Business Trips: Not Really Trips

Since it appears I’ll be taking a couple of business trips this month and next, I figured I’d offer a few thoughts on these strange entities.

Business trips are not trips, despite the name. You don’t get to do anything fun, usually. You don’t even really get to pick what you’re doing at all. You’re there to work, and no matter how much you may enjoy your job (I actually do), work is antithetical to vacation. So it’s more like a business “go somewhere else and do stuff.”

That being said, you’ve got to get as much out of them as you can, namely because with a business trip, somebody else is picking up the tab. And yes, you’ve got to be responsible with costs because financial blah blah, but seriously, the amount of money that corporations are willing to spend so you can stay in a nice hotel and eat good food is probably more than you’d be willing to spend yourself. That’s been my experience, anyway. So take cabs, or even hire a car, instead of a stinky public bus. Stay in a hotel with a pool or a view. Order room service. Get an appetizer and a second glass of wine. Take advantage of the largesse of your employer. Perhaps “take advantage” is the wrong phrase. “Enjoy.” There ya go.

I’ve only traveled two places on business trips: Columbus, many times, when I worked for a publishing company that was headquartered there, and New York, once, for four hours.

I liked going to Columbus simply because I liked visiting my colleagues there and because I have a bizarre love of sleeping in hotels. I know a lot of people get freaked out because they’re “dirty” (so true, I just don’t care) or because they can’t sleep well in a strange place (never been a problem for me, thankfully). But I just love it. Although it may be more the presence of TV than any other part of the hotel experience itself.

But Columbus, as a town, has little to offer. One time I went to a neighborhood there called Short North, and that was cute, and we had a good meal at a little bistro-y place down the street from where one of my coworkers lived. But for the most part, when I was in Columbus, we saw our hotel, which was a chain place next to an expressway, and we saw our office, which was only about a quarter-mile away, but we had to drive because it was all six-lane roads and no sidewalks, and we saw the mall, which everyone always asked about. “Have you been to the mall yet?” “Have you seen the mall?” It wasn’t an unusual mall in either architecture or content. It was just… a mall. You could not have picked it out of a line-up. They had a Cheesecake Factory. I think that’s about all you need to know. I can’t imagine that anyone would voluntarily choose that particular itinerary for a trip.

The business trip I took to New York for four hours was simply strange. I spent almost twice as much time in transit as I did on the ground. The company I was working for didn’t want to spend the cash for me to stay overnight, but they really wanted me to go to meet some of my team members in person. Which is a really nice thought and all, but having enough time to at least have dinner with them might have let us bond a little more. And mostly it made me sad because I haven’t had another chance to go to New York this year, and given the choice, I’ll always try to spend about three, four days there. As it was, that company wound up laying me off two months after hiring me, so obviously they weren’t the best with planning or clear thinking.

Next week, I’m off to Iowa City, where I haven’t been since I was fourteen for a writer’s workshop, to do some interviews with customers and small business owners. With any luck I’ll have a full report for you from the field (HA that’s an Iowa joke). And in December it looks like I’ll get my chance to go to New York this year after all, assuming it emerges from the flood waters mostly intact. I’m going to attempt to build a long weekend into that one, because I’ve been missing that city and I need a fix. Because while business trips aren’t trips in the truest sense, they’re still chances to get out of dodge and see something a little different, and thus to be seized whenever you can.

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