Lifestyle Changes are Scary. But What If Everything is About to Change?

I think I have no option anymore.

Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD
5 min readMar 10


Photo courtesy of author

There was this game I used to play every year.

I tried to receive as many invitations to speak at international events as possible. Speaking engagements were (and are still) essential in the academic world. Many academics assumed “the more invitations, the more impact.” Some could only talk about the places they visited and are going to visit. I only accepted invitations when airfare and accommodation costs were fully covered.

When I had to present, I made sure I was well prepared. The idea was to receive at least one new invitation. And in most cases, I succeeded.

The secret was to distinguish yourself from the other presenters — be bold, be memorable. People should talk about the presentation days after the event and remember me for the years to come. Or, at least, until they wanted a speaker for their own event.

So, I made sure to surprise the audience. Provocative content that made the participants think. Visuals. Humor. Energy. The performance was probably even more critical. It was like having a casual and informal conversation with the people in the room. I worked the room. I loved it. And I was good at it.

The result? I was in the air almost every week. Sometimes for a one-day trip, but most often for long-haul flights to exotic places. And I had some crazy adventures. Flying around the world in a few days wasn’t an exception. Giving a keynote in Medellin two hours after arrival on Monday, being on a panel in Seoul later that week, and preparing for a guest lecture in Sydney the next week.

The journeys and flights were an essential part of the game.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the airport was going to the airline’s desk to check for upgrade possibilities. In eighty percent of the cases, I got an upgrade to a business-class window seat. This always felt like a victory — and would make the flight much more comfortable. And if an upgrade wasn’t available, I had to buy as many snacks as possible. You can call me spoilt, but the food served in economy classes never made me happy. It always amazed me how other passengers “attacked” the tray as if they hadn’t…



Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD

Prof (Law) | Sci-fi | Sociological storytelling