business travel

Lightening your load

by Steve Brock on June 5, 2014

My new old backpackI wrote last time that no matter what the trip, I always use my old trusty roller bag as my carry-on luggage.

I lied.

Actually, it’s been true until my last two trips, one a few weeks ago and the other last week. Both were simple overnighters, 24 hours or less in duration. On these, I tried something new.

Well, something old: my son’s discarded school backpack. But it was new to me. Here’s what I discovered in using it instead of my roller bag:

  • I took me longer to pack less. Everything before was already in my roller bag. Now, I had to go through each item in both my roller bag and laptop case (since I was consolidating both into the backpack) and determine if it was necessary.
  • It caused me more anxiety at first wondering if I’d forgotten something. These were the two downsides. Now for the positives.
  • I didn’t have to get to the airport as early to make sure I boarded with the elite frequent flier section to assure overhead space for my roller bag. My backpack fit under the seat.
  • I could make it through the airport much faster since, a) I wasn’t hauling a heavy load behind me, and b) I could use stairs and walk up escalators, not easy feats with a laptop case stacked on a roller bag.
  • I just felt different. Freer. I could carry the pack on one shoulder when boarding or zip across the whole of O’Hare wearing it with both straps. It not only generated a fun association with backpacking, but the more upright change in posture induced a different rhythm and added a lightness to my step which made my dash across terminals downright enjoyable. That’s like my wife informing me she had really friendly and quick service at the DMV. Who’d have thought?

I’ve put off using a backpack rather than my laptop case for fear it wouldn’t appear as “professional” to clients. And while my son’s old backpack may not scream out “You can trust me. I know what I’m doing” (the torn zipper may be the giveaway), I see enough business people with backpacks now both in airports and conference rooms to know that backpacks have become mainstream business attire.

So from now on, I’ll be upgrading the backpack to something a bit sleeker and using it on other short trips because my experiment on these two trips has revealed something unexpected: A small shift (literally and figuratively) in luggage can change how you feel about your trip.

I’m sure the novelty will end soon, even with a new backpack. But I encourage you to try and go as small and light as you can on your next trip. See what happens. You too may be surprised and find what I did:

How you pack affects how you travel.

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A letter from my first week home this year

by Steve Brock on February 22, 2013

There's a reason the words travel and travail share the same root..

Dear Travel,

You and I, we’re not doing so well.

I think we’ve been spending too much time with each other.

I used to look forward to being with you. We’d go everywhere together.

Now, after the first week so far in this year that I haven’t had to be on the road, I find I rather like it. Sorry, Travel, but you kind of wear on me. No matter where I go, you’re always there. And you always want more.

I know your moods and your little idiosyncrasies. Like how there’s no perfect way to arrive at an airport. I’m always either waiting or running, or so it seems. Or how you lull me into a sense of complacency and then pull the rug out by canceling a flight or giving me wrong directions. That’s a nice one.

But oh too familiar.

We used to have fun together! But I can’t recall the last time I laughed on a trip. Let’s face it. The spark is gone. The ol’ magic just isn’t there.

I think we should be seeing other people.

No, we can still be friends. We can, maybe, still see each other. Sometime. Just not like everyday. Not now at least.

You go hang out with some other folks. How about all those college grads who think you’re the greatest thing since the wheel or Instagram? All they talk about is you. Spend time with them. Let them get to know you as I do. Introduce them to the wear and tear of constant business trips. Then we’ll see how enamored they are with your exotic ways and your “we could go anywhere!” attitude.

For me, I just need some distance. Yes, I know that’s your specialty. You’ve been singing me that tune for far too long. I’m talking emotional distance here, not miles. I just need to spend some time with this other friend, Home.

I’ll let you know how it goes. And who knows, we might even take a few short jaunts together into town or around the neighborhood. I know you want more, but that’s all I can give you now. I need my space, so don’t push me, OK?

What? You’ve heard me talk like this before? And I always come running back? Don’t get too cocky, Travel. We’ve not spent this much concentrated time together for a long while. Enough is enough.

So you go your way (you always do) and I’ll not go any way or anywhere. I’ll just hang. Spend time in one place. Get to know my own furniture and family for a change.

Maybe I’ll call you.

Or more likely, a week or two from now, you’ll call me.

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Boiling frogs and business travel

by Steve Brock on June 21, 2012

Business travel is a rather odd sort of business, especially when it comes to hotels.

If you ever look closely at the pricing and services offered at various hotels, you’ll realize that the typical rules of economics don’t seem to apply. Or rather, they do but in ways that raise an eyebrow or two. Or at least mine. The left one to be precise.

Here’s my question: Why is it that I can stay at a budget or mid-priced hotel for under $100 in many markets (more in big cities) and get a free newspaper, free hot breakfast, free Internet access, free parking and oftentimes free local (and with some, even long distance) calls?

Yet if I pay twice that amount or more at a “nicer” hotel, I am charged at least $15/day for parking or use of their wifi. Local calls can cost $5 and that same anachronistic newspaper I can get for $.50 outside costs me anywhere from $2 to $5 to have it laid out in front of my room door.

In other words, with hotels catering to business travelers, the more you pay for your room, the less you get.

I understand the why of this: business travelers are usually on expense accounts and will pay these additional charges because they can. I’m in marketing, so I get issues of price discrimination, market segmentation and the whole psychology and make-up of the business travel culture. But the whole system seems a bit suspect to me.

The funny thing about it is that I usually don’t notice it. I’ve become like the proverbial frog in the pot of water. You know, the urban legend-like story that if you want to boil a frog (which itself begs the question of why you would want to do that), you need to place the amphibian into cool water and heat it slowly. If you just drop it in already boiling water, it will just jump out.

Turns out that none of that is true. But let’s not let reality get in the way of a good metaphor. The point is that I’m so accustomed to the way business travel works that I just buy into it.

Or I used to.

Lately, I find I don’t like playing this game any more. Recently, I’ve become aware of how many “games” I play, from hotels to airline’s mileage programs to the way rental cars try to scare you into buying insurance you likely don’t need (since your regular car insurance may already cover you in a rental).

All these little cross-sells, up-sells, surcharges (let’s not even start on airlines’ added fees) and special taxes not only add up, but they take away from the meaningful aspects of travel.

How about you? Ever notice how many things you pay for, especially on a trip, that don’t add value to your experience but are just ways for companies to make more money at your expense?

Hop out of that pot.

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Prairie dogs and business travel

by Steve Brock June 12, 2012

Business travel becomes something more when a tornado and other weather anomolies take over a routine trip work trip.

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Media, marketing and meaningful travel – Part 2

by Steve Brock October 3, 2011

The alternative to a media fast as a means of dealing with all the products and ads that come your way is to do a reverse fast where you pay even more attention to what you normally ignore, especially on a business trip.

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Meaningful travel and the value of lowly places

by Steve Brock June 13, 2011

Restrooms and bathrooms can be surprising locations for meaningful travel, but they serve well to facilitate relationships and foster creativity. Seriously…

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A curious trip

by Steve Brock May 25, 2011

What do you do when you discover something like an ant crawling around the inside of your airplane window? I wonder…

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