I’ve been traveling a ton this year, attending eight conferences in the past three months. I think almost daily about the toll it takes. It’s not the first time in my career that I’ve been on the road. In my twenties, I worked as a sales rep in the not-so-glamorous Paducah, Kentucky to Detroit, Michigan territory. But it is the first time I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home since I’ve been married, which is something I swore I’d never do.
There are many reasons why I requested and agreed to go on the road so much this year. First, as a marketer, I know the heart of marketing is getting close to your customers. There’s no better way than meeting them in-person, spending time with them, and learning about their challenges. I’m not sure if there’s anyone at my company who knows more about our customers, and that gives me an insightful perspective.
Second, I am laser-focused on building my career before we have kids, and I knew it would be incredibly educational to attend all of the top conferences in the financial services industry.
Third, my husband is a supreme introvert and as much as he says he misses me, I know it’s restorative for his soul to be alone and have some peace and quiet.
I write this as I sit in a fancy hotel room in Boston with room service White Bean soup next to my bed. I can’t sleep because it’s only 7:30 pm San Diego time, yet I have to be up at 3:30 am San Diego time. I thought I would share my thoughts about what I’ve been experiencing and articulate the good and the bad about life on the road and what it may be doing to my psyche.
Pro: It gives you some perspective on your life.
I remember when I was eight and my parents took us to Maui for a family vacation. It was awesome; I went to Kidz Camp, met a new friend called Ariel (for real, like the Little Mermaid), and my parents loved every minute. Looking back, I remember on the plane ride home when I made a list of my priorities in my life to focus on when I got home. The list included serious issues for an eight-year-old: practice for the upcoming horseshow, clean my room, be more organized, read more books about horses. Somehow, during my family vacation, I came back even more invigorated and motivated for my life at home, which made me happier and more successful in my normal life.
Being away from home gives you perspective on how you spend your time when you are lucky enough to be home. Even today, while I’m away, I think more clearly about our life back home and the things that make us happy. I always come back vowing to hike more, read more, watch less TV, spend more time at Pilates, and talk more to Josh on the patio.
Con: It’s tough to eat right and work out.
I have rules for the road that #1 I workout at the hotel gym every day and #2 only order the healthiest thing on the menu for breakfast and lunch. That still leaves dinner, and I will go insane in I don’t have something comforting to eat at least once per day. There are also those nights that you check into the hotel at 12:30 am, room service is closed and you’re starving, so dinner is a $7.50 package of Famous Amous cookies. It’s tough to stay in good shape on the road, plain and simple. Workouts are never as good and consistent as they are at home and I think there’s some mystical power that makes you gain weight from flying, traveling, and being not-at-home.
Pro: Awesome experiences at no cost to you.
Tonight, as part of the conference, we headed to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, followed by a Hall & Oates concert. As they were singing “Your Kiss is on My List,” “Man Eater,” and “I Can’t Go for That,” I realized that both of these experiences are things I would never take the time and energy to do on my own. Yet, they were both enriching experiences that I will remember for a long time. Traveling forces you to do things outside your comfort zone that you inevitably learn from.
Con: I get lonely.
I haven’t spoken to Josh in four days. Normally, I talk to him at least once a day, and we text many times. But, this time he’s backpacking in the wild, which is actually a good thing because he would never do that unless I were out of town. Either way, we aren’t great on the phone, and it’s no substitute for dinner across the table looking at each other. It sucks, I feel crazy lonely, and there’s at least 25 things every day I want to tell him.
But at a deeper subconscious level, it wears you out to not be able to get in touch with the person you love. I know he’s out in the wilderness and most likely safe, but I have the worst dreams that he’s in danger or that he’s dead. I’m not sure what this means on a subconscious level, but it’s definitely not a good sign.
Pro: You get time to remember who you are.
The opposing corollary to being lonely is the ability to be your true self. On the road, I order what I want to eat, watch my favorite shows on TV, and read books I’ve been itching to read. Maybe I should do that at home, but I don’t. My life at home is pretty full of obligations, responsibilities, and chores. It’s nice sometimes to wait at an airport and order exactly what I feel like while I couldn’t do a load of laundry if I wanted to.
Pro: You meet amazing people.
It’s impossible to travel and not meet amazing, wonderful people who restore your faith in humanity. Whether it’s the old man holding a door open for you, the lady next to you on the plane who holds your hand during a bumpy landing, or someone else who understands #conferencelife. Today, for example, I ran into Ron Carson, one of my heroes and arguably the top financial advisor in the world. And he remembered who I was from a previous meeting at a conference in Las Vegas. And we had a nice talk about climbing Mt. Whitney. Would that connection happen if I were on my couch at home watching The Real Housewives? I think not.
Con: You miss out on important events.
My Maid of Honor, Lindsay is getting married on August 21st. Her bachelorette party was in Las Vegas this past weekend. I flew out with her on Thursday and did my best to spend every second with her to celebrate, but I had to leave Saturday morning as the entourage was getting ready to head to the pool. It broke a little piece of my soul off that I’ll never get back.
Being on the road isn’t all bad, as it isn’t all good. I do my best to try to make it worthwhile, but I’ll never know for sure the opportunity cost. Sometimes, my goal is just to get home without getting sick. Other times, I read amazing books and see incredible speakers, like Marcus Luttrell, the Navy Seal member of Seal Team 10, and author of Lone Survivor whose talk changed my perspective on life.
Hearing Marcus speak from the front row at a conference in Dallas made me realize that none of my problems will ever compare to his desperate journey through Afghanistan, almost blind with a broken back and bleeding from shrapnel wounds. He waited with high hopes as members of his team attempted a rescue during the firefight but their helicopter was shot down and all aboard were killed. He finally regained consciousness and, with the help of local Pashtun villagers, who believe it is their duty to protect a stranger, escaped with is life.
I still have my notes from his talk, written in a notebook I carry with me everywhere:
- Always be 15 minutes early.
- Don’t fear death, it’s inevitable.
- Never tell a Southern woman what to do, tell her what she “needs to do.”
- You have two ears and one mouth for a reason; listen more than you speak.
- Never judge someone by what they look like.
- Just keep getting up.
I won’t be on the road forever, but I try to make the most of the experiences that I am served up. I hope that all this travel will help me appreciate being the homebody I want to be someday soon and give me a greater understanding of our world and all the strange souls in it. Do you travel for work? How much is too much? What do you think is the hardest part?
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