Here are some truths about conference travel:
- You are often teased with the locations for your conference travel. Last year I went to a conference that was advertised as being in Washington, DC, and I love Washington DC. Unfortunately, the conference was actually being held National Harbor, about 10 miles outside of Washington, DC, which means that I only ever got to wave at DC on my way to and from the airport.
- When you aren't teased with the location for your conference, you often don't really get time to enjoy the city you're in. The first time I went to Las Vegas since I was in my early 20s, I was staying at the conference hotel - Caesar's Palace - and I didn't actually leave the hotel for over two days.
- You may be in a great location, and you may actually get time to enjoy the city, but you have to remember you're travelling with people from work, so you will a) likely have to spend time with your work people and b) do things, like go to dueling piano bars, with these work people because NOT going to the dueling piano bars will get you accused of not being a team player and maybe when you said "But I don't want to go to a dueling piano bar" the response you received was "That was maybe the whiniest voice I've ever heard you use" and so then you had to go to the dueling piano bar in order to prove that you a) were a team player and b) were not whiny.
- You may be in a great location, you may get time to enjoy that location, and maybe you really actually like the people you're traveling with and no one, not ever, not once suggests that you go to a dueling piano bar because they all know that you have Feelings about such things, and they would prefer that you be happy and not whiny. Unfortunately, you still have your real job to do, and you have to use a goodly amount of that "free" time to get it done. The emails keep coming, the phone keeps ringing, the fires keep burning, and everyone needs all the same stuff from you that they would need if you were in the office, except that now they REALLY need it yesterday and OMG, the sky is falling!
- Should you find yourself with a great location, time to enjoy it, people you like, and a job well done, it is possible - LIKELY, even, that you will have too much fun and end up having to pay for it the next day when the sky starts falling again and all of a sudden you have too many things to do, have to talk to eleventy millilon strangers, and stand on your feet in uncomfortable shoes while trying not to think about the number of Irish Car Bombs you had last night that seemed like Such A Good Idea at 1am.
Here are some strategies I've developed for dealing with the truths of conference travel:
- Research your location. If you're going to Schaumburg, IL (I will be going to Schaumburg, IL), resign yourself to the fact that you are NOT going to Chicago. You will likely not get into Chicago for the entire trip and you need to make peace with the fact before you get on the plane.
- Look at the conference schedule. Are there breaks during the day or do you have to be on the tradeshow floor from open to close? Are there receptions or dinners that you need to attend? If there are, make peace with the fact that you are there for work, and work is not all about fun. Work is about work. And sometimes fun. But mostly work. And then more work. WITHOUT END.
- Think about who you're traveling with. The people I'm traveling with absolutely influence the experience I will have. Sometimes I travel and get to go to the gym every day and get lots and lots of sleep. Sometimes, however, I end up staying out late (and having to take responsibility for being the creator of the terrible "travel pub crawl" where we pub crawl in every city, which isn't awful, except when we're in Las Vegas and I wake up with bruises that make me look like someone kicked my ass) and I wake up swearing I will never, ever pub crawl again. Until I do. The next time. Irish Car Bombs are so often a good idea that goes terribly, terribly wrong.
- Remember that you are working and that you have a job to do first and foremost. Also, remember that you are a 37 year old growed-ass woman who rarely stays up later than 10pm when you're at home, and educate people that when you say that you're going to turn into a pumpkin at midnight, you probably mean it. (I mean it. There's no stopping the Elisa Pumpkin Train when it gets going.)
- Be grateful that you have a job that allows you to travel, and see interesting places, even if you don't get to experience them, because you are working and are NOT on vacation. I complain about travel at times, but I am glad to be able to do it.
Speaking of conference travel, this post is brought to you courtesty of a wi-fi hotspot at LAX (HATE YOU LA). I'll be home for about 40 hours between this trip to San Diego and next week's trip to Phoenix, LA, and then RHINEBECK!