Finding the bright side of business travel

I don’t like travelling. I’d rather be home: husband, cats, garden, library, home-cooked food, regular routines, everything I need where I want it to be. But we haven’t figured out teleportation and some clients want face-to-face contact, so I go if necessary.

It’s a little hard to focus on the bright side of business travel, aside from the opportunity to meet people in person. Travel changes such a large chunk of personal time. Long days trail off into the temptation to spend evening hours catching up with work e-mail or flipping through the movies on the television. Restaurants overwhelm with choices and serve too-large portions. Laughter and meows are replaced by the white-noise hum of hotel airconditioning.

But there’s a bright side there, somewhere, new opportunities that open up during every disruption. Here’s what I might be able to do this trip:

  • Wake up earlier. There’s no one to disturb, and there’s more incentive to go to bed early and wake up early.
  • Spend more time writing and drawing. No meals to prepare, no dishes to wash, nothing else to do but work and write and draw.
  • Eat different kinds of food. Eat the kinds of things we would find difficult to prepare at home. Avoid the temptations. Focus on soups and salads – maybe that will help…
  • Listen to more music. I rarely do so at home. Here, it’s better than the constant traffic and weather updates on the lobby television that’s tuned to the news channel.

I could enjoy business travel more, I suppose, if I stayed an extra day in the cities we visit. Here loss aversion rears its behavioral-psychology head, I think; I’d find it hard to tear myself away from home a day early in order to walk around a city by myself. This is not completely true. I haven’t tried it, and I should give it at least one try. And for places I know we have friends in, I’d be happy to come a day earlier or leave a day later so that I can spend time with them. Perhaps the next trip.

It’s difficult but essential to be where you are, not mis-placed.

2011-05-15 Sun 09:26

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  • Hi Sach — good to hear that you’re stretching your comfort zone, looking at exploring the places you’re visiting for work.

    I often try to stay an extra day or weekend when I travel, especially when I’m visiting a place for the first time. I visit my friends and sometimes drop by to see Mom’s friends too if I have time. Or just set out on my own.

    Had lots of memorable experiences this way — seeing the Taj Mahal, whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, sightseeing in Bruges and at the Grand Canyon, being invited to a Quaker Meeting by Tita Beth.

    There is so much more to these places than airport, hotel, and office :)

    And definitely — try local food. Skip room service and hotel restaurants if you can!

  • I have often started a business trip one day early, or come home a day later and used the time for sightseeing. Business trips that include a weekend give opportunities for more travel or socialising with the locals.

    Trips where I extended a day include Singapore (giving me a day on Sentosa Island), a stopover in San Francisco on the way to Denver (I saw Alcatraz, rode the tram, lunch at Fisherman’s wharf and chatted to the locals, Chinatown and Powells bookshop).

    Last year I spent a week in Bangkok running a training course and I went to Jim Thompson’s house on the Saturday morning, had a great tour and bought souvenir T-shirts for my family.

    I do agree that business travel is disruptive to a harmonious home life, but make the most of the opportunities as they arise. Call me if you have a business trip to Sydney, Australia!

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