I met with a colleague, recently, who travels a lot on business – usually she leaves on a Sunday and is back on Friday. This time she is heading for South Korea and I asked what she thought of South Korea and she shrugged, “You know how it is, airport to hotel to office to restaurant to hotel to office to airport. I could be in Timbuktu.”
I travel with work (my other job as a B2B marketing person) – not a whole lot but enough that I understand the benefits of Melatonin when jetlagged. And not all business travel is made equal – some is only business and some is business with a sprinkle of pleasure.
Mostly, business travel is about catching that terrible 6.30 a.m. flight and then spending a day inside a meeting room before either heading back home, heading back to the hotel and ordering room service while you catch up on emails or finding yourself with colleagues at some restaurant. You’re dog tired. You want to sleep but there’s no backup for your job, which means when you travel, you still have to find time to work.
So, when I tell friends I’m going to Paris and they say, “Ooh la la, Paris” – I want to say, I’m not going to “that” Paris, I’m going to work Paris – the Paris that could be Perth or Patagonia, and it wouldn’t matter because all I get to see is the inside of a meeting room. Recently, I was in Athens and all I saw of Athens was the Parthenon from a distance (the hotel’s rooftop restaurant) – however, the meeting rooms at the Radisson Blu were very nice, as was the food and the service.
I like many others I know do the 6 a.m. flight out and 9 a.m. flight back in – which is really not glamorous, just a long and tiring day.
And it’s not all fabulous hotels – at least not for my pay scale. This trip to Melbourne, I had the pleasure of staying in Bruce County (45 minutes outside of Melbourne) because the hotel is close to the office and I had memories of cheap hotels on interstates in the United States where we stayed as students on road trips. The worn carpet, the musty room, the cold-cold-cold bathroom, the strange fleece blanket that makes you nervous even though you have been promised by colleagues in-the-know that the hotel isn’t the Ritz but it’s comfortable, convenient and clean.
But, really, anyone can stay a couple of nights in a not-so-great place. The problem with business travel is the loneliness. You are far away from your family – and if you’re out of time zone, then you’re having trouble just connecting, regardless of FaceTime and Skype because they’re awake when you sleep and you’re awake when they sleep. You don’t know anyone in the place you are and even if you did, you need to get back to your hotel to clean your inbox and get the stuff that needs to be done – after which you want to get some sleep because you have been up since 4 a.m. If you are out of your time zone, there is the pleasure of watching Mortal Kombat on television while you wait for the Melatonin to kick in.
But – I try and make the best of it. You can’t make the best of bum-fuck wherever, but when you’re lucky enough to go to New Orleans for a meeting and if your personal life allows, you take an extra day – if you fly for 20 hours to get to Melbourne for three days of meetings, you stay an extra Saturday.
And business travel does have its advantages – as a colleague said to me, “It’s sort of nice to also be all alone without the husband and the kids – just be selfish and focus on yourself.”
This is my first time in Australia and I regret that I am flying 40 long hours for meetings and I haven’t seen a kangaroo or a koala bear or the beach…or the Sydney Opera House (which isn’t a hop skip from Melbourne but if I had the time…) or…anything that I thought I’d want to see if I went to Australia. Bruce County and three different hospitals was definitely not on the list – on the other hand I did meet with some lovely colleagues, ate excellent Indian food at a colleague’s house – and got a Saturday to myself, to be selfish and be all about “me.”
The only problem – I have so much work to do when I get back home because it’s been piling up while I’ve been gone. But I’ll worry about that tomorrow – after breakfast at the Hopetoun Tea Room down the street. I’ll worry about it during the 20 hours of flying I have to get through before I can get home to hug my babies and husband.