The Misery of Business Travel

There is no misery like business travel. In the 12 hours leading up to the creation of this post, I used a bathroom so small that it didn’t fit me and my suitcase at the same time without some yoga-like configurations and unavoidable brushes against some unsavory surfaces, my cell phone wouldn’t connect to the foreign network, my feet and ankles swelled, I washed my face using an antibacterial wipe while standing next to a coughing woman with a medical mask on, I didn’t get to brush my teeth before OR after sleeping, I sat next to a smelly, sweaty man, I landed with 10 minutes left in my movie and have no idea how it ended, I spilled some of my airplane dinner on myself, the movies I downloaded from home won’t play, I don’t have the right type of adapter to plug anything in during my 5 hour layover, and my WiFi isn’t strong enough to download email attachments.

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All if that wouldn’t be so bad if each trip didn’t start with the same tourist questions in the security line: Wait, so can I wear my shoes? Does my belt have to come off? Um, I’m wearing jewelry…is that okay? Did you say sweatshirts have to come off too? This floor is gross. Oh, I forgot my water bottle…can’t I bring it in? I just bought it!

As I sit in a crowded food court-type area within the Amsterdam airport writing my post, I keep reminding myself that I’m 1/4 of the way done in terms of airport travel. I think that the second leg on the way to my destination is always the worst….My body has no idea if it should be wide awake or fast asleep and has settled somewhere in between, and my brain has done the same.

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Hold that thought: I was just interrupted by a lovely British traveler. She’d like me to watch her laptop for her while she purchases a coffee. I’m amazed that she’d leave her purse (presumably with her passport), a decent Acer laptop, and a Samsung tablet with a complete stranger.

She’s back, and I didn’t steal anything, so that’s good.

Here are my tips to avoid reaching a level of frustration resulting in a) turning around and going home on the first flight available, b) harming a slow fanny pack-wearing tourist, or c) succumbing to the airport/airplane filth:

1) Bring your own wipes. I’ve found 100 uses for wipes when I travel: cleaning my cell phone when I drop it somewhere gross, having an “Italian bath” as my mom calls it and freshening up during a long travel day, making any sticky surface near me less sticky, etc.

2) Check in online. It sounds like common sense, but I’m always amazed at the people who say, “well, I have to check a bag anyway so I’ll wait til I get to the airport to get my boarding pass.” No. No, no, no. The lines can be surprisingly long, and one of the very best ways to avoid travel frustrations is by choosing your seat ahead of time. There’s always a much faster bag drop line for those who have checked in already.

3) Avoid soda. Again, it might sound like common sense, but I try to put things in my body that will make me feel better, not worse, as we reach 30,000 feet.

4) Wear socks. There’s something about having a layer of protection between the bottom of your feet and the sticky flooring in the security line that always makes me feel 100 times cleaner than when I’m barefoot. It’s usually much worse when there’s someone barefoot in front of you, and it’s like a barefoot germ party. Gross.

5) Remember that everyone has somewhere to be. Once, when I was about to miss my layover, I angled myself so that I got off of the plane before a few people in the row in front of me. I didn’t have anything in the overhead, so I just scooted ahead at my first opportunity. I certainly didn’t expect the woman next to me to call me a few fresh words under her breath, and I didn’t expect myself to be so offended. Granted, I was flying back and forth from San Francisco in one day with a focus group in the afternoon, and was in no frame of mind to have an airport confrontation…but, alas, it happened and she was quite scary. We all have places to be, so do your best but don’t expect anyone to understand when you leap over them to get off the plane first.

Here I am once I landed in India! I know I look like a total grease ball, but that’s the name of the game. SO happy I’ve had the chance to experience this totally unique culture even from my hotel.

In a nutshell, business travel is an irritating, nauseating, stressful, germy, and tiring means to an end. It means I get to do what I love.  I get tons of airline miles, I’m visiting corners of the world that I’ve only read about, and I’ve met the most inspiring, intelligent people everywhere I’ve been…all while armed with a whole bunch of disinfectant.  

This post is dedicated to all of my business traveling friends and family who miss birthdays, holidays, playoff games, and lots of other everyday moments while making their way through busy airports across the globe. But instead of dwelling on what we miss and the awful things we encounter along the way, I’m feeling grateful for what we see and learn from each destination. If nothing else, it always makes for great conversation and photo albums.

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