Throughout my years of business travel, I’ve gone through periods of time when I feel like a mirrorball being bounced around a pinball machine. At times, my trips begin much like the Pinball arcade game with a starting whack, racing out the door before the crack of dawn, flying from city to city, having intense account strategy meetings, giving sales presentations, and entertaining clients. While productive, these trips are mentally and physically draining.
When I’m not traveling, I just want to sit on my couch, hang out with my husband, cuddle my little boy, and put my feet up. I find myself hoping for rain so that I can sit at home, veg out, and not even set foot outside if I don’t have to. The problem with this is that I end up not having enough “other experiences” besides travel. I end up with nothing to talk about except travel because nothing is going on in my life besides travel.
I realized that the only way to stop being the pinball and become the player was to make some changes in the way I spent my personal time at home. Here is what’s worked for me:
1. I’ve been taking my girlfriends up on “girl’s night” (even if it’s scheduled for the night before a 5:30am flight). On weekends, my husband and I plan picnic outings and have impromptu dinners downtown. I still get my relaxation time in and my home body time, but when I get back on the road I feel refreshed.
2. I have been making a concerted effort to be more mentally present when I am at home. No business phone calls after 6PM, less mind wandering to work related issues when I’m with my husband and son (this requires discipline and is a bit like meditation), virtually no phone use on the weekends unless it’s to make plans or everyone else is napping.
In short, I’ve been trying to make the time that I’m at home more special… for myself and my family. It’s easy to loaf around at home on the weekends. But I’ve found that if I get out and try a new restaurant, a new park, a new hiking trail, or make the effort to go to an event downtown I feel more refreshed when the weekend is over. Time slows down and I have positive memories from which to draw when I’m on the road. With this new strategy, my career and my travel schedule become part of my life… they no longer define my life. Now, when it’s time to go back on the road, I’m ready to put a quarter in the slot and maneuver that shiny mirror ball around the game’s playfield that is my travel schedule.
Do you travel for your career? Do you ever feel like your travel schedule is running you instead of the other way around? Please share your thoughts and strategies for finding Zen on the road.