The Joys of Business Travel

Do you travel for work? If you’re in sales or business development, no one in your office will blink an eye or make a comment when you travel. If you’re not in sales or business development, when you travel for business, your co-workers likely think that you’re going off to have fun.

Announce at work that you’re going to a conference and the first question anyone will ask – including your boss – is, “Where is it?” Depending on the location, you’ll get one of two responses. Either a disinterested, “Oh. Well, at least you’ll be out of the office.” Or an excited and slightly jealous, “That should be so much fun!” Your boss, of course, will have one of two responses, as well, also depending on the location. Either a disinterested, “Oh. You’ll learn a lot.” Or a suspicious and slightly jealous, “I’m expecting an executive summary of what you’ve learned. Which ed sessions were you planning on attending?”

As someone who travels for business at least every other month if not more often, I’m usually the recipient of the latter responses regardless of the location simply because I travel more often for both business and pleasure. Speaking from experience, as someone whose job does not require travel, traveling for business is not a cakewalk.

First there’s all the preparation involved with business travel – estimating travel costs in order to pull together the travel request, requesting approval to travel, and making the travel arrangements (registering for the conference/workshop/meeting, making hotel reservations, making airline reservations, and making ground transportation arrangements). Then, there’s all the extra work that needs to be done to tie up as many loose ends as possible before the trip. Newbie travelers often skip this step because they figure that they’ll have access to email and voicemail and can always call the office. More seasoned travelers know that skipping this step means that their trip will be peppered with constant interruptions, crises, and emergencies.

Then there’s the actual travel itself. Since 9/11, traveling has become more onerous because of the increase security. The airlines haven’t helped much because of their new ways if generating revenue – on-board food sales, baggage fees, etc. So now, it’s no longer enough to just throw some clothes into a suitcase and head to the airport because airlines charge for checked bags now. And if you choose not to check a bag, then you need to consider your liquids and gels because security limits what you can bring in your carry-on bag. Most airlines have reduced the number of flights so now just about every flight is completely full, which makes for cramped and uncomfortable flights.

What most people don’t realize is that going to a conference or workshop or meeting or site visit is really work. If you are doing it right, it is work. If you are taking advantage of the opportunity, it is work. And often it’s not 8 to 5 work.

It starts at breakfast and usually goes through dinner and on through the hospitality suite. Can you imagine being “on” from 7:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. or later for 3, 4, or 5 days without a real break? I’m often more exhausted when I come back from a conference because I’m involved from Friday through Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the conference.

Coming back to the office after a trip is almost harder than leaving. When you get back to the office, everyone who was left behind wants to know about your trip. They want to know what fun activities you participated in, what foods did you eat, what goodies you snagged at the exhibit hall. They don’t want to hear about all the stuff you learned or the people you met or the products/services you think might be good for the company. Then you have to fill out and submit your expense report. If you don’t travel often, this can be a project in and of itself.

And finally, the catch up. Even if you brought your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you really wouldn’t have had the time to stay on top of everything that was happening at the office or at time while you were away. So you often come back to the office with hundreds of emails in your inbox, dozens of voicemails on your phone, and a lot of mail in your mailbox.

The point of this story is that traveling for business is not all fun and games. As technology improves and becomes more prevalent, things like video-conferencing, webinars, online courses, and the like are slowly taking the place of business travel. However, technology cannot take the place of connecting with someone in real life. The relationships that you build when you go to a conference or workshop are worth the difficulties that come with business travel. So if you have the opportunity to attend a conference or workshop or meeting, make the most of it!

The thought processor churns on . . .

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