Several weeks ago, I wrote an article titled the 10 Worst Things About Business Travel. Anyone who has traveled extensively for business will tell you that life on the road can become both mundane and exhausting. Run into me on my third week of travel in an airport, and I’m likely to be a touch grumpy. I’m ready to go home, spend time with my family and sleep in my bed.
After reading the article, a friend of mine asked me why I continue to travel for a living, “You could get a job at 50 different companies in Rochester, if the travel is so bad, why not stop?”
I had to stop and think for a minute, but I told him I really like what I do. I help manufacturing companies improve their business, some of my customers have become great friends and I get to learn about how all kinds of things are made. My job is kind of like Dirty Jobs and Made in America rolled into one, I get to share my experiences and teach people how to improve the reliability of their assets.
With this being said I got to thinking about the good things about my job and some of the ways I have learned to make business travel more enjoyable. Below are the 10 things I try to do to make business travel more enjoyable.
1. Think about where you sit and wait at the airport
One of the first things I noticed following the attack of September 11, 2001 was the difference of waiting at the gate for your flight. Prior to September 11 anyone could walk into an airport and go to the gate to greet their loved ones who were coming home to visit. You saw open public displays of love, excitement affection. Laughter, tears, hugs, kisses, Grandparents seeing their Grandchildren for the first time. Parents welcoming their children home from college or the military and couples so in love that they could hardly stand to wait for their loved one to get off the jet bridge. The sight is heartwarming and it makes you feel good about people no matter where you are. While the events of 9/11 may have ruined that experience, you don’t have to wait for your flight at the gate, check out the airport your traveling through and sit where you can see people exit and experience the greetings again!
2. Don’t eat at chain restaurants
Talk to the local people you are working with and seek out the privately owned restaurants. Better yet, find the restaurant where the owner actually works there nearly every night and you are in for a treat. The private owner who is still engaged in the daily operation by either working in the kitchen or greeting his/her patrons is the owner who cares to ensure you have a good experience. Sample the local cuisine, Char Broiled Oysters in New Orleans, the Chocolate and Beers in Belgium, Kona Coffee in Hawaii and you will find yourself enjoying the day. I was even lucky enough to stay in a small privately owned hotel/restaurant in Europe where the owner had attended culinary school. He his wife and children were up each morning to cook breakfast each day asking what I would like for dinner before I headed off to work. My answer was the same each day, whatever you’re cooking! While they prepared dinner each night the few of us who were lucky enough to find this gem were treated to local beer and each night we ate dinner like a family. You will never find that kind of service at a chain restaurant and the food was out of this world!
3. Make life-long friendships
My favorite clients have rarely been my largest clients. My favorites have been those where we have become friends. While some in the business world are reluctant to build a friendship when they have a customer/service provider relationship, those who have become friends have found we both work harder to ensure the work we do is successful. I have golfed, fished and hunted with these friends. Attended football games at the universities they attended, made wine, toured the canals in Amsterdam and visited the Cavern Pub in Liverpool where the Beatles got their start. Best of all I have been invited into their homes, met their wives, children and grandchildren. Open the door inviting them to my home and have even vacationed with some. In the end, the friends I have made are friends for life and the times we have shared together saved me hours in hotel rooms. For that I am always grateful.
4. Observe People
I have to admit, this is one of my favorite pastimes when I travel. People are both funny and strange at the same time and after 15 years of travel I continue to be amazed at some of the things I have seen people do on airplanes, in airports, hotels and restaurants. There is the guy who decided he needed a shave while sitting in the airport waiting for a plane. He didn’t go to the restroom to use the mirror, he simply whipped out his electric razor, turned it on and proceeded to shave while the guy next to him was eating a bagel and drinking his coffee. The guy who just a few weeks ago decided he would be more comfortable flying barefoot. He took of his shoes and socks, rubbed his feet with his hands and even went to the bathroom with no socks or shoes! You just can’t make this stuff up and so long as they are not talking loud on their cell phone I find it entertaining.
5. Do some research
While I have traveled the world I tend to spend most of my time in small towns in North America and Europe. One of the things I like to do is spend some time doing some online research about the town/city I am working in. Who are their most famous citizens? Is the town/city had any famous historic events? How did the town get its name? Was anything significant invented in this town and if so who was the inventor? I’m not only interested in learning about where I am but it gives me something to talk to the locals about. History is interesting to me, if a famous war battle was fought nearby chances are I’m going to take a drive and see where it took place. If Elvis, Henry Ford or Ken Stabler grew up there I want to check out the house they grew up in.
6. Catch up With Friends
The reality is I rarely visit a town where one of my friends from childhood lives but if I do you can bet I will take the time to let them know I am coming into town and we schedule a time to meet up. Because these events are rare I use the alone time to catch up with friends. I make phone calls, send e-mails and chat on social media. Life is far too short and I have had some friends pass away over the years and regret not having talked as often as we should have. It only takes a few minutes and you will find yourself not only thinking about the times you shared but making plans to get together some time in the future.
7. Read a good book
When I was young I hated reading. It was really a chore for me, I read so slowly it sometimes took me weeks to get through a book. Today I will sometimes read 2 or more a week. I have become a huge fan of several authors over the years to a point where I am now preordering books on my Kindle sometimes months before they are released. Top that off with the tip a friend gave me a couple of years back, if you find yourself in the rut of reading the same types of books pick up some of the all-time classics. Steinbeck, Agatha Christie, Hemingway, and Mark Twain for example. The classics have become classics for a reason, they are well written, use colorful language and phrases and are responsible for inspiring some of the greatest authors of our time.
8. Take time to improve
We all have different interests. I like to write when I can find some quite time to collect my thoughts and let’s face it, when your living in a hotel for 4 or 5 nights it’s very easy to find some quite time. I have been blogging going on 15 years now, I was blogging before most people knew what a blog was and in that time I have gone from having 2 or 3 readers a month to sometimes 20,000 in 1 week. If writing isn’t your thing, hit the gym, tour a museum or check out the local sports scene. Lately I have also picked up a Voyage Air guitar I can now take with me to hone my amateur music skills. I find it relaxing to pick it up, play a few of the tunes I know and work on few I would like to master. When I was traveling and had my own company I took the time to research and learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and as a result was able to work with others to take a website that couldn’t even be found in Google to number 1. Time can be your friend and a great business partner if you use it wisely.
9. Turn off the TV especially the news
In my first few years of travel I watched way too much TV. I became a news junkie because I enjoy hearing about current world, national, and local events. But most news has just turned into a political message from the left or right and to be honest it’s depressing. Turn that TV off and find something better to do! Once I did this I had all kinds of time to do the other things I listed above. Aside from that, the Soprano’s and Seinfeld ended several years ago and I’m just not into reruns!
10. Phone Home
When I wrote my blog about the 10 worst things about business travel the first thing I listed was being away from my family and home. The best part of my day comes when I call home and being lucky enough to live in a time when technology has given us Skype and Face Time that part of my day is even better. I call every day sometimes more than once and I get to not only talk but see the faces of my wife, children and grandchildren. Nothing makes me smile and laugh more than the conversations with my grandchildren and while just my 6 year old granddaughter can talk at this point, my grandson who is not yet two always has a smile and one of those open mouthed kisses for grandpa. How can you beat that!
I’m sure my readers/followers will have other great recommendations on how to make the drudgery of business travel and frankly I am excited to read your ideas. At this point however I am excited to turn off the computer, pack my bags and get ready to go home!