When I tell people I do a moderate amount of work travel, they either have one of two reactions: a) they think it’s glamorous and exciting, or b) they think it must be painful and annoying to have to travel away from home, in an unfamiliar place with likely few to no one you know, to do one’s job. I have a lot of colleagues who absolutely hate work travel, and they grumble when I tell them I’m not going to be in. But, at the same time, they see my Instagram stories during my work travel and accuse me of playing hooky because of the things I post. As someone who had done quite a bit of it after nearly 11 years working full time, I can certainly say that the only thing “glamorous” and “exciting” about doing work travel is the amount of frequent flier miles and hotel points you can accumulate from business travel (and thus, free hotel nights/flights/flight upgrades during personal travel).
There have been times when it’s been lonely and annoying, especially in places that aren’t as metropolitan as New York or San Francisco, but the way that I’ve made it into something enjoyable is to fit in a few things that I can do for myself that I will enjoy. It could be a walk through Olympic Centennial Park while I’m in Atlanta visiting a customer, a run on the beach during sunrise in Miami, or a stroll to see the Bean, one of my all-time favorite public sculptures (I don’t care how “touristy” it is) while in Chicago. Another thing I like to do is find a good, interesting local spot to eat at and/or enjoy some local well crafted coffee or tea. I have to eat anyway, and it’s nice to try something that is local and well loved by the people in the area.
Tonight, after sifting through a lot of generic and boring sports bars and “American pubs” in the downtown Grand Rapids area on my Yelp app, I came upon an interesting “new American” restaurant called The Little Bird. It just happened to be about three blocks away from the hotel where I was staying, so I figured I’d pop in for an early dinner and sit at the bar. The restaurant, which is open for all three meals of the day, had such a fun and worldly variety of plates on the menu ranging from pork katsu, Scotch eggs made with locally sourced sausage, to Spanish tinned sardines imported from Spain. I ordered the lamb meatballs served with grilled eggplant, curried lentils, feta, cucumber salad, and yogurt, and was really blown away by the combination of flavors, the spice of the lamb, and the texture of the eggplant. I could honestly say that I wasn’t sure what I enjoyed more, the eggplant or the meatballs. And the craziest thing was that only a few of the tables in the small restaurant were occupied. If this same restaurant were in New York, I’d bet that it would be packed to the brim by the time I left at around 7:30.
It’s fun, eclectic places like this that keep me going during my work travel, even in places that initially may not seem to be the most exciting. You really have to do little things for yourself while traveling alone to make it more bearable and interesting.