I just returned from a business trip to Vancouver and Seattle with some of my colleagues. Now, being relatively new to working for a company that affords such luxuries as jet setting around the country on someone else's dime, I was somewhat dismissive about the cautionary advice from colleagues who had previously embarked on the same trip, about how exhausting and fast paced it can be. Come on. Really. 5 star dining, everything taken care of, strolling around in exotic cities with a limitless sense of entitlement on someone else's corporate credit card? How hard can it be?
I checked the itinerary...it looked manageable. The problem? I didn't consider the variables, like flight delays, traffic, jet lag, and rabid monkey attacks (well, there weren't any monkey attacks).
Nothing ever goes according to schedule, and that's where your walk in the park business trip starts getting shot to hell. You can have 5 meetings penned in for one day, at say, 3 different locations...but suddenly, your flight/bus shuttle is delayed. Miss X from marketing is going to be an hour late for the meeting. Your air has been delayed because a passenger on your connecting flight decided it would be smashing fun to start reading his favourite passages from a dog eared copy of Penthouse forum as loud as possible.
Your day was supposed to start with a leisurely breakfast at 8:30, but it's bumped up to 8:00 to make up for lost time, with a warning to shovel down your eggs benny in 20 minutes or less to meet in the lobby. Once you get there, you realize that Deb from department A is missing - by missing, I mean somehow managed to pass out on her bed from exhaustion when she ran up to the room to grab her jacket which was making everyone late already.
Once dishevelled Deb makes her harried appearance in the lobby, everyone breathes a sigh of relief because though your boss is trying her best to give off the facade of being unflappable, you can see that underneath the pearly white grin she is about 30 seconds away from smashing her fist through the mahogany concierge desk. Now you're ready to be on your way, until you realize that John is missing because he went looking for Deb, which wouldn't be so bad except John thought Deb went to grab coffee at the Starbucks 5 minutes down the street.
When everyone is finally assembled, you're on your way, albeit an hour late. The buffet lunch at Chez Wazzhisname has been cancelled to make up for time, so your boss has instructed everyone to pilfer anything edible left over from breakfast and stuff it god knows where.
After 6 hours of non-stop meetings, which curiously never seem to involve sitting, you arrive at your last stop, to inspect company X's facilities. It's 7pm, you haven't eaten at all since 8:00am, and you haven't sat down all day. The people at company X are extremely gracious but don't know this, nor do you want to burden them with the pedantic details of your day. So the tour commences. The very long tour commences, and the pretty company rep in the designer suit could be talking about the merits of Keynesian vs. Supply Side economics and you would have barely noticed, because the day is starting to have the feel of a Batan death march.
Finally you settle down to eat, and as you sit there surrounded by your friends and colleagues, you realize that a neat bond grows between the people you go on a business trip with. You see each other outside of the cubicle, and for good or bad, there's something special about that.
And of course, when your employers deem that they can trust you to fly across the country without breaking, stealing anything, or screwing everything up, there's a sense that you've done something noteworthy in your professional life -and that's something too.