Sunday, May 17, 2009

Call Me Crazy: I Love Business Travel

I love to travel for business. I enjoy visiting new places, returning to favorite cities like New York and DC, and meeting with clients I don't see very often. But I think what I like most about business travel is the opportunity to experience quality alone time.

This love affair began in my early 20’s with my first out-of-state event. The gala was in Washington, DC and required three LA staff to oversee the project. My orders were to meet my two co-workers at the venue at noon on the day of the event - and how I got there, where I stayed and what I did with the rest of my time was up to me. These two particular co-workers (now my business partners) had very particular travel preferences – certain habits, airlines, hotels, friends to visit – and they figured that I too had my own.

I didn’t. So for my first business trip, I was left to fend for myself. At the time it seemed a little scary, but now I realize what a gift I'd been given.

My travel planning wasn't stellar – I chose the worst airport and airline, stayed in the wrong part of town and didn't understand the metro - but I had a fantastic time in the city by myself. I flew alone, ate alone, and made my own schedule. Besides the actual "work" part of the trip, no one knew me, cared what I was doing, or was expecting anything from me. I could do whatever I wanted - and it was liberating.

This week I traveled back to DC to oversee that same annual gala – and celebrate the sixth anniversary of my first business trip. Years later, still fending for myself, I continue to love the freedom that comes with traveling alone – and I eventually created my own travel preferences. My favorite rule: don’t make any specific plans. I leave my schedule open so I can partake in whatever suits my mood: stay in and order room service and a movie, go to a concert, visit a museum, indulge in Restaurant Week.

My sixth annual trip turned out to be one of my favorites. Nothing extraordinary happened – I worked a flawless event, ate a great meal, had an intriguing conversation with an international architect and met an up-and-coming DC chef - but it reminded me of how much I love to travel by myself and how thankful I am that my job – and my clients – afford me this opportunity.

If you haven’t experienced traveling solo – for business or for pleasure – I expressly recommend it. It’s kind of like living by yourself: everyone should try it at least once in their lives to really understand who you are when alone.

My recent trip also leads me to an update of an earlier post: Miles, Points & Perks. After an amazing stay at the Hotel Palomar (a Kimpton property) and hassle-free, enjoyable flights on Alaska Airlines, I’ve decided to end my six year relationship with American Airlines and Hilton Hotels.

The benefits of their “Loyalty Programs” just no longer perk me up. I've decided that I am willing to give up a free flight, a free hotel night and occasional upgrades for better service, free wi-fi, L’occitane products, hipper digs and a concierge who helped me enjoy my stay.

Because traveling solo is an adventure right? And staying with the same airlines and hotels has not only become disappointing, but also far too predictable.

Happy Travels!


Drew said...

The one thing I can absolutely say for travelling alone, whether for business or pleasure, it will give you a special kind of confidence that's difficult to get anywhere else. It'll do wonders for your problem-solving skills as well because if something goes horribly wrong, you've only got yourself to solve it.

And in my case, I often only have myself to blame as well. My record for remembering to charge up my laptop before I leave is somewhat less than 100% and my record for checking on the status of my flight is even worse. That's only got me stranded once and I managed to get myself into serviced apartments on that occasion but that was only thanks to my iPhone. Because, as usual, I'd forgotten to charge up my laptop.

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