Lefty Load-out: Barnburner Business Trip

Ordinarily, I find business trips pretty tolerable – depending on the destination, sometimes even fun! The trip I’m slated to take to Boston…will not be counted in either category. Our inbound flight lands at 9PM. Two coworkers and I will be on the ground for exactly 33 hours before waking up at an obscenely early hour to catch a 6AM flight home.

Yes, I realize this has #FWP written all over it, but the complain-y part of me is definitely lobbying for travel plans like this to be classified as cruel and unusal punishment.

It might not seem there’d be much opportunity to put pen to paper on this trip, but I’m a voracious note-taker. On a 1-to-10 scale from “Anne Trubek” to “Mueller & Oppenheimer”, I’m a 12. There’ll also be time to write, doodle and journal on the plane, in the airports, and in the car (oh – did I mention the airport we’re flying from is 90 minutes from home?)…

The Dossier

Our goal for the trip is a kick-off meeting for a large project with a new customer. There’ll be plenty of notes to be taken, and my colleagues know they can rely on me (and my stationery nerdism) to do the taking. The client team likely won’t care much what I write with (or on), but I’ve never felt comfortable breaking out a flashy “statement” pen in front of the people I’m asking to approve our company’s proposals. No Sailor King Profit or Montblanc on this trip.

As a matter of course, I’m a light traveler, and I aim to roll one-bag whenever I can. On family trips I allow myself a bit of convenience leeway (“dad mode”?) but on business I pare down as thin as I can. I like to be mobile and flexible, occupy a small footprint, and I’m a big fan of the Jan Chipchase No-Wheels Rule.

The Load-Out

I’ve decided to hit the road/skies with just one of each writing instrument. One fountain pen, one gel roller, and one mechanical pencil. This provides alternatives in case something runs dry, malfunctions or leaks, without unnecessarily increasing what’s riding on my shoulders.

The Complete Load-Out: Conid Bulkfiller, Tactile Turn Glider, Uni Kuru-Toga, Maruman Mnemosyne A5 pad

The fountain pen needs to combine low in-flight leak-tendency with a good capacity, subdued looks and an all-day comfortable grip. There are plenty of members of my collection that hit the latter trifecta. But throw in airplane mode, and I’ll always go for my Conid Bulkfiller. The section is smooth and step-free, so I won’t end up with a divot in my left thumb by the end of a day of rapid writing. The capacity is massive, and the ink chamber completely seals when the blind cap is closed.

Conid Bulkfiller Minimalistica / Lamy Black

The gel roller? That’s a much more open field, with far fewer constraints. If I had a solid multi-pen option on hand at the moment, that’s what I’d be gravitating toward – having a few color options is always nice when sketching architectures, capturing various types of requirements, or highlighting things I’ll need to follow-up on later. That option off the table, I’m instead going to go the machined pen route. I think my Tactile Turn Glider in stainless steel will make a good companion on this trip, fitted with a black Uniball Signo 307 refill. Apart from housing this rock-solid-reliable, super-lefty-friendly refill that’s a joy to write with, I can always entertain myself with the Glider’s butter-smooth bolt mechanism if things get boring.

On the pencil side, I have only one option: The Uni Kuru-Toga Roulette 0.5. I’d love to rock a Rotring 600, Zebra Delguard or Twsbi Precision, but I don’t own any of these (yet). My only other option would be dusting off my old Zebra M-701, but compared to the Kuru-Toga it just doesn’t make the cut.

As for paper? An A5 Maruman Mnemosyne will fly with me this time around, and my Rhodia pad will be staying home. I’ve found the Maruman paper to stay lefty-friendly with a wider range of fountain pen inks than Rhodia – understandably, given the latter is coated. If there’s one thing I don’t want to be doing in my client meeting, it’s fumbling with a palm sheet to prevent smudges and smears.

The Hauler

Enough in our community care about bags – and I’m enough of a bag nerd – that I can’t leave out my chosen pack for this trip. In keeping with my aggressive stance on business-travel packing, my plan is to collect my laptop (a surprisingly-thin-and-light Gigabyte Aero 15) and its power adapter, stationery, two changes of clothes, and toiletries in my Topo Designs x Doane Paper 2nd-Gen Mountain Briefcase. I’ll ditch the shoulder strap (I usually pair this bag with a Tom Bihn Absolute) in favor of the built-in backpack straps.

Nock Sinclair

Wait – you didn’t think I’d leave the house (or the state) without Nock gear or a pocket notebook in tow, did you?! While I may be riding in a pointy aluminum tube for this trip, my pens will be riding in packcloth and waxed canvas, along with a Field Notes 2015 XOXO notebook. The latter just happens to be what’s in my rotation at the moment, and (in spite of the particularly-terrible batch of Finch 60# I seem to have gotten) I’d rather stick with this (for size/weight) than my Leuchtturm 1917 Bullet Journal.


Sometimes, travel just sucks. I have a feeling that’s what I’m going to be saying when my alarm goes off at 4AM for that flight home. But, as with many situations that suck, adding the stationery we love to the mix can help get us through the experience. Mix in some good music, a podcast or two that you dig, the commiseration of colleagues who are also close friends, and the not-insignificant reassurance that you’re doing work you enjoy for a client that appreciates you? Whelp, that might just make the trip worth taking after all…

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