When I got out of college in 1989, my highest ambition was to be a copy editor, and ultimately a journalist of some kind. Maybe a beat writer for the San Francisco Giants? - nah, I hadn't gone that far. Something that paid 8 bucks an hour was much more like it. Alas, I couldn't get a copy editing job anywhere, even with my "highly desirable" degree in English that I'd just procured. So I answered a newspaper classified ad, and came to work at Monster Cable in South San Francisco, CA as a customer service rep, where I would spent the next 6 years. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this began my career as a frequent business traveler. I say it not in the braggy way that certain road warriors tote up their frequent flyer miles and exotic destinations, because certainly the trips I most frequently take are anything but exotic - Kansas and Atlanta have been big in recent years, for instance – I actually have many good things to say about both places, yet I'm guessing you're not squirming with jealously; nor should you be.
Being flown to the four corners of the US, and sometimes the globe, on company expense has certainly been a positive way more often than a negative. The very first trip Monster Cable sent me on would have been around 1991 or so, to Chicago for the then twice-a-year Consumer Electronics Show. I had the exhausting privilege of "working the booth" on my feet for ten hours a day, and I was once even asked to carry the CEO's briefcase for him (after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I did what I was told, of course). That was the first and only time I'd ever had to share a 2-double-beds room with a co-worker, which totally bummed me out, but thankfully I liked the guy. And I was in Chicago – for free! A revelation. Most business trips of this nature involve virtually zero fun time; yet we were able to fit in a quick round of beers at a microbrewery one night, and I bailed on a company party to walk to the Cabaret Metro to see the band Eleventh Dream Day. A decent start to road life.
Having, I guess, provided my mettle as a worker of trade shows, standing in front of people and telling them how great our products were, I then started flying all over the country to do the same. San Diego, Houston, New Jersey, Las Vegas and then some. When it ended with my leaving the company in 1995, so too did all company-subsidzed travel, and I missed it badly. You get really used to a perk that pulls you out of daily toil and drudgery, where you get to see a new city you've only read about, meet their yokels, compare notes in endless smalltalk on your respective cities, and so on. At my new company, nothing happened outside of our building for a year, and when I finally got asked to fly to San Diego for a meeting – a short day trip, with not even a hotel stay involved – I remember being so excited that I didn't sleep well the night before (which until very recently, continued to bedevil me the night before traveling).
My career, such that it was, started to be defined as a marketer and as an "account manager", which I loved because I didn't have to do any actual sales, but still got to travel to see the customer where he or she lived, to make sure things were going OK, hold very important meetings & work on plans and stuff. Frequent trips to destinations like Columbus, Portland, Phoenix and Riverside followed. Then in 2001 I started working for the large European wireless operator Vodafone, which put me onto international flights – and which was amazing. Vodafone flew everyone Business Class when they had to go overseas – no matter how low on the pole you were. The first international work trip I ever took, my boss came to me at 4pm on a Friday, and asked me if I could be in Karlskrona, Sweden the following Monday. I assured him that I could. I came back for a week, and then they sent me out there again for another week. Every time they'd send me overseas to someplace cool, I assumed it would be the last time, and after a trip to Tokyo in 2003, it was indeed the last time, and our entire marketing group got laid off. I've never flown business class ever since.
I reckon since then the business travel thing has kind of snowballed. I've somehow managed to have the perfect amount of travel; not enough to piss my wife off too much nor tire me out too badly, nor to rack up much more than a handful of Southwest frequent flyer rewards, yet enough to get me out of the office every couple of months and into a place I'm not too familiar with. My favorite trip I've ever done, outside of that first dose of Sweden with its side trip to Denmark, was probably a New York/Boston one a few years ago in which I spoke at two 9am conferences for thirty minutes, right at the start of the conference – but otherwise had 3 days of exploration split between the two cities, including a train trip to Boston from NY instead of a flight. One time I also got sent to Atlanta for the sole purpose of having one deluxe dinner at a top-tier steakhouse with the customer, simply because our company didn't want to be grossly outnumbered by all the people they invited, and therefore sent me out there to balance things out a little better. No complaints. Oh, and there was this promotion I ran in the same city where we gave away some ESPN-branded merchandise before 3 Atlanta Braves games, who just so happened to be playing my San Francisco Giants those same three games. Coincidence? I choose not to answer.
Worst trips? Just the many that consist of long flight, airport, long day of work, long dinner with customer, hotel, early flight out the next morning. Too many to count. That's when all of the glamor is leeched out by its polar opposite, tedium. Nothing awful's really happened, outside of interminable flight delays that happen to everyone. I guess the time I landed in Toronto, the plane screeched to a halt on the runway, and a fire truck came screaming up – and then just sat there for 20 minutes, with no announcement from the pilot – that was pretty lame. It was followed up by a totally pointless 90 minute stay in a Canadian customs office that didn't have air conditioning, because I'd been randomly chosen for secondary screening in the post-9/11 era. I made up for the indignities with good beer and a decent meal later that night, as I always try to do, with or without the customer. It all hasn't been too bad, all things considered.
This is almost certainly a boring post for anyone reading it, so I'll mercifully stop here. My aim with the blog isn't always to edify on cultural matters or whatever it is we do here; I'm also collecting anecdotes and thoughts for myself and for my fruitful lineage, who will themselves go forth and multiply (and read my blog hundreds of years from now). You never know when your mind will blow a gasket, and you'll forget everything that every happened to you, right? With that in hand, here's my to-the-best-of-my-knowledge inventory of the places I've been made to go for the purpose of making my companies (and capitalism!) far better, richer and stronger:
Atlanta (appx. 8 times)
Burbank, CA (too many to count; over 20)
Chicago (5 times)
Dallas, TX (twice)
Irvine, CA (3 times)
Las Vegas, NV (at least 10 times, which is 9 times too many)
Little Rock, AR
Los Angeles, CA (5 times)
Maryland (suburbs – I can't remember where – twice)
McLean, VA (5 times)
New Jersey (also suburbs, twice)
New Orleans, LA (twice)
New York, NY (appx. 12-15 times)
Orlando, FL (3 times)
Overland Park, KS (appx. 7 times)
Park City, UT
Phoenix, AZ (twice)
Portland, OR (twice)
San Diego, CA (4 times)
Seattle, WA (appx. 8-10 times)
Washington, DC (twice)
Dusseldorf, Germany (twice)
Karlskrona, Sweden (twice)
London, England (twice)
Toronto, Canada (twice)