I’m writing this article in the restaurant/bar area of a hotel in Bristol Virginia, the city of two states. Among the potted fake plants and TVs playing a mix of mainstream news and sports highlights I’m comingling with one of my tribes, the traveling businessman. If you’ve spent any time in a hotel located in a larger city or along the side of the interstate highway system you’ve probably seen my brothers in sportscoat. They can be identified by their poor posture and circumferential girth as they slump over their beer staring at the TV or furiously typing on the laptop they have perched on the bar. Stay a little later and you may get to see them get a little handsy with the waitress or make a veiled double entendre to the female bartender.
Business travel, or any travel for that matter, poses a unique set of challenges. Where are you going to eat, what’s the hotel like, and are you going to be able to do laundry all come to mind. For men traveling alone or with a group of other men there are other considerations. I know a number of my fellow business travelers who use “The Road” as an excuse to indulge in vices that they wouldn’t take part in at home, or if they were with their family. Drinking a little more than usual, cigarette smoking, and strip clubs are all included in the panoply of excesses available to the man alone on the road.
The road presents its challenges, but it also presents opportunity. Solitary or group travel with people who are not your family can provide you with the space you need to partake in positive activities that you typically wouldn’t engage in during your regular life. Men who are concerned with personal development and improvement usually have a list of items they want to add to their routine, or at least give them a test drive. There can be many reasons these items don’t get integrated into our schedules; lack of time, a need for more research, or we may be concerned the new thing might look silly. I encourage everyone to look at their hotel room a Laboratory of Personal Development.
In this laboratory you can experiment with all the new ideas and processes you’ve wanted to try but haven’t been able to. You want to try fasting? Airport and Roadside food sucks and is expensive. Fasting while on travel is a great way to avoid the Ghrelin Gremlin and not make bad food choices. Your boss will also appreciate the slimming of the bottom line when you turn you expense report in.
Exercise changes can also be investigated while on the road. Ever wanted to try yoga, but were nervous about how it would look? No one is watching (we hope, check those mirrors) in your hotel room. Need to research your latest workout? The free WIFI at the hotel can cover that. Do you roll Jiu Jitsu and you’ve wanted to try NoGi but your academy is only traditional Gi? A quick web search can find the closest 10th Planet gym and you can get your leglock on.
In his book “Own the Day, Own your Life” Aubrey Marcus, Founders and CEO of the nutrition company Onnit, discusses the concept of “Alive Time” vs “Dead Time” as described by Robert Greene. “Dead Time” is described as time when we’re somewhere we don’t want to be and we give in to that feeling of helplessness and stagnation. During dead time we watch the clock as the seconds inexorably tick by. We stare at our phones. We read whatever useless periodicals are nearby. The moving pictures on the TV screen are reflected in our dead eyes.
“Alive Time” is the exact opposite. You’re doing the exact thing you want to be doing at that moment. You’re filled with a sense of purpose and meaning. The hours fly by. During Alive Time you’re planning, learning, formulating, and building. The difference between “Alive Time” and “Dead Time” is a matter of choice. How do you CHOOSE to use your time? Do you CHOOSE to use your time for personal development and to better yourself, or do you CHOOSE to let that time go dead in your hotel room.
I’m not advocating at you become the hotel hermit. If you’re traveling with other team mates go out to dinner with them. Have a drink and watch the game. These opportunities for bonding outside of the confines of the office are very beneficial to your personal and work relationships. Just remember that you have other goals beyond taking the edge off the day and forgetting Lumbergh and his TPS reports.
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