For those who have never had the “luxury” of traveling on another’s dime, let me be the first to tell you that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. Sure, there are perks: free airline miles, access to global business lounges and traveling to places you may never have made it to otherwise. The reality is, business trips are all work and barely any fun.
You arrive jetlagged, having not showered for three days and having no idea what day it is. There is not a strong enough over the counter sleeping aid to allow sleep while a baby (or three) is screaming at the top of their lungs because they can’t chew gum to relieve the pressure in their ears. You very quickly learn that this is now your problem, even if you have decided to always drug your future kids with Benadryl; Note: this is not potential, borderline child abuse - it’s for the greater good, people.
In my line of work, my clients - major pharmaceutical companies - fly us in minutes before we are scheduled to present. It was only recently deemed “mandatory” that we fly business class for any flight over 10 hours in length - how generous! I can barely remember my name after a flight this long, let alone remember specific details that I’ll be presenting on. This is when autopilot kicks in. I can control my motor skills just enough that I am not drooling while standing up on stage, but all I can think about is sleeping in an actual bed, with an actual pillow, rather than a gnome-sized one I’ve slept on the past two nights on flights. This is about the time when I start to wonder what the price difference is between business and first class - it can’t be THAT much, right? Wrong. Terribly wrong. After pondering selling an organ or draining my savings account to upgrade, so that I can have a private shower and arrive so fresh and so clean (clean), I realize I’m being ridiculous and do not need this luxury.
Anyway, as I de-board the plane, groggy, smelly and unaware of the day, it quickly sets in that I have approximately 2 hours to get back to the hotel, shower, make myself look like a human being and enthusiastically present on the importance of using our electronic devices, rather than paper, to collect clinical data. I explain the overall benefits, our particular system and allow the end users to demo the devices. While moments away from drooling, I answer any questions, while holding on to the podium. Once I am done, I saunter off the stage, making sure I don’t accidentally fly face-first, and walk around to assist one-on-one with those users who are technologically challenged. HOW ARE YOU A DOCTOR IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE OUT ELECTRONICS? That’s a whole other article.
Business dinners are quite entertaining. Besides the fact that the wine is continually flowing, the banter becomes more entertaining once the glasses are refilled twice. In this specific situation, human nature prevails and strangers talk about their children, spouses, animals and daily routines without shame. They “one-up” eachother and brag about the smallest victories, knowing that they may never see one another again. This is when I stay particularly silent, which goes against the most minute fiber of my personality, in order to absorb the ridiculousness that comes out of strangers’ mouths. I have honestly never been more entertained. On my most recent trip, I nodded along while the women around me spoke of their spoiled nieces, nephews and grandchildren. I sarcastically added, “My dog is my child and she is better behaved than all the kids in your lives.” The best thing about dining with middle-to-old-aged women is that they will laugh at whatever you mutter. I could have told them that I was a serial killer and they could have easily responded, “Ohhh my goodness! Really? That’s great? For how long?”
On the return trip, once the presentations and trainings are complete, it’s time to catch-up on the hundreds of emails that you’ve ignored. Depending on what time it is when you get on the plane, will determine what must come before zoning out and mindlessly watching the top few movies on your must watch list. You are a zombie by the time you land; you have no concept of what time it is, where you are, and what time your body thinks it is. You are asked more questions than anyone else going through customs because your eyes are glazed over and you can’t coherently explain what you do as your profession. It doesn’t help that solo-female travelers are constantly profiled while going through customs. My sarcastic humor is not appreciated when at the border. But alas, they have always let me through.
As I write this article, I understand many people will scoff at the fact that I’m “complaining” about traveling for essentially free, but I urge you to understand that it’s not as glamorous as what you may have heard. Whomever is telling you that you are treated like God’s Gift to Man, probably was traveling in the early 1990’s or 2000’s before the Sunshine Act took place. Yes, I retain the points earned while flying and staying at hotels, but in exchange, I sacrifice weekends, hours of sleep and have to work 20 hour days to keep on top of my normal workload. I’ve seen amazing places, even a fraction of the seven wonders of the world, but as with any perk, comes a downfall, and I’m glad I was the one to let you in on that secret.
By: Kimberly Romanello