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And so the adventure began

About six months ago, I was tasked with installing the Lowe’s Holoroom in select retail locations around the country along with a team of co-workers. It was a lot of responsibility and work, but I was excited. The project was amazing to begin with and my enthusiasm was amplified by the chance to travel.

As a business major in college, the opportunity to travel seemed like the ultimate benefit of the working life. I was all about seeing new places, meeting new people, staying in hotels, and building relationships with co-workers and clients. The reality is much, much different than what I envisioned back then. I look back at how we idealized business travel and laugh heartily.

My first four or five trips were spread out over several months. I was thrilled that I’d been asked to travel and thought that I had really made it.  As the frequency and duration of my trips increased, however, I learned why so many seasoned professionals seek to minimize work-related travel. After one particularly taxing, nearly three week stretch away from home, I was sure that I never wanted to travel ever again. I was done!

Happily, I have recovered and am back at it again. While the challenges of business travel are many, so are the learning opportunities. I’ve learned the importance of sticking to personal wellness routines no matter where I am. I’ve also found that I enjoy the company of my co-workers and clients as much as I do that of my hometown friends. While work trips are no vacation, they can also be fun adventures.

Here are some things I’ve learned during my recent travels.

1. Work travel is… work

While away on work trips, you’re expected to continue to manage your regular work load for the most part – on top of attending additional meetings and tending to the purpose of your travel.  You’ll lose hours to the logistics of travel, become intimate with the airports that you frequent and find yourself trading your typical working hours for the meetings that you’ve traveled to attend. That can mean working in your hotel room late at night or early in the morning. It takes focus and clarity to keep everything moving along.

2. Embrace the challenge

If you’re someone who needs routines, work travel can challenge your basic ability to function. That commitment to exercise and stay in shape? It will be tried and tested every day. As with any travel, routines can get lost in the shuffle. Sleeping in a different bed, and more than likely sleeping less, straying from your usual diet and off your work day regimen pose major challenges. Going with the flow of things can be a challenge, but instead of fearing it, I say embrace and enjoy it. There is so much to learn. For instance, I’ve learned that (very occasionally) it’s ok to have hotel snacks for dinner. Very occasionally.

3. Develop a travel routine

That said, you can only eat so many hotel snacks before you start to suffer.  Work travel tests the rigor of your routine, which will necessarily be different when you are on the road. It helps to choose one thing you do in the morning to metaphorically carry with you. For me that was drinking lemon water before anything else as soon as I wake up. I started asking hotels for an entire half of a lemon upon check-in. This small ritual helps me to organize myself and start my day on a positive note. Finding ways to extend your home rituals while away will give you a new found sense of self and control.

4. Become a morning person

The hours in the morning become precious. The day holds the business you traveled for it’s usually followed by a rush to clean-up and head to dinner with clients- ending the day late and exhausted. If there’s something you must do that day, you’ll learn to get up and get it in early.

5. Fun makes everyone feel human

Of course it’s never all work and no play. Work travel can restore a human element to an otherwise professional relationship and a trip away brings co-workers and clients together into a unique context. The craziness of travel is something you can both commiserate over while you celebrate with your clients and co-workers. At the end of the day, everyone is ready to switch gears. Sometimes to dinner and drinks, sometimes to a rocking night out. Of course, it is always important to remember that even at 2 a.m. in Vegas you’re still at work and some discretion is necessary. It’s outings like these that turn our business peers into friends.

6. Be present wherever you are

While you may not get to spend a day discovering local attractions, you still have to commute and eat. Work travel gives you the opportunity to see new places and enjoy local cuisine. While on the way to the best salmon dinner I’ve ever experienced I got to witness the famous fish throwing at the Pike Place Fish market in Seattle. I went from someone who thought they would never leave Florida to putting Austin, Texas on my list of places to live. Easily one of my favorite restaurants is in the Denver airport and I’ve now seen the street where Facebook first laid its roots.

You may return from work trips having lost a few days of health and fitness to eating out and working late, but you’ll also return with a refreshed appreciation for your own bed, your friends and family near by and the familiarity of your home office.

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