8th May 2021

Touring: Finding The Work/Life Balance

Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato


This list about the touring life was floating around on the net years ago, I don’t know who created it, but it still holds true. Enjoy….

Some signs that you’ve been on the road too long:

1. You think sleeping inside the console lid is  “comfortable.”

2. Your welcome mat is gaffed down, so no one will trip over it.

3. You’ve re-wired your whole house to use Hubbell Twist-Lok’s.

4. You’ve actually considered installing a three-phase power service in your home- 1 for Sound, 1 for Lighting and 1 for whoever shows up.

5. Everything you own has your name, and the letters “FOH” stenciled on it.

6. You consider replacing all the legs on your furniture with casters so it will be easier to move.

7. You have a hard time falling asleep in your bed because it’s not moving.

It can be hard to find balance in life and even harder when you spend most of it on the road.  I love touring, and I love being home. I know, quite the contradiction, right?

Touring has a way of consuming your life.

For me, I usually dread leaving home but as soon as I set foot on the plane I snap into work mode with my head fully into the gig. I love what I do, and once I get on the road, I am just as much at home on the tour bus.  After I return home from a tour, particularly if it was an enjoyable one, I find the end of tour blues (as I like to call them) usually set in after a few days.

That feeling of being in a kind of limbo as you try and settle back into home life and also realize it might be years before you see some of your fellow crew, (whom you’ve spent the better part of the past year with and now consider good friends) again.  It’s easy to get caught up in the blues or worrying about your next gig if you haven’t lined one up, but I find that keeping myself busy makes them fade faster.

I need about three months off each year, not all at the same time but cumulatively over the course of the year to prevent burnout.

Some people try their hardest to go seamlessly from one tour to the next, trying to line up their next tour to start within days of their present tour ending.  Not me.  I need that downtime to recharge and give my ears a break. I am much more focused and much less crotchety when I return to work.

I don’t work locally and make my living solely as a touring engineer,  so when I am home, my time is my own.

I catch up on all things home. This means; sorting through the mountain of mail that arrived while I was away, working on projects around the house, enjoying spending time with my husband ( if he happens to be home at the same time ), and our three cats, getting back to a regular workout routine, cleaning up my diet, enjoying cooking, baking and catching up with friends.  My days are full and sometimes busier than they are when I’m on the road but it’s mostly self-inflicted, and all helps to keep me sane.

Recently I returned home from an international tour that took me to twelve countries in seven weeks and across six time zones.

It had been an extremely busy year leading up to this tour and while I knew I was teetering on burnout I didn’t realize how much until I got home.  I spent the first four days home doing absolutely nothing which is so not me.  I’m the queen of multi-tasking, always trying to be productive and get something done.  But the jet lagged kicked my butt, it gets worse every year, I was utterly exhausted and burned out.

Instead of beating myself up for not tackling the laundry, mail, and all the other things that needed tending to, I just let myself relax and sleep when I needed to.  It paid off.  I came out the other end of it feeling more refreshed than I had in months.  Just those few days of really giving my body what it needed instead of pushing it to do more and more made such a difference.

As much as I love being home, I start to go stir crazy when I spend too much time there.

A few years ago I found myself having the single longest stretch of time off since I began touring.  At first I was loving it but after the third month, I was aching to get back on the road. Some ways I find balance on tour – spending days off catching up on my sleep, hitting the gym, relaxing in my hotel room and ordering room service, giving myself a break from people and noise.  Doing Yoga, meditating, reading or watching a movie are also some of my faves.

It’s easy for us to get caught up in the rat race of work, work, work, especially when you are living paycheck to paycheck and need those dollars to keep coming in. But it’s also important to take care of yourself and not work yourself to the point of burnout.

I hope you all take the time you need to rest so you can enjoy this crazy entertainment life we live.


Article by SoundGirl: Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato

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The mission of SoundGirls.org is to inspire and empower the next generation of women in audio. Our mission is to create a supportive community for women in audio and music production, providing the tools, knowledge, and support to further their careers. SoundGirls.Org was formed in 2013 by veteran live sound engineers Karrie Keyes and Michelle Sabolchick Pettinato and operates under the Fiscal Sponsorship of The California Women’s Music Festival, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. In 2012, Karrie and Michelle participated in the “Women of Professional Concert Sound” panel at the AES Conference in San Francisco. The panel was hosted by the Women’s Audio Mission (WAM) and moderated by WAM founder Terri Winston. Terri brought together five women working in live and broadcast audio. The groundbreaking panel (which also included Jeri Palumbo, Claudia Engelhart and Deanne Franklin), provided young women and men a glimpse into life on the road, tips and advice, and a Q & A with the panelists. More importantly though, was how incredibly powerful the experience was for the panelists. We had all been in the business for 20 years or more, yet most of us had never met before that day and within minutes we bonded like long-lost sisters. We were struck by how similar our experiences, work ethics, and passions were and wondered why our paths had never crossed and how our careers would have been different had we been there to support each other through the years. Each of us are strong on our own, but together we were even stronger and a powerful force. We were empowered. Each of us had been asked hundreds of times in our careers: Are there other women doing sound? How did you get into sound? How would a young woman go about getting into sound? Through creating SoundGirls.Org, we hope to establish a place for women working in professional audio to come for support and advice, to share our success and failures, our joys and frustrations, and for empowerment and inspiration.

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