Business Travel Is Completely Overrated

I travel a lot for business. And I go to a lot of ‘fun sounding’ places. So there are times when people will assume that these trips are lots of fun. Let me give you a brief glimpse into a recent business trip. Tell me how much ‘fun’ this sounds.

Sunday 3PM – Leave for the airport.  Fighting Sunday afternoon traffic to JFK airport is always fun. Which direction should we go? Is there a Mets game? Is there traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway (there’s always traffic on the Van Wyck – hence the nickname van stuck)? I get to the airport, check in, go through security, head to the gate.

Sunday 6:55 PM – Board flight for 6 hour flight to London. Of course, I can’t sleep. I watch the movie ‘Hugo’ hoping it will make me tired. It doesn’t. I finally fall asleep 1 hour before we land. I get off the plane a little groggy. But I’m in England.

Monday 6 AM – Head to UK Customs and Border Security. I don’t know what it is about Heathrow – but I can never get through customs in under an hour. Today it was 1-1/2 hours. Standing in line next to people who haven’t slept all night. But I’m in England.

Monday 7:30 AM – Taxi to hotel. I should have reconsidered taking a taxi. First of all, it’s far. Secondly, I hit morning rush hour traffic. Plus the taxi drivers insisted on talking to me the entire ride. He called me “guv’ner” a few times, which I thought was cute, so I let him talk. I have no idea what he was saying.

Monday 9:00 AM – Check in to my hotel. Somehow our travel service placed my reservation in my assistants’ name. So for 30 minutes, the woman behind the counter can’t find my reservation. Only when I produce my confirmation number and a few phone calls to someone did she ask the question “are you Laura?” Clearly, I’m not Laura – but she made my reservation. A few more phone calls, and I had a room. I go to my room. Unpack. Shower. Head down to the conference room.

Monday 11 AM to 11 PM – I’m in a conference room preparing for a meeting the next morning. I could be in any room in any hotel anywhere in the world. The only tip that I’m in England is that I need a converter for my plugs. The room in beige and a little smelly. The food is bland and beige, too.  At some point during the day, I walked outside for about 5 minutes. ‘Look, a double decker bus – I must be in England.”

Monday 11 PM – I can’t sleep. The time change has me in it’s grasp. I know my alarm is going off at 6 AM. I manage to get 3 hours of sleep.

Tuesday 8 AM – Head down to breakfast with the team. We eat a light meal together before walking down to the conference room to set up for our meeting. We’ve been told we can begin setting up at 9 AM for a meeting that will begin at 10:00.  We walk in the room at 9:30 – after standing outside the room for about 45 minutes.

Tuesday 10 AM – We begin our two-hour presentation. We finish and talk to our clients until we get kicked out of the room at 12:30 PM

Tuesday 1 PM – Debrief in the hotel café. We’re all exhausted. We talk for about an hour. We agree to meet for a walk at 3 PM.

Tuesday 3 PM – We decide to go on a little walk around downtown London. Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Oxford Road. We walk around for a little more than an hour. It’s raining. I don’t have an umbrella or an overcoat. My sports jacket doesn’t keep me warm enough. Luckily I have a scarf. But, hey, I’m in England.

Tuesday 7 P M – I have dinner with two co-worker. We actually can relax for a few minutes – with the exception that it’s only 2 PM in NYC – which means I’m still working and responding to e-mails from the office.

Tuesday 11 PM – I have to leave for the airport at 5 AM, so I try to fall asleep. I can’t. I’m still awake. Plus, in New York is the BIG advertising award show. We’re nominated for 5 awards. I’m hoping we do well. Sometime around 1 AM, I fall asleep.

Wednesday 2:21 AM – My phone is buzzing like crazy. Every 20 seconds, another text message or e-mail. I’m thinking, “Something good just happened at the award show,” so I decide to look at my phone. Yes, something good happened – we won ‘Most Creative Agency” for the third year in a row!!! I can’t believe it. I’m excited and can’t sleep now. I start e-mailing people at the award show. I decide to stay up for the rest of the night. We win 3 awards.

Wednesday 5 AM – Leave the hotel for the airport. Check in, go through security, go to the gate, get on a flight to Hamburg, Germany. This part of my day was very easy.

Wednesday 9 AM – Arrive in Frankfurt, buy train ticket, walk 20 minutes to the train platform.  But a bottle of water and something to eat for breakfast. I eat while I’m walking, because I’m afraid I’m going to miss the train to Mannheim.

Wednesday 11 AM – Arrive at the hotel. It’s not that nice. But it’s clean. I get a room. I check in the room. Of course, I’ve checked into the wrong room. (See recent blog entry for that story)

Wednesday 1 PM – 10 PM – Prepare for meeting in the hotel conference room. Eat really bad food. Drink lots of coffee. The room is cold, damp and musty smelling. We rewrite the presentation. We double-check everything. Leave the room to go to sleep.

Thursday 2 AM – I finally stop answering work e-mail

Thursday 7 AM – Breakfast with the team before we present at 10 AM.

Thursday 10 AM – 3-hour presentation. It goes really well, so we’re feeling pretty good. Dash for the train station.

Thursday 2:20 PM – Jump on a train from Mannheim, Germany back to the Frankfurt airport. I fall asleep on the train and almost miss my stop. Jump off the train with about 30 seconds to spare.

Thursday 3 PM – Check in at the airport, have 2 hours until my flight. Make a few phone calls, answer a few e-mails.  I’ve seen absolutely nothing of Germany.

Thursday 5 PM – Board flight. Exhausted. But now I don’t want to fall asleep, because I want to be tired when I get home. Get in my seat. Watch 3 movies. Arrive in New York, JFK airport.

Thursday 6 PM – After my 7 hour flight and 6 hour time change, I arrive at US Customs and Border Crossing. The line is really, really long. Two hours long. I’m tired. I’m cranky. I can’t wait to get home.

Thursday 8:30 PM – Arrive home. Hugs and kisses all around.

I flew to 2 different countries; saw the inside of 4 different conference rooms. 8 different taxis, 3 planes, 1 train, made 2 presentations, and slept a total of about 12 hours in 4 days.  Business travel is important, it’s critical to business, but it’s certainly not all fun and games.

5.8.12

3 thoughts on “Business Travel Is Completely Overrated

  1. I recently left a job that had this identical international travel. To make it fun, I would always add 2-4 days as vacation to do some sightseeing, cultural immersion and photography.

  2. I can relate. Try convincing your wife and 3 kids you’re actually doing work in sunny Vancouver, dining in 5 star restaurants and staying at plush hotels. They seem to ignore the part with long meetings, 5am calls and day-long tech scouts.

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