savvy tips and singular tales that we hope will prove both diverting and informative. You'll meet Silicon Valley executives, Hollywood producers, New York publishers and a planetary potpourri of other briefcase-toting pilgrims, the kind of people you routinely share champagne and peanuts with at 33,000 feet. We'll cover everything from jet lag to cultural faux pas, prime airline seats to the best places to eat, sleep -- and retreat -- in business capitals around the world.

Road Warrior will also present Informed Sources, a place for readers to ask -- and answer -- their business travel questions and our own selected Tip of the Week.

Think of this as your Wanderlust Club lounge, a place to kick back and commune -- or commiserate -- with your colleagues, wherever you may be. And join the conversation. Send your globe-wandering tips and tales -- plus your questions, suggestions and ideas -- to wanderlust@salonmagazine.com. And make us a regular stop on your weekly itinerary.

To launch Road Warrior, we interviewed Esther Dyson, one of the preeminent visionaries of the digital age -- and a quintessential road warrior who logs a quarter-million frequent-flier miles a year from her home in New York.

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Dyson, whose book "Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age" has just been published, is president and owner of EDventure Holdings, a company that focuses on emerging information technology worldwide. EDventure Holdings publishes the influential monthly newsletter "Release 1.0" and sponsors two annual conferences: PC Forum, now in its 20th year, which regularly attracts 600 of the computer and communications industry's top players, and its overseas counterpart, EDventure's High-Tech Forum in Europe. Fluent in Russian, Dyson has started a venture capital fund dedicated to fostering technology start-ups in Eastern and Central Europe. She also invests in and sits on the boards of several U.S. start-ups. In addition, Dyson is chairwoman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit civil liberties organization that promotes freedom of expression and other rights and responsibilities on the Internet.

In the spirit of road warriorness, I conducted this interview with Dyson electronically: I e-mailed her a set of questions one afternoon from San Francisco and a few days later her responses appeared in my in box -- time-stamped 4 a.m. As she wrote, "Note time of message: One thing I do is operate on my own circadian rhythm." Tellingly enough, her answers began: "I'm writing from seat 3F, AA 491 from LaGuardia to Dallas/Fort Worth!"

How often do you travel in a year?

"Often"? Hard to measure. I estimate I'm out of town two-thirds to three-quarters of the time, and average a flight every other day.

How do you deal with jet lag?

I ignore it. I suffer more from lack of sleep than from the timing of it.

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Do you have a favored plane/seat?

Yes. Bulkhead window. Then I get a big garbage bag from the flight attendant and fill it up with paper as I read through what I take with me.

What places do you visit most often?

Silicon Valley and Moscow. (I have health club memberships -- Decathlon and the Radisson Slavyanskaya -- and a locker for my things in both places, in addition to the same in New York City, where I officially live.) Next after that: Washington, Warsaw and London.

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In these places, how do you get from the airport to your hotel?

In most places, by taxi. In Warsaw or Moscow, a friend (or friend's driver) usually fetches me. (I don't know how to drive. If I have no luggage, I love taking the tube to the airport in London.)

What's your favorite hotel?

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In Moscow, a friend's house. In Silicon Valley, several friends' houses, or the Garden Court. In London, the Landmark Hotel. In Warsaw, the Warsaw Marriott. All of these, by the way, offer excellent Internet dial-up access. The Marriott and the Landmark have a pool; in Silicon Valley and Moscow, I use the pools at the clubs mentioned above.

What's your favorite restaurant?

In Moscow, the Dorian Gray (an Italian restaurant run by a Croatian -- go figure!), and the Teverskaya Hotel, for its famous mushroom/garlic soup. In Palo Alto, Il Fornaio (right next to the Garden Court). In the other places, no particular place.

If you have an afternoon free, where do you go?

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I don't have any afternoons free, unfortunately, although I once snuck out to see a Russian movie in a local movie house in St. Petersburg.

If you have a night free, where do you go?

The theater in London.

What's the best souvenir?

Random things that I need. I like the things I use daily to have a story -- so I have shoes from Moscow (from the day that I mistakenly packed only *one* shoe), a black skirt from the Prague airport (after my luggage was stolen), a couple of vests from C&A in Amsterdam (random purchase).

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Have you made any memorable cultural/business faux pas?

Probably -- and I never even knew it!

What's your most memorable travel tale or memory?

Spending the night at Sheremtyevo Airport (Moscow). This was in 1990, when things were still pretty primitive. I had passed through passport control, so when they announced that the evening flight was delayed till the morning, it was too "complicated" to go back out. Besides, there was no real place to go, and no assurance that the flight wouldn't suddenly leave (for Budapest) at 3 a.m. So I was one of the lucky ones; I found a couple of cardboard boxes to lie in, which really cut the draft.

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Now, whenever I pass through that airport (about every other month), I feel a certain proprietary familiarity. I spent the night here. There are still a lot of people who do, especially on flights to Africa and Asia that are sometimes delayed for days. You can find whole families living on the upper level (where I slept), with clothes they've washed in the washrooms hanging on the railings. Every once in a while there's a meal served; it always looks the same: mystery meat with gravy and brown bread.

Then there was the time I flew from Budapest to Bucharest on Tarom, the Romanian airline. It made an unscheduled stop somewhere in the dark; I still don't know where it was, but basically it looked like a single house with a porch light next to an abandoned airfield. As we took off again in our Antonov-24, the engine right outside my window caught fire. Should I stay in the place with the porch and the light, or should I risk it? I stayed ... and here I am. But it was exciting for quite a while!

Then there was the time I traveled through the Ukraine in May and when it wasn't raining, it snowed. We took overnight trains from Moscow to Kiev, from Kiev to Mikolaev and then back to Kiev. For three days I didn't take off any clothes, it was so cold. I just kept the same things on to go
to bed. (Fortunately, I wasn't sweating!)

What would you most like on an airplane?

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A reliable source of power so I don't need to rely on my battery. If I had that right now, my answers to all the above might be longer!


Don George

Don George is the editor of Salon Travel.

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