When I was younger, I used to think business trips were sexy adventures; your boss trusted you to meet with prominent partners, rub elbows, stay in four-star hotels, and eat at gourmet restaurants. To be honest, I didn’t think much about the business portion at all. Of course, this was an idea perpetuated by TV and movies, with no real representation of the practicalities.
Now that I am an adult and my current job requires me to go on occasional business trips, I feel bamboozled. My job requires me to attend national conferences, visit other hospitals, and present at workshops. At first, I was looking forward to it, since I do enjoy traveling for fun, but then I realized what “business travel” really meant and my poor introvert and anxious ridden heart could not deal.
I will admit that for maybe the first five hours, it feels good to break up the monotony and travel to a new destination. Unfortunately, my line of work does not allow me to have a lot of down-time to enjoy some of these desirable locations. My colleagues think when I take trips to Las Vegas, Chicago, or Dallas, I am on vacation, but I know they would hate having to be shuffled around, meet people, and be “on” for nearly 14 hours a day instead of the regular 9 to 5; the three to five days I spend away from the office feels more like two weeks. I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, as I have plenty of friends who travel for work and enjoy being poolside (not bitter at all). .
My last business trip was four weeks ago in Denver. I decided to implement some strategies to make the trip more tolerable and lessen the introvert hangover I would develop, especially since I would not be able to truly explore the Mile High City. Each time I travel, I realize something new I need to do for myself and my state of mind. They’re often simple little common sense tricks, but when trying to make a mad dash to the airport and keep up with work, they’re easy to forget. Here are a few tips I use to survive my business trips.
For the travel, for in-between mealtimes, and the culture, pack a variety of snacks. I’ve spent too many times hungry and cranky because there was a long gap between meals or the food was unpleasant. Being hungry and forced to have unending social interactions is doubly draining.
If you’re traveling to a city you’re excited about, see if you can arrive a day early; this would allow you to have an opportunity to sight-see before your energy is consumed by business. Another possibility is extending your trip into a vacation. For me, it’s hard to shake off the initial intent of the trip afterward and enjoy myself.
If possible, pick a hotel room on a different floor from everyone else
This isn’t always possible. If I have to travel with a coworker, I usually try to fly in after them and wait for them to tell me their room number. Once I know, I will choose a room on a different floor or a completely different wing. I never share where I am staying, we can meet in the lobby.
Say yes to intimate dinners and kindly decline large gatherings
When I first began traveling, I felt obligated to say yes to each invitation because I thought that was the expectation. Then I realized having dinner with 3-4 people was not as bad as the 20+ person receptions that were constantly being asked of us. In a small group, you can share ideas, hear yourself think, and peace out after an hour. You can still be a team player without the whole team.
Use any breaks during the day to go back to your room
I used to think it was not efficient to go to my room when I received a 15 or 30-minute break. I figured I could stay put and wait for the next meeting. WRONG! You have to take a few moments to yourself. Remove your pants and shoes and just breathe.
Bring a friend
You don’t have to travel alone. If I am able, I will invite someone to take the trip with me. It’s nice to have someone to vent to and explore with if you have time. You get a companion and they get to take a mini-vacay.
Get the heck out of there as soon as you can!
If you’re not keen on traveling for work, do not let anyone convince you to stay an extra day or take a later flight. I know I am going to be over it after day two, so I usually plan to leave as soon as the required business is over. If I don’t have to stay, I won’t. I also don’t want to be affected by delays at the airport. I think I’ve impressed enough people I am ready to go home.
Don’t return to the office right away
I have made this mistake too many times. I think because I was away, I need to be present at the office. When in reality, I worked harder than if I just stayed put. Everyone needs time to decompress and re-acclimate themselves before returning to the daily grind. I tend to either work from home the day after I return or take the entire day off.
How do you handle business trips? Can you share any tips with me?
Categories: Introvert Life
I used to travel a lot for work. I used to quite enjoy it, but it is exhausting. Being ‘on’, as you put it, from breakfast to dinner is often a strain. Like you, I would try and take a couple of quick ‘time outs’ through the day. A walk in the grounds a great way to do this if you can get away unobserved.
I don’t think I have any additional tips to share. One horror story though:
I was working for a large insurance company at the time and a close colleague of mine and I attended a large risk management conference which was attended by hundreds of people. There were a number of other people attending from our company, but they were from different divisions, so we didn’t know them. There was a big conference dinner one of the nights which had a guest speaker. I can’t remember all the details, but somehow, this speaker riled one of the people from our global division and he stood up and called him out. The speaker crossed the room to respond, and our guy punched him in the face! I didn’t know where to put myself! The following day I was so embarrassed when I had to face people I knew from other companies. Not that I knew the man who threw the punch, or that it was any of my fault.But I felt so bad! He wasn’t even disciplined afterwards either! If he’d been in my team, I’d have fired him (if HR would’ve let me). There must be a moral in this, but I don’t know what it is.
Keep well, Tiara.
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