When I first entered the business world in 1977, the thought of business travel seemed exotic and thrilling. Over the years, I’ve discovered that the non-business traveler in any family might have the same perception – whether related to entrepreneurs, small business owners or corporate management.
Let me dispel that perception!
My very first business trip, to attend IBM training classes, was…challenging. Driving to the airport, a front wheel came off my car and bounced down the road. By the grace of God, I was not injured. Thankfully, in the age before cell phones, people stopped to help. One man went to the airport to change my reservation, while another helped the highway patrol find the tire and put on the spare.
But, you say, that could have happened to anyone at any time. There is more.
When I finally reached my interim destination, I found that my connection had left and I had a long wait. At my final destination, I discovered that two-weeks-worth of business clothes had been lost by the airline. So, I had to wash out my travel clothes in the sink for two days until my luggage was delivered. My red summer dress is clearly visible in the class photo among the dark business suits.
Since then, I’ve been wined and dined (or done the wining and dining) in major cities and stayed at fancy hotels. I’ve met interesting people and conducted successful business. I’ve eaten good food. I became educated about fine wine and, even, cigars (back in the day). But, on balance, I would rather stay home.
When I’ve traveled, it has been because face-to-face meetings made a difference. And, I don’t regret them. For the most part, they were worth the personal and professional preparation, and intense focus. But, even when I was single, after a long day of meetings, I preferred a quiet take-out dinner in my hotel room to a business dinner where I would have to be “on.” Business travel is generally exhausting – especially for an introvert.
I’ve been to cities I would not have otherwise visited. I remember their airports and the sometimes long hours spent there, the hotels (which all start to look alike after a while), the difficult time I had putting meeting issues aside in order to have a good night’s sleep, and the ever-annoying time-zone changes.
An advertising agency guru once invited me out to an extravagant dinner where he and his wife acted as though I was not there. (I was not amused.) A $100-a-plate dinner in Chicago in 1980 made me wish I could have given the money away. There was the chic party in San Francisco where I realized that the steam from the hotel shower had not only gotten the wrinkles out of my specially-chosen dress, but the dress was literally getting much shorter as it dried – during the event. Worst was the incredible dinner in Los Angeles, where, as the only female, I chose to excuse myself after the conversation turned to brothel experiences in Frankfurt, Germany.
My husband appreciates my perspective. He has done much more business travel than I have in the decade-plus of our business – and he knows I am never jealous of his time away. When he gets home, I try to give him a break for at least a day, so that he can nurse his “travel hangover” – which has nothing to do with alcohol. In fact, sometimes it can take a couple of days to get back on track with life’s schedules. When our kids were small, I knew the demands were as big on him, while he was away, as they were on me at our home office. We didn’t view it as a competition.
Thankfully, online meeting software as dramatically lowered my travel needs. But, they cannot do it all.
If you have a family member who travels for business, be gentle. Please. Your efforts will be appreciated in the long run. If you travel, and your “people” do not understand, show them my stories. Hopefully, my experience will help you all.
Until we meet again,
The Entrepreneur’s Friend
The Entrepreneur’s Friend® is a registered trademark of Wheaton Consulting Group LLC. Photo credits: All photos were taken by Cynthia Wheaton and owned by Wheaton Consulting Group LLC except as noted. Coffee cup art by Jim Wheaton. Author support: Fellow authors from The Wrinklings and Light of Carolina Christian Writers Group.