My Top 7 Destinations in 2014

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While it may seem counterintuitive to say that one of the reasons I moved back into consulting was to reduce the amount of travel, its true. While I still spent far too many weekends on the road this year, I was able to slow things down a bit and actually take some personal time to explore some of the locations visited for work….which hasn’t always been the case. For my fellow road warriors, you know what I am talking about. More often than not, travel is not about the exotic location, but about frequent cab rides, questionable hotel rooms, and nearly-always shoulder-to-shoulder sold out flights. As I always tell people, I love the destinations….I’m just not a fan of getting there.

IMG_6086For 2014, however, there were a few trips which really did stand out. I’m always happy to spend time with my friends from the SharePoint communities around the world, but this year I was able to include some family members (and a few days of personal time) in there, as well. I should point out that this list is not an all-inclusive of every location visited this year, nor should a location not appearing on this list be interpreted somehow that I didn’t have a great time at some event. These are just the trips that stand out to me from this past year, in calendar order:

  • May – The European SharePoint Conference in Barcelona, with side trips to Paris, London, Geneva and Zurich
    The trip was planned around the European SharePoint Conference in Barcelona, with customer visits in London and Switzerland. This was the first time my wife had been out of the country, so we planned a weekend excursion to Paris between my work activities. The last time my wife had traveled with me for work, it was to two California SharePoint Saturday events in 2010, East Bay (where she helped with registration) and Los Angeles, so I wanted to do something special for her. We literally walked until our feet blistered, and had an amazing time. While I worked and visited clients and partners, she wandered the streets of Barcelona, Paris and London, and got to see some of the sights that I missed. I absolutely loved Barcelona (although I am also a huge fan of Madrid), Paris was beautiful, as always, and she had a blast in London where she made the Harry Potter tour her priority. Geneva was quiet and a bit boring (not much of a tourist stop), but I took a train over to Zurich, which was modern and thriving – and I’d love to go back again.
  • June – the SHARE Conference in Johannesburg, with a drive to Durban
    I love the South African countryside, and was able to bundle a few adventures into the trip, starting with a trip to a lion park in Johannesburg literally straight from the airport. I was there to speak at the SHARE Conference, and was a guest of my company’s partners in the region, GTconsult…. which is now my employer. But honestly, me making the jump didn’t come up once. Anyhoo, the last time I was down there we had visited a cheetah sanctuary, and while I enjoyed that activity, it was nothing compared to the lion park where Warren Marks and I had several cubs running around our feet like giant kittens. Loved it. After the event, Bradley Geldenhuys and I drove down to Durban to visit the GTconsult office there, and that weekend we were able to go to Moses Mabhida Stadium to watch the Top Gear live show. A very memorable trip, for sure.
  • July – the Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington DC
    While I am not a fan of Washington DC in the heat of summer, we got a bit of relief with some rain. I presented two sessions in the Social Hub, as part of Microsoft’s Social Squad – I got to hang out in the press box for the keynotes, and had some face time with some of the key members of the product team. But like all conferences, the real value of this event was the networking – and it was a very productive event. Once again I found myself hanging out with Bradley Geldenhuys. And no…we didn’t talk about job opps at GTconsult in July either. But we did attend a few parties together, went over to the attendee party to watch the Neon Trees perform, and then attended a partner event where Vanilla Ice appeared, signed autographs, and performed a couple songs. It was a blast, and it continues to be one of my favorite events.
  • August – the “Epic” road trip to Salt Lake City, Boston, Nashua, Portland, Gettysburg, DC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower
    InstagramCapture_826f54fd-8c41-4e01-aab8-4a0fba72b8baThe original concept was to take a vacation, but include a couple user group presentations due to long-standing invitations from friends and community members. It turned out to be more work than vacation, with 4 user groups and an Office365 regional conference, but I made a trip out of it and brought along my two youngest kids, Nick and Josh. I started with a road trip to Utah to present at the user group there, and then to pick up my boys from summer camp at Brigham Young University, and we started driving east. After stops in Nauvoo, Adam-ondi-Ahman, Carthage, Kirtland, Palmyra, and Niagara Falls, we camped out at my good friend Jason Himmelstein’s house in Nashua, speaking at the SPUGs in Nashua and Providence between day trips to Boston, Portland, and everywhere in between. After leaving Jason’s, we spent a day at Gettysburg – which was fantastic – and made our way to the Richmond SPUG and an O365 event in Reston, VA before spending a full day walking around the capital mall. From there we drove west to Chicago (where we walked around Millennium Park for a couple hours) and then up to Minneapolis to visit friends. On the way back to Washington State, we stopped by Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower. In just over 2 weeks, I presented at 5 events, we drove 8,200 miles, and we visited 25 states of the District of Columbia. Not bad.
  • September – Glyma customer visit in Perth
    Vanilla IceNot a lot of detail on this trip, but I do really like the Perth area, and would love to go back and spend some time exploring outside of the main city, maybe travel up and down the coast. What made this trip really stand out, however, was my time with Paul Culmsee in the “studio” recording our follow up album to 2011’s smash hit “MOSS World.” If you haven’t seen the new video entitled "In the Studio", please watch.
  • October – SharePoint Saturday in Bend
    That’s right: central Oregon is on my best of list. If you’ve never been to Bend, it is in my mind the jewel of the state. I’ve always been a fan of the high desert, and while not a huge city by any means, Bend does have a high percentage of transplants from bigger cities (like retirees from Los Angeles), which means a lot of technology people. I helped organize the first SPS Bend event a couple years back, and its been one of the most fun groups, so I keep going back. Add to the great destination the fact that I had changed companies (now with GTconsult) and was driving Brad and Craig around the Pacific Northwest, we had a blast. Of course, I was getting tired of hearing Brad whine and complain about wanting to eat at a Popeye’s. What was up with that? We drove down from Seattle through Portland, but on the way home took the back mountain pass, giving them the full tour of the region. As you can see, I am a fan of the road trips.
  • November – Vacation in Hawaii
    To top off my favorite travels for the year, I have to include my vacation with my wife in celebration of our 24th anniversary. We stayed at the Marriott in Lihue on Kauai, and I got to body surf on some pretty scary waves at my favorite beach, Polihale. For me, that made the trip right there. Looking forward to making my way back in 2015 with the entire family.

I’m looking forward to a quieter 2015, with a focus on the Pacific Northwest region rather than the world. My two older kids are returning from their missions abroad, and the family has a couple planned trips. In the near-term, I’ll be keynoting SharePoint Saturday Denver in January, in February I’ll be doing a drive up to visit the Vancouver BC user group and attending SPTechCon Austin, and possibly attending SPS Utah. Beyond that, I am also definitely attending Ignite in May, WPC in July, likely a trip to South Africa in September for the SPS events and a company road show, and EuropeanSPC in Stockholm in November. And in-between, I’m sure there will be other trips. As you can see, not so quiet after all.

[Update: While I did receive a couple harassing emails and tweets reminding me of some great trips this year, I did want to expand the list by one event — SPS Stockholm in January. For some reason I got it into my mind that it took place in December 2013, but it was end of January. LOVED my time in Stockholm, one of my favorite world destinations, with every inch of the city belonging on a postcard. While it was fiercely cold, the weather was actualy fairly dry and the sun was out, allowing me to walk around the city at length and take hundreds of photos. Really looking forward to being back in Stockholm next year for the European SharePoint Conference next November!]

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Apps & Services MVP, and the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Lehi, Utah, through which he provides fractional-CMO for partners in the Microsoft ecosystem.