Business Travel

Wherever You Go, There You Are Not: How Business Travel Changed Me

Business Travel Collage

 

For the past two years, I’ve been traveling near 100% of the time. I’ve been doing so mostly for work—with a little fun thrown in here and there, of course. After transitioning from classroom teacher to educational consultant, I began working with two different companies to deliver professional development to teachers in districts across the country. Super long story very short: I had so much work with one company (because I was good at what I did*) that I could not take any work from the other (or look for any other work. Or write. Or blog. Or, at times, sleep, eat, or pee.) And then, quite out of the blue three weeks ago, I was informed that my services are no longer needed.

 

*It pains me to put that in the past tense. It causes me physical pain.

 

I feel like I had been running a marathon. And mid-marathon, I hit a brick wall. And then I kind of slid down that wall, broken. And now I’m slumped at the base of the wall—still quite broken–trying to figure out what the hell happened.

 

That same day, I found out that my mother is sick.

 

It’s been a really bad month.

 

Being me, my initial reaction was to run away. Get in my car, or on a plane or a train, and just go. After all, I suddenly had time. And so many air miles and hotel points and free car rental days. But I decided to take some time and think. Re-evaulate. Determine what is really important to me. After said time, thought, and evaluation, my final decision is: to run away.

 

Yes, yes. I know what you are all going to say. That cliche about ‘wherever you go, there you are’. Well, I’m here to tell you—I’ve been a great many places in the past two years. And I am most definitely not the same person.

 

How Business Travel Changed Me, For Better and Worse

 

For Better

 

I am no longer afraid of (almost) anything. Really. The number of fears I’ve conquered traveling the country and working in strange cities and towns is staggering. I used to be afraid of driving on the highway at night. Of taking unfamiliar public transportation or hailing a taxi, driving through tunnels, flying. I used to be afraid of meeting new people, being assertive (really), walking into unknown situations. I’m not afraid anymore. And more than not-afraid, I now consider myself to be competent. Tell me where I need to be in the world, and within 24 hours, I will get there, boots shined, ready for (almost) anything. I will look in your eyes, shake your hand, and get to work.

 

I am more professional. My new superpower: being able to immediately determine what a person (or group of people) needs and swiftly and effectively communicate how I can provide that. I’ve also become rather good at short, to-the-point communication (via email or text, though apparently not via blog post) and can pack for a week-long work trip in a backpack and look damn good.

 

I am less quick to judge or stereotype. I spent a good deal of the last several months working in the south side of Chicago. Which, according to Jim Croce, is ‘the baddest part of town’. Except Jim Croce was wrong (or maybe he was right in 1972; I don’t know, I was not alive then). Driving to work down 79th street every morning, I would occasionally pause for a crossing pedestrian. Said crossing pedestrian would almost always look me in the eye, smile, and wave. I watched neighbors help other neighbors shovel and push cars out of way too much unplowed snow. And I was generally welcomed into a community to which I very clearly did not belong. With hugs. This did not only happen in Chicago—from Queens to south Texas to Sioux City, Iowa, I have met more loving, helpful people—and seen more beauty in the world—than I could ever have imagined. Very few places are horrible. You just need to open your eyes to the good in the world.

 

For Worse

 

I am in such a freaking hurry. There’s only going to be one thing listed in my ‘for worse’ category, and this is it. Because really, all of the negative things I’ve gained from business travel can fit under the umbrella of ‘I am in such a freaking hurry’. I’ve become one of those people who lines up at the gate before boarding even begins (got to get that carry on bag in the overhead bin—no time for gate checking). I’ve run through supermarkets and department stores, desperately trying to get what I need in the ten minutes available to me that day. I started eating fast food—in my car, while driving (I gained a lot of weight). I stopped traveling for leisure (who has time for that?) I stopped spending time with my family (I maintain that I ‘saw’ the little blue hands-up-guy in the TSA body scanner more than I saw my husband in the last year.) When your commute is a drive to a rental car center to a shuttle to a security line to a flight to a shuttle to a rental car center to a hotel, you really don’t have time for anything else. You really, really do not.

 

I am definitely a different person than I was two years ago. Hell, I’m a different person than I was six months ago. And while yes, the ‘better’ outnumbers the ‘worse’ numerically, and while yes, I’d not change a single thing about the last two years of my life (aside from, perhaps, those cheeseburgers I consumed while speeding down the highway) I know that I need to take some time to become who I am going to be next. Because I want her—that next-me—to be better than before-me.

 

I need to slow the hell down.

 

And I need to remember who I was, before.

 

And I need to smile. I really, really need that.

 

So I’m going out into the world to find the old me and, having found her, use her for parts to build a new, better me. I’ve given a lot of thought about where I should go and what I should do. I considered a cross-country road trip. I looked at using miles for an around-the-world trip (I have enough miles. Woah.) I even briefly considered just, you know, staying home. But then I thought about what makes me really, truly happy. I thought about when, over the past couple of years, I’ve been the most at peace, the most empowered, the most me. And I’m going there; I’m doing that.

 

I’ll tell you all about there and that…in my next post. Because I’m drawing a line, right here, right now. Between the old me, the intermediate me (that was business traveler me) and the me-I-shall-become.

 

That line is right here:

 

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