THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Savoir there: Make biz travel work for you

If you are excited about business travel, thinking it's a free ticket to see the world, you should stop reading now. But if you are having trouble maintaining your personal life in the face of tons of travel, these tips from a cynical traveler will make life easier.

1. Stick with your priorities

When people travel to another city, why do they go sightseeing in random museums? If your your top three things in life are going to the gym, staying in touch with friends, and reading a book a week, then sightseeing is not on your priority list– you don't need to do it when you travel. (If sightseeing is on your priority list, then get a new job, because you have no control over where you sightsee if you have a job with a lot of travel.)

2. Eat really well

First of all, you're not paying for your own food, so you should eat really healthy food, which is always more expensive than junk food. Second, if you have a personal rule that you always eat well when you travel, then you will actually get healthier from traveling. Most people eat crap when traveling because they are tired and feel like the calories don't count because they are across state lines, but that attitude will make you burn out faster. (I can't find a link, but I'm sure there's a study to support the hypothesis that travel stress disappears faster without the golden arches.)

3. Think of balance in terms of weeks, not days

I know I want to spend time with my fiance, with the kids, and be around for dinner invitations and tooth-fairy moments. I used to worry that if I didn't have breakfast with the kids, then I had to have dinner. Now, I think in terms of weeks. If I was gone all week, I take off a day from work to have extra time for my personal life. If you are good at your job, and you travel a lot, no one counts how many days you take off.

4. Get elite status. Somewhere. Anywhere.

When everyone is staying overnight at O'Hare, the people who are platinum are getting rebooked first. When you are waiting on the tarmac for an hour at LaGuardia because air traffic control cannot remember how many planes are in the air (which, really, is like, every day), you get upgraded to first class. So you're drinking free wine and eating firm grapes while you are a prisoner of the airport. To get elite status, it means that every time your company wants to save $50 to put you on another airline, you have to say no. If my company will save more than $300, I'll travel on an airline that I am not platinum on. Make sure your company knows you're doing them a favor.

5. Do not agree to stupid meetings for geographical reasons

Just because someone you never want to hang out with lives in Saskatchewan and you're gonna be there doesn't mean that all of a sudden you should hang out with him. You have a life. And you surely have stuff you can do that evening besides hang out with a loser. Or maybe he's only a half-loser. The thing is, you don't have time for half-losers at home. They are the same everywhere: Still just a distraction from the real work of living the life you want.


The bottom line is that you need to respect your life. Your life cannot be on hold while you travel. The travel, if it's really frequent, sort of is your life. So the values you have— to be spiritual, frugal, or healthy— have to prevail during your travel. This is not vacation travel. This is not a vacation from your life. Business travel is your life.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.