Pi’s Guide to How To Survive Work Trips (And why they suck)

I travel for work quite a bit. This past week, I was in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Healthcare Information Management and Security Show (HIMSS) with over 25,000 attendees and 460 software, healthcare and security vendors from all around the world. Three weeks ago, I was in Palm Springs, California for my company’s Global Sales Meeting, and a month before this, I was in Los Angeles and San Diego, California for a week to meet with my customers.

I remember my very first business trip in 2004, when I worked for Canon Business Solutions. It was the first time I’d been sent away on my own by my company for training in Toronto for two weeks. I remember my first morning, suited up, sitting in the hotel restaurant having the continental breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and croissants, reading the morning paper with my suitcase beside me. The road warrior, it was awesome.

I would like to say that there have only been a handful of memorable moments in my life that I would consider monumental. I’ve known people who think that every event from the mundane to the exciting are life memories, and perhaps rightfully so it might be true for them, but for myself there is something to be said about only having only a few events that I remember that make those moments special, near to heart and life changing. After all, having too much of something cheapens it doesn’t it?

I remember that moment as if it were yesterday, because at that moment, I’d felt like I’d made it, achieved my goal and was king of the world. To explain, I’ll need to rewind back a few years, when I was in elementary school. As a young chap all of 9 years old, I knew I wanted to go to SFU Business school and be a business man. I didn’t know what kind of business, just one where I drove to my downtown highrise corner office in a nice car, with my suitcase in shotgun, and me in a suit. I pictured leading boardroom meetings to a bunch of suits, talking all sorts of business. I’m not sure where I got this vision, since no one in my family was corporate. And also because I was 9.

Fast forward to today, 8 years after my first business trip and I have to say, travelling for work sucks. Like, it really blows. You couldn’t pay me to have a continental breakfast anymore. Seriously, they’re like powdered eggs and there’s never enough ketchup. Here are my reasons and how to survive a work trip.

1. You eat alone – When I was growing up, my parents always made my sister and I eat at the dinner table as a family. It was the one time of the day where we sat and talked and shared what went on. It definitely brought us closer together and it’s a tradition I’m going to keep with my future family. I can tell you that having room service with the TV on sucks. Even better yet, trying to eat airport food while waiting for your flight (Like I literally just did 15 minutes ago before writing this.)

How to survive it: Convince your boss to let a colleague come with you. Or make friends with other lonely travelling business people. I’ve met some pretty cool people with cool stories from all over through the years.

2. There’s no time for touristy stuff – I’ve been to SoCal 7 times now in the past 2 years for work. Did I get to go party or check out the beaches? Nope. I was just in Vegas (I’m actually still here, waiting for my flight) and I didn’t do anything other than meet with clients. You really don’t have time to do anything else other than work. It’s not good business to go to your 9am meeting hung over reeking like goose. And after your last meeting at 5pm, I go back to my hotel and prepare for the next days meetings, answer emails, put out fires and order room service.

How to survive it: Have your clients take you out. Get them smashed and if they reek like goose the next day too, it’s even playing grounds and your boss can’t fire you. Or just take a vacation and go back to do the touristy stuff

3. Airports – who has two thumbs and hates the commute?? This guy!! (Points at me with my two thumbs) Line up to check in. Line up go to though security. Take off my belt, shoes, laptop out of bag. No liquids, nothing over 100ml, oh, bags too heavy? Throw some shit away. Bag doesn’t fit in overhead? Gotta check it. Sitting in the middle between two people? One of them is fat and the other stinks? You land. Line up to go through customs. Line up to get bag. Nuff said.

How to survive it: Learn to teleport. Or get rich enough to charter your own flight. Either way, you’re not travelling for work anymore.

4. Ironing – They lied when they told me those dress shirts were wrinkle free. Where are they now when they’re wrinkled as hell?? I suck at ironing. It takes me like 20 minutes to iron ONE shirt.

How to survive it: Bring your mom with you.

There are, of course with everything in life, the silver lining and it’s there if you look hard enough.

1. Free trip!

2. Escape the rain of home for a few days.

3. The people you meet

4. Time to write and read

5. …

There are more, but I just heard my flight being called to board, so I’m ending it here before I get stuck here for another night. Then you guys will have to read about that. (OH yeah! That’s another reason work trips suck. Delayed flights.)

Do you travel for work? Tell me your pros/cons about it too, I’d love to hear what other people experience.

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3 responses to “Pi’s Guide to How To Survive Work Trips (And why they suck)

  1. I can totally understand how travelling for business sucks! I turned down a month in Russia last year for my company because I was taking part time classes at that time and even though it would’ve been a great experience, I wasn’t ready to drop my programming classes to work in the Russian winter for a month while staying up until 3am to chat with my colleagues back home due to the difference in time-zone. I have to say I regret it just a tiny bit but a month away from home for purely work didn’t seem that great.

  2. I can’t say anyone would enjoy the cab/airport routine, but I’d have to say business travel would be better if there was something nice to see along the way. I recently came back from Troy, Michigan – a suburb of Detroit with nothing but corporate banks, IT companies, and lots of open road covered in snow.

    It was the beginning of February at -5 degrees Celsius (I don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit) , with no rental car. My hotel didn’t have their own bar/lounge. In my area within walking distance, there was a Red Robins, Starbucks, some pizza place, and an Italian Bar n Grille. Of the 6 nights I was there, I ate at the Red Robins and the Italian place 5 times for dinner. Luckily, I went there enough they each gave me a free beer. Bonus!

    Just as you pointed out, you get a lot of time to yourself to read, write, and catch up on your personal work. I’d also have to say, another benefit of work travel would be that you get the opportunity to see the places you would never consider visiting on your own dime. You get to see how other people live their lives with different cultures all in different areas, another perspective.

    But all in all, you really need to know how to be alone, to enjoy traveling for business.

    I still look forward to my next trip…

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