Consultant Thursdays: Travelling For Work Isn’t A Vacation

I spent most of last week in Alaska (Anchorage specifically), and it was very, very cool. I played golf at 10:30 p.m. during daylight, took dusk photos at 1:45 a.m., and generally enjoyed myself for a few days while working for a great client. There’s nothing like sitting in a bar at 11 p.m. and thinking that it’s still light out, and you have another 4 hours to stay out when it’s actually late.

However, travelling for work usually isn’t as enjoyable as it would seem.

If you think it’s all globetrotting, here’s a few truths:

More often than not, you are going to go somewhere that isn’t so much fun.

I’ve been to New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Anchorage, Seattle and Boston for work trips, and I even moved to Philadelphia and San Francisco for short periods of time. However, the inbetween trips included Wisconsin (not so bad), Phoenix (I’ll pass) and the yawn of all yawns, Connecticut.

How bad is Connecticut? I asked a co-worker what was fun to do there, and he said drive to New York.

I’ve been to Alaska in winter, Chicago in zero degree weather, Sarasota in 100 degree weather. Which would you pick?

You never get to choose where you get to go, and sometimes, it’s not the vacation spot you would want it to be.

More often than not, the hotel you picked isn’t going to be a bed of roses.

The Howard Johnson I stayed in Alaska, which was a scramble spot because all the hotels were booked, had all of the excitement of the Bakersfield bus station at $170 per night. I can’t say enough bad things about the Westmark in Anchorage, and there’s a Red Roof Inn near Shelton, Connecticut that was better served as a drug dealing spot than a hotel.

Occasionally, that flight you picked won’t get there on time.

Do you really want to spend four hours in Sea-Tac? How about six hours at Atlanta-Hartsfield? The best way to describe the experience of flying across the country is to watch the first 30 minutes of the movie Fight Club. I have a list of airlines that I’ll never fly again (America West was at the top of the list), and a list of favorites, but there’s always delays.

Travelling is hard on your health.

Where are you going to eat?

It’s probably going to be a decent restaurant, but all the food has to go somewhere, and it’s not nearly as healthy as eating (and cooking for yourself) at home. Depending on your company’s travel policy, stretching the dollar so you aren’t eating at a Denny’s or your hotel’s breakfast buffet is sometimes tough.

This is in addition to usually having to fly on a day off and getting up early to catch a flight that usually has at least one or two layovers before you get to your destination. There’s the usual sleep deprived moments

The clients are usually pretty cool.

I don’t know why, but every time I’ve done the traveling thing, the clients were grateful to be paying consultant rates plus travel expenses for us. I’ve always been treated much better traveling out of state than at local clients (go figure), maybe because they are paying more for your services.