It seems to me….
“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli.
When young, I loved to travel. In the military I was assigned to a travel team and very much enjoyed constantly going to new locations. Even as an undergraduate and not able to afford to travel, I occasionally would walk down to the bus station and wish I could climb aboard not caring where the destination might be. Gradually, that changed.
I’m not sure if I ever was a member of the infamous million-mile frequent flier club but I definitely suffered from travel burnout. Waking up in the middle of the night and forgetting where you are, attentively watching weather forecasts, sprinting to make your connection. Having nightmares of leaving your bag somewhere or frantically searching through a maze of conference rooms before you miss your flight. When stewardesses and airline lounge attendants greet you by first name and all restaurants and hotel rooms seem identical – you know you have been traveling too much.
There were things I should have done – but rarely did – to relieve some of the stress associated with frequent travel. Some of us learn much more slowly than others….
One mistake was working all day and then taking a redeye flight for a next-day early-morning meeting. Since I lived on the west coast and without an opportunity to adjust to an east coast time change, the meeting always began at what for me was still the middle of the night. Especially now that I’m older, jetlag is more of a factor. On several deployments, even after taking normal day flights, I’ve had to take time to get some extra sleep (ten to twelve hours) after working only two or three days. When possible, try to arrive the day prior to any meeting or work commitment and avoid taking the last flight out in case you need time to re-route due to weather or schedule changes.
Try to ease stress by reducing decisions: stick with a single airline, hotel chain, car service, and rental car program as much as possible. In the 1980s when I was on the road up to 60 percent of the time, United Airlines owned Hertz Rental Cars and Western International Hotels (along with a “working relationship” with Hilton Hotels). When things went wrong, having status got me to the front of the service line or helped secure the last available seat on a flight. (While not actually a consideration, there also was the added bonus of collecting personal points for free or discounted trips when able to take some rare time off.)
While normally difficult to avoid, it is best to not check your bag. Bags have occasionally taken side-trips of their own or connecting flights were delayed or cancelled. I have arrived for a meeting or conference presentation without a suit or critical materials. A quick trip to the store provided the proper outfit but still had to wing the presentation material; something much less critical now that most items can be stored electronically.
When travelling, schedules and plans always seem to change so it is best to be ready for whatever comes along. Eat, sleep, and go to the restroom when you can. There have been too many times when that last-minute trip to the restroom didn’t work out and was quite uncomfortable by the time the seatbelt sign was turned off. While I frequently try to grab something to eat on the plane at a stand just prior to boarding, the lines have occasionally been too long to wait.
Try not to allow your manager or HR department route you strictly by the lowest priced airfare. That less expensive flight frequently results in you being out of the office for an extra day. I once had seven changes of planes flying from Idaho to Tennessee. Being able to work on a flight never worked so the time is always lost.
I enjoyed running so would try to get out every morning wherever I was staying to log a few miles. It was a great way to clear the mental fog, see the city from a different perspective, and prepare for the day’s coming activities. Not everyone enjoys running but the achievable benefit from even copious quantities of coffee is limited.
The sad thing about visiting the cities of the world for business is that you rarely get to actually “see” those places when you’re in them. There are so many places where I’ve been and always planned to go back to visit but never have. Some people plan better than others; after your final meeting, plan to take an extra day to see the area. It frequently provides a crucial opportunity to decompress from a hectic schedule.
Work/life balance can be difficult but family always should be the highest priority. Reserve time for them and try to never travel over a weekend or holiday. Not only do they need your time (and you need theirs), traveling is hard and downtime is essential.
While I was a reluctant traveler for several years, I firmly believe travel, whether work-related or personal, can inspire us more than anything else we might do. Every journey is unique and regardless of inconvenience, especially when young, educational and enlightening. Those who do not travel know only where they live, unable to understand and accept the world and its differences.
Now, when able, I prefer to go without a timetable or reservations with freedom to alter any prior plans and take advantage of unanticipated opportunities to explore and see locations not considered. Paul Theroux remarked “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going”.
Regardless of how enjoyable a trip might have been, everyone realizes that the best part is when we arrive back home and able to once again sleep in our own bed.
That’s what I think, what about you?