Some of my friends believe that I’m permanently on vacation. I can see where the misconception comes from – I’m constantly in airports and hotel rooms, catching another flight, eating in restaurants, and engaging in social media activities at odd hours – just another typical travel day for me.
The reality is, work – and more specifically work travel – consumes a great deal of my life. I’m at the stage in my consulting career that I no longer work on one or two projects at a time, maintaining a fairly consistent schedule whether its at home or at a client site in another state. Instead I spend my time managing six to ten projects at a time, selling new work, attending conferences, and overseeing big picture issues. That means I rarely sleep in the same hotel for more than one or two nights and often have work days that don’t look anything like the typical 8 to 5. Often a typical travel day has me flying halfway across the country for one face-to-face meeting or a few hours of onsite time. A typical site visit for me might entail 20 hours of “work” (planning and prep, travel, and follow up) and only 2 hours of face time.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. To me, this is the ideal work situation. But it also means I have to manage my days to balance personal with work or the 18 hour days would be ALL work. Instead of working on a solid schedule, I frequently vacillate between blocks of work with chunks of personal time mixed in, especially on travel days.
I decided to keep a log one day to mark what a typical day looks like when I’m headed out for a site visit.
5:45 am – Wake up before my alarm goes off. I feel great (probably the massage I treated myself to last night) but it’s cold in my house and I am not ready to get up. Nudge the thermostat up using my iPhone (love my Nest!) and curl up Uber the covers to check my email and favorite websites before dozing back off.
7:00 am – Alarm goes off and I hit snooze. The house is cozy warm now and I’m having the nicest dream.
7:15 am – I get up before I have to hit snooze a third time. Turn on the television to catch news headlines and weather. Get up and grab my laptop before crawling back under the covers to start answering work emails that have come in since 6 pm the previous day. I’ve got a 1:30 pm flight out of DFW. Sometimes I’ll go into the office if I have an afternoon flight but today I think I can get more done from home so I worked late the night before to manage everything I needed to wrangle there.
8:00 am – Get up and pour a bowl of cereal, slice a banana, and top with almond milk – my usual breakfast at home. Watch the news while reviewing some data files from a client before putting them up on our cloud server for my team to use. I hit mute several times to make a quick calls to catch clients in the eastern time zone, as it will be harder to connect later in the day.
9:00 am – Still working, this time finishing assembly on some folders I’ll use during my meeting the next day. (I love it when my clients have moved to digital files for meetings as it means less prep work for me and lighter bags!) I have flipped over to a recorded episode of The Love Boat on my DVR. I’m obsessed since the cast has all been back in the news due to the Princess 50th anniversary – and after sailing on Golden Princess out of LA a couple months ago, I feel like the set is all too familiar!
9:45 am – Decide its time to hop in the shower so that I’m not rushing around later. When I’m working, it’s easy to lose track of time. It happens whether I’m at home, in the office, or in a hotel room. I find myself having to set alarms on my phone so I don’t run late.
10:15 am – I’m fussing with my packing and deciding what to take. I keep a board of packing lists on Pinterest to help me when I’m waffling. I haven’t checked the weather at my destination but I’ll only be on client site got about two hours so I just need one business outfit. The rest of my time will be at the airport (or on a plane or in a car or at the hotel). I waffle about what to pack but end up throwing in two dresses, a pair of heels, a top and a pair of yoga pants, and my lingerie/nightwear. I will wear jeans, a knit top, cardigan, and flats to travel – a happy medium between too casual and too dressy.
11:00 am – I’m packed but I’ve gotten tied up on a conference call. I need access to my files on the server for this call so I can’t leave yet. I’m starting to get antsy as this is throwing me off my schedule – I want to get to the airport early so that I have time for lunch before boarding. I’ve not been impressed with the meals on American lately (and not eating wheat or corn or cow’s milk makes their food selection even more difficult for me).
11:15 am – I’m finally on the road to the airport. Often I’d be on the phone, but I’m caught up on calls so I crank my stereo for a bit of Sirius FM Backspin. I don’t think the DFW Airport Valet guy was impressed by my singing as I pulled in to park my car.
12:00 pm – I’ve cleared security. My 1:30 flight doesn’t board for an hour so I check the restaurant options near my gate (Gate Guru is a great app for that). I head to Vino Volo for a glass of wine and a kale salad. I realize I haven’t posted to the website yet today so I work on a blog post to get up before I depart. I also catch up in social media.
1:00 pm – I board my flight. As soon as I settle in my seat, I get a phone call so I spend part of the time on the phone trying to wrap up negotiations on a contract. I hate talking on the phone when I’ve boarded a plane but this issue is down to the wire and I need to get this done now.
1:30 pm – Our doors close on the flight and I’m ready to relax for a few minutes. Then a minute later they open back up which is usually not a good sign – I had another colleague on this same flight the day before and they took a long delay so I immediate tense up. But it looks like we are loading a large group of late arriving passengers and their bags. (Why does that never seem to happen when I’m delayed?!)
1:45 pm – We are finally pushing back.
2:30 pm – It looks like no wifi in this flight. Boo. I usually carefully monitor which of my flights will have wifi and plan my work (as well as my blog writing) around internet access. I had hoped to do some project work on this flight so I could enjoy my later lounge and flight time. No worries, I’ll reverse that and relax now instead. I ask about the wine selections and I’m curtly told they are “red or white” (that’s as specific as the flight attendant was willing to get!) so I relax with a glass of white wine, the mixed nuts, and my iPad (thank goodness for Next Issue!)
4:45 pm (2:45 pm PT) – Arrival at LAX. I dozed off on the last flight and then chatted with my seatmate since there was no internet so now I need to send some emails. I head to the Admirals Club to freshen up and work for a while.
6:15 pm (4:15 pm PT) – Dinner break, It’s still early on the west coast, but I don’t want to eat when I’ve landed or I won’t sleep well. Terminal 4 at LAX has several new local options. I opt for a seat at the bar at Coles for hot pastrami and garlic fries. It’s crowded so there isn’t room to pull out my laptop so I check in with my team via email.
7:00 pm (5:00 pm PT) – I dash to catch the shuttle to Terminal 6 to grab my Alaska codeshare to Portland. (A direct flight wasn’t an option because of the price when I booked my ticket.) They are delayed boarding so I’m able to board with the elite group and grab overhead bin space (important since I was assigned the dreaded bulkhead and the flight is completely sold out!)
8:00 pm (6:00 pm PT) – My flight to Portland is airborne. My laptop battery is dying because I forgot to charge it at the Admirals Club so it looks like relaxation time with a movie on my iPad.
9:45 pm (7:45 pm PT) – Landing in Portland. The bulkhead aisle was a fairly comfortable seat for coach but I’m ready to stretch.
10:00 pm (8:00 pm PT) – I’m in the rental car and on my way to my hotel which is a 75 minute drive. It’s extremely foggy so I have to be very alert the entire time.
11:15 pm (9:15 pm PT) – I get to my hotel and check in. When I get to my room, it’s always “first things first” which means taking as-is photos for a future hotel review. Then I change into comfy clothes and log onto the internet. I need to queue up several emails for the morning. When I’m working across time zones, I will often prep emails to queue to send out early the next morning so that I can virtually be on the same time zone as my clients.
12:00 am (10:00 pm PT) – It’s bedtime and my alarm is set for 6:00 am so I can jump on a conference call before getting ready for my 8:30 and 9:00 am meetings. Then I’ll do all if this in reverse – and the two days after that will be similar as I commute to other client sites and meetings.
On some weeks, my schedule will look like this for two, three, or even four days in a typical week – and I might do anywhere between three and eight trips in a month. This week and next week, for example, I’m traveling four days each week.
While it’s hard to sometimes draw the line between “work time” and “my time”, I’ve found it is important to be conscious of carving out “me” time and not working continuously when I’m traveling.
Always on vacation? That’s a stretch… but when you like what you do – and don’t mind the travel, every day is an adventure!