I spend a lot of time on the road for my job. Not as much as I used to in my younger days, before I had dogs, or a husband, or a house, or much of a social life, for that matter (more on that in another post.) I do spend more time than most people I know in airports, on airplanes, in rental cars and hotels. I have a job that requires it – if I want to live where I do and have the kind of role I have with the customers I have, I need to get on planes frequently. It’s a choice, but it’s a choice I make because doing so allows us to do things and allows me to contribute to our homelife in ways I otherwise couldn’t. (And, let’s face it, if I see a stupidly expensive pair of shoes that I love, I can buy them and I don’t have to feel guilty or ask Dave’s permission!)
In the past few months, I’ve been reflecting on how much more difficult work travel seems to be getting as I get older. Not necessarily physically, although I do wear more comfortable shoes than I used to. Most notably, I notice how much I miss being home. Home in our home, with our dog, with my husband. Home in my office, which has everything I need, right at hand. Home in Texas, where the weather can be changeable but it isn’t often terrible, and I hardly ever need to worry about whether or not I brought the right coat or shoes.
We love to travel for pleasure, so I think it’s interesting that this same “homebodiness” doesn’t strike me at all when we’re somewhere we’ve been planning to go for fun. I don’t travel to terrible places (at least not often) for work. I have come to really like parts of New Jersey, I don’t get to Philadelphia as often as I used to, but when I do go, I love it and I have friends there I can spend time with if schedules allow. I’ve recently been spending more time in the D.C. area with a particular client. I am fortunate in that I fly often enough to get upgraded regularly, same with rental cars, and same with hotel rooms. So, it isn’t like I have to rough it in unsafe places or places where there’s nothing to do. I don’t usually have a chance to take advantage of all there is to do in a particular place, but knowing the option is there somehow makes a location a little more palatable.
I’m really happy with what I do and the company I work for, and I’m compensated very fairly. Make no mistake, I’m not complaining. I am reflecting on how my attitude toward travel has changed over the years. Before I had someone to come home to, before I had dogs, before I had a house that I like better than a room at the Hilton, it was easier to be away.
So, as I sit here on a cold and rainy afternoon at an airport waiting for my flight home, I thought I’d try to make a list of some things I like about work travel, rather than dwelling on things that bother me. Here are but a few that come to mind:
- When I get to my hotel room, I can leave the TV on all night if I feel like it. I am one of those weirdos that has a hard time sleeping if it’s too quiet. Dave is not. So sometimes, I like to sleep with the television on. I can’t do that at home.
- I get the whole bed to myself! I don’t mean I prefer to sleep without my husband, but Booker likes to sleep with us, too. Or, to be precise, with me. More precise, ON me. And sometimes she rolls over and sticks her paws in my face while she stretches out like Gumby. She doesn’t do that to Dave. And now it’s only one dog instead of two on the bed, like it used to be when Pearl was here. Most nights, I wouldn’t have it any other way. There will come a time far sooner than I want to think about that Booker won’t be here, either. But sometimes, stretching out my legs all the way and not waking up with an extra 80 pounds on my calves is kind of refreshing!
- People-watching. You don’t have to spend much time observing people in airports or hotel lobbies and lounges to feel enormous gratitude that you are not them and you don’t have their problems.
- Eavesdropping. Similar to people-watching, though can we have a chat about why people seem to think that having very personal conversations or inappropriate work conversations with details about employee performance or which customers are a-holes is appropriate in an airport? For example, here’s something I just heard, “the problem is that he knows nothing and I know everything.” Got it. I think I’d like the other dude better than I like you, just an observation. You can hear some pretty hilarious things and I like to play a game where I’m imagining what’s being said on the other end of the phone line.
- Hotel amenities! I like checking out different kinds of shampoos and conditioners and soaps without having to make the commitment of buying a full bottle. If a hotel room has a miniature sewing kit or a little packet with Q-tips and a nail file in it, I am so happy! I have a fellow road-warrior friend who judges the minibar by whether or not it has the little cans of Pringles in it. When you are away from home a lot, the smallest things can seem like treats. I like to put sample sizes of toiletries and things like sunscreen in our guest bathrooms. I think it tells your guests that you’ve tried to anticipate their needs and want them to be comfortable. If I didn’t travel as much as I do, I probably wouldn’t even think about that – because I’m NOT Martha Stewart or Joanna Gaines.
- Stepping off a plane in the Austin airport. The Austin airport did a cool thing when they first opened – they tried to keep all the vendors to be somewhat Austin- or at least Texas-based. There have been interlopers as Austin as grown, but there is still Texas music playing in the background, and you smell a unique combo of Salt Lick barbecue and Tacodeli tacos that lets me know I’m home, if only for a few days.