The corporate lifestyle sometimes gives a glimpse into the world of the rich and famous. Because it frequently involves travelling to meetings in far flung places, the people living it develop a vocabulary that fixates on descriptions of restaurants, hotels, business class flights, airports, airport lounges, limos, visas, expenses, time zones and exotic animals you’ve eaten. It doesn’t make you particularly good company outside of this bubble.
Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t lonely and it isn’t soul-destroying. You are too busy, meeting too many new people, and doing too many new things for that. If you are in your twenties, it’s a lot of fun. It’s just a privileged existence, very different from normal life. If you live like that for too long, you will become disconnected.
On my business travels, I met a lot of oil men, engineers and diplomats – the sort of people who were working on fairly length projects. I remember being invited to an evening with a bunch of expats and heard a Moroccan tell this story. He was visiting Saudi Arabia and wanted to see a public execution. Because he was a foreigner he got pushed to the front. He described the beheading as surprisingly languid. So sharp was the blade, it was almost as if the executioner just let his arm fall. After the execution, he felt sick and didn’t eat for some time. Eventually, hunger got the better of him and he went down to the fridge to get a snack in the middle of the night. When he opened the fridge door there was a whole melon on the shelf. It reminded him too much of the execution and his appetite left him again.
Another time in Dubai I joined a bunch of men who all night had been raving about Latvian women at some night club and how I must see these Latvians. The night club turned out to be a meeting room in a Hilton hotel. A less exotic venue it would be difficult to find but, being a foreign hotel, they served alcohol. As if to make a presentation, three women dressed as cowgirls come to the front of the room. They did a chaste dance routine to music and left. They came back twice, each time wearing a different outfit. The men I was with thought this was great entertainment. I remember thinking ‘These guys have been away from home too long’.
Some people never get over the thrill of travelling business class. These people love airports and look forward to the free buffet of the business class lounge. Me, I hate airports. They are full of mildly stressed people committing micro-aggressions against each other.
I particularly dislike the sense of entitlement that some business travellers give off. Male or female, this type of person seems to take an age putting their case in the overhead luggage compartment. They remind me of my dog who, after fluffing up the covers in his bed, circles round and round until he eventually settles down. ‘Look at me. I’m important’ they seem to be saying.
Enjoy the experiences you get from travelling on business, but don’t let it go to your head.