Note: This post was written Thursday evening at SFO in California
I am currently sitting at a cafe in SFO, awaiting a flight that doesn’t begin boarding for almost three hours. I have a beer and an electric socket for the laptop, so I’m in good shape until I have to get up to go to the bathroom and risk losing my spot. Going to the bathroom is one of the things that I like least about traveling alone. When you are with someone, you can simply hop up and run to the bathroom; when you are alone you need to pack up all your stuff, pay your bill, and risk losing the sweet spot by the electric socket.
Traveling alone for business is something that I am doing more often these days, probably at least once every month or so. When the jobs come up I get excited – after all, travel, in my mind, means vacation. And in a lot of ways it is all a bit like vacation. Because the photoshoots that I am scheduled to shoot generally don’t take more than a few hours, and at most they’re a 9-5 affair, that generally leaves me with at least one, if not two nights to hit the town of whatever city I happen to be traveling to. Because my company generally only has offices in major cities, this means a night out on the town in Chicago or Dallas, or in this case, San Francisco.
The only problem for me though, is that all the exciting things that I want to do in these cities are things that I don’t want to do alone. This wasn’t always the case. In the past I used to love hitting up the bars on my own. Being in a committed relationship has definitely made this less attractive; I’m always surprised to remember, once I’m at the bar drinking alone, that the main thing that fueled my entertainment while at the bar by myself was the prospect of meeting women. I rarely actually did meet women drinking alone, but the thought that I might kept me entertained far longer than seemed possible.
But now that I’m not interested in meeting women, drinking alone on a business trip seems kinda sad. This is why more often that not I end up drinking at the hotel bar rather than going out on the town to explore. At the hotel bar, everyone is out of their element and most people are there by themselves, so there is subtle camaraderie there. Perhaps this is in my mind, but at a hotel bar, you’re not just some sad loser out on his own. You’re a non-loser put in a loser situation by your job, and everyone understands that.
The hardcore travelers are usually the ones who talk to you the most. As a relative newbie to the business travel world, I certainly am not in league with the people who spend the better part of their life either on airplanes or in hotel bars. These are people who have traveled so much that they no longer see the appeal of the hotel rooms (which I do) or get excited to be in another big city. These are people who have homes in the suburbs of a large city, but only see these homes on weekends or holidays. These are the people who know every airport (and airport bar) in the country, and know how to pack everything they’ll ever possibly need into tiny carry on bags.
These are also the people who talk your ear off about bullshit for hours at a time, because they realize that you have no where to go, that you’re not meeting someone, and that you have nothing better to do. And so they never stop talking. They talk about their kids (that they never see) and their newly remodeled kitchens (which they never cook in) and most of all they talk about their wives/husbands, that they are no longer married to.
While I am always excited for the opportunity to travel for photography, and I’m thrilled that the people I work for think enough of my work to send me across the country for photo shoots. But I’m also very happy that at the end of each trip I get to head home to my worn out mattress, in my apartment where Dr. Girlfriend is waiting for me, and we can go get martinis and talk about my trip.Â And if I have to go the bathroom, she can watch my stuff while I pee.