I used to wear my airline status like a badge of honor! A road warrior…in the truest sense. I once survived 18 time zone changes in two weeks (traveling across Asia, U.S. and Europe) and was still able to walk off the plane (once finally home) fresh and ready to entertain. I am a million mile traveler!
This year, I finally reached the pinnacle of United Airlines status: ‘Global Services’ membership. United’s Global Services program is an invitation only program for its most loyal customers who bring in a significant amount of revenue each year to the airline.
I think that most business travelers covet the idea of reaching elite levels of status as a traveler. There are many great benefits to airline and hotel status and I think that United Airlines and Starwood Hotels have the best programs in their industry. Status perks include: shorter lines at the airport (check-in and security); free upgrades (airplane seats and hotel rooms); bonus points that can be used for free trips and upgrades; and much better attention and customer service during your trip or stay. This all makes life much easier for the weary ‘road warrior.’
I achieved my 1 million mile status as a result of hard travel over the last eight years. The most I traveled in one year was 260,000 actual miles. I know people who log many more miles than this per year and have reached well over three million miles traveled (to-date). United Airlines used to name planes after these sick individuals.
My reprieve from travel came in September of last year. In an effort to help my company control expenses I abruptly stopped all business travel and have not traveled for work since (six months).
I have not been home for more than four consecutive weeks at any given time, in the past eight years. When I stopped traveling last September, I literally went through withdraws! My body ached, I could not sleep, stress seemed a bit higher. It was tough.
My job has global responsibilities with team members in Russia, Germany, South Africa, U.K., Canada, Brazil, China, Singapore, Japan, India, Australia, etc. Travel has always been a big and important part of my work. It is very difficult to manage teams and programs when you have no real context for how business operates in different cultures and countries.
For the time being, I (like many colleagues in the industry) am subjected to working in a new ‘virtual reality.’ I spend a lot of time on the phone, in video conference calls, and planning and attending virtual events. It is not ideal, but it helps to stay connected to people and business. I also must admit that advancements in video conferencing are unbelievable. Cisco’s Tele-Presence system is absolutely amazing.
After the first four weeks of being home I began to appreciate just how much sacrifice I have made over the last eight years of my life for company and career (both of which I very much love).
But now that I am home I clearly see the toll that excessive travel had on my life – physically, mentally, and socially. The advice that is given to many people who travel is to sleep, drink (water) and eat when you can. Because outside of these three staples in life while on the road - you are working. This leaves very little time for anything else that contributes to quality living.
Although my current hiatus from business travel is not ideal or permanent, it is very much welcome. Over the last six months I have regained positive energy; I am physically stronger and more healthy (dropped 15 pounds); I have time to think thus giving me more clarity on important issues; I have reinvigorated my social life reconnecting with family and friends who I have neglected for many years; and I am able to give my wife time to be more social with her friends (as apposed to being locked down at home dealing with daily homeowner issues and pets).
I have made adjustments to my work day (hours) which allow me to stay connected to colleagues and team members in Europe and Asia/Japan; and some times I work a European schedule altogether (11pm to 9am PST).
So as the economy goes through its reset/renewal…so does my perspective on work and life.
I very much look forward to getting back to business as usual. One of the great things about my job is that I do get to travel and work with amazing people in different countries and experience important cultures. I am a lucky individual to have such a great opportunity. But as I do ease back into a routine schedule of travel, I will do so with a new perspective on the importance of life at home.
What are your confessions as a business traveler?