Traveling isn’t personal, it’s only business

Kelly Hagen

By Kelly Hagan

I know that the first column I can recall writing for the Prairie In­dependent, I wrote about how I was a stay-at-home dad, and how great that was. What I neglected to mention since then is that I went back to work. Sorry, had to be done.

I blame Congress. Most people do.

Now, outside of these lovely col­umns I write for community newspapers in my neighbor­hood (in my neighborhood, in my neigh-bor-hoo-ood), I have two jobs in com­munications and I write freelance. And anytime anyone asks me what I do for a living, it ignites a 32-minute ex­planation. Too much, I do too much.

One thing I do now, which I am still not used to doing, is attending work conferences across the country. Profes­sionals in the same lines of work. We all gather in the same place to strate­gize and educate each other with Pow­erPoint presentation upon PowerPoint presentation. It’s a different kind of behavior.

Conferences and conventions cre­ate their own class of traveling profes­sionals. You’ll recognize them in the airports. They dress nicely, they have exactly the right kind of luggage, they read newspapers and portable electron­ic devices with the greatest of ease, not a worry in the world. They casually tell stories about canceled flights, airplanes being struck by lightning, turbulence that rearranged their internal organs, drunk passengers, drunk flight atten­dants, snakes on a plane, etc. They’ve seen it all. They are very cool about it all.

I am not a traveling professional. I’m not at all comfortable with airplanes. Almost dying isn’t really something I want to be nonchalant about. I read recently that time could collapse and end at any moment, leaving us frozen in place for eternity. So my new night­mare is for time to quit while I’m up in an airplane, frozen forever in my own personal hell.

I don’t sleep much, these days.

When I business travel, I purposely try to look as uncomfortable as pos­sible. I grow out a half-beard, I dress like a laun­dry hamper, I carry a mes­senger bag that clearly wasn’t meant for flying. I fumble with my boarding passes, walk around in cir­cles, mutter to myself. I wasn’t meant for this world, and I need ev­eryone there to know it.

Traveling for business means most of your costs will be covered by your employer. They’ve got a term for it, “per diem,” which I believe is French for “our dime.” And “our dime” is awesome, because everything is bet­ter when it doesn’t cost you anything. Hotel rooms are a little brighter, cheeseburgers taste a little punchier, airplane flights are still terrifying, but at least they’re not inspiring financial insecurities.

I’d never ridden in a cab until last year. Did you know you’re supposed to tip cab drivers? I’m really sorry to a cab driver in San Antonio, if he’s reading this. I didn’t know.

So that’s what business travel is do­ing for me. It’s teaching me all these new little nuggets about life outside my tiny sphere. Every conference, each convention, I’m getting out, get­ting things done. I’m seeing the world, one Hilton convention center at a time.

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