Over the last few years, we’ve written about how to cope with the rigors of business travel. We’ve documented the negative physical, psychological, and emotional stresses, and suggested ways to change your approach so that you are better prepared, not only to make the most of it, but to recover quickly after it. But it’s still travel, and those who travel even once a month know business travel can be rough.
But if your travel schedule exhausts you, imagine being John Greathouse, the start-up entrepreneur behind GoToMeeting and other successful new businesses. He shared in a Forbes article how he would travel without any margin for error or rest, often flying a red-eye to a foreign country to visit a client, only to arrive and go directly into a full day of meetings that didn’t end until after a late dinner.
When he would arrive home, friends would ask him what he saw in well-known destinations such as Paris. He would proudly declare that he only saw the airport, the sites where he met his clients, the interior of cabs, and hotel rooms. He realized he was, a “proud, yet pathetic, road warrior.”
Although he made Herculean efforts to remain committed to his family — often flying overseas just for a weekend at home with his wife and kids — he realized he was sacrificing opportunities for the sake of doing business efficiently. He had visited dozens of countries and had no memories other than those related to work. He knew he had to change.
He found himself inspired to become a part-time tourist while on his business trips by taking a cue from professional surfer Shaun Tomson. As detailed in an article on inertia.com, Tomson was headed to Milwaukee, not exactly a surfing mecca, to share the themes of his book, The Code: The Power of “I Will”, with some corporate execs.
Here’s where Tomson’s approach diverted from Greathouse’s. Instead of trying to squeeze as much business from each city he visits, he asks himself, “What can I do to make this business trip more rewarding?”
For Tomson, that meant Googling “surf shops in Milwaukee” and contacting the shocked owner of Lake Effect Surf Shop, Jacob Bresette, and asking if he could stop by. That call resulted in an impromptu surfing outing in frigid waters with some fellow enthusiasts, and Tomson’s first experience with freshwater waves.
Tomson recounted, “The waves weren’t stellar, but it was still an epic session for me because the stoke level was off the charts. Here I was in Middle America, surfing with guys who brave frigid conditions to partake in the sport I love. They thanked me for stopping by, but the truth is, I was the one who felt honored.”
Greathouse has taken Tomson’s approach to heart and suggests others do too. When you plan your next business trip, remember that there’s more to experience there than the closing of a deal. Perhaps you could meet up with some people in that town who also share a hobby, or schedule some quiet moments of reflection and engagement with the beauty of a park or a museum. In Tomson’s case, his efforts also led to increased book sales and improving his personal brand. Plus, he got to have a little fun.
When your whole person is engaged in business travel, all aspects of it — even those related to the business you’re there to conduct — will be enriched.
How do you travel for business? Are you in and out as quickly as possible, or do you look for future experiences and memories? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.
Photo credit: Jim Trodel (Flikr, Creative Commons 2.0)