One little detail that never even registered with me when I said yes to going back to work a few months ago is that I’d also return to business travel. And that’s where I have been these last few weeks, instead of writing.
I realized how unprepared I was, mentally and literally, one Tuesday morning when I needed to drive to the corporate office, about an hour and a half away.
As I was scrambling to find everything I needed that morning, frustration mounted. Not because of worry that it wasn’t going to be a great meeting. It wasn’t that I was nervous about seeing former industry colleagues again, who are now my co-workers. It wasn’t that I was scrambling to print a few schedules and spreadsheets I thought I’d need. And it wasn’t because I had no idea where my briefcase was anymore, of even if people still used briefcases, who knows?
It was that I couldn’t find a thing to wear!
As a stay at home, living the country life, mom
in the middle of mud season
in a town where gravel and dirt driveways are the norm
and pets can be found in every corner of my house
there’s no need to impress on a daily basis.
or ever, really…
That morning I found myself staring blank-faced at the closet, with only 15 minutes to get dressed and go before I’d end up late for the meeting. Staring back at me from my half of the closet was a sea of outdated, wrong-sized, wrong-seasoned clothing from my pre-stay-at-home days.
With no options, I turn to look at my every-day clothes, I see an overstuffed top bin of crumpled, half falling out, shirts.
As I look at the lower bin, jeans and more jeans and more jeans. Some cute, but not exactly appropriate.
Ok, let’s not worry about pants just yet, I think as I rummage through the messy shirt bin.
Here’s a black shirt, oh, that one has a big stain on the front.
Oh, here’s another one, this one has a pin-hole moth bite in the middle of the belly!
How about one with frayed sleeves?
Or maybe the one with the holes in both elbows!
I ran downstairs in despair, and vent my woes to my husband, who was at the kitchen table working at home that day, so he could handle the child shuttling while I was gone. He thankfully doesn’t try to solve my problem, but tells me he’s positive I’d look just great in anything I find!
He’s not truthful all the time, but his predicable compliments and enthusiasm make me feel better at least.
I run back upstairs, and a few minutes later am dressed and triumphant because I found the answer…the shirt with the elbow holes, I can put a sweater over that one! And thanks to my friend Cathy’s Cabi party a few months ago, I find a new skirt that’s cute (and has no stains or holes or frays yet!) and boots, and I’m finally relieved to get out of the house almost on time…
It takes me a few minutes to decompress once in the car, but when I do, my mind wanders as I try to assess my handling of this go-back-to-work transition over the last few months.
Here I have been worried about balancing my time, my health, family and other priorities.
All the tough topics.
Really I should have been addressing more immediate concerns, like wardrobe!
And looking halfway decent.
Sadly, how you look and how you feel affects your confidence. Mine was at an all-time low.
As I rounded the exit onto the NY Thruway, still a little irked at the rough start to my morning, I’m thinking, today’s just a day trip, next week, I’m away for three days. It’ll involve air travel. Navigating airports. Staying at a hotel. And eating out. I have to make sure I’m better prepared.
I then started creating a mental checklist on what I need to do, bring, and plan before my flight.
So I never have to repeat that nothing-to-wear experience ever again, to-do item number 1 of course was:
Must go shopping for something to wear!
But after that, can you guess what came to mind next?
I’m sure you can, I’m so predictable. It was:
What workout am I going to do when I’m gone?
How am I going to stay active, when I’m on a plane and in meetings all day?
How can I keep the meals relatively healthy, even though I’ll have to eat out for 3 days straight.
I visualized my itinerary and started calculating how much time I’d have in the mornings and how much time I might have between flights, and what I’d pack in my carry on bag to eat.
And that’s when my lack-of-confidence started to fade.
When I think about past experiences with work and travel, I remember:
Sitting on an airplane and feeling horrible because I can’t move around all day.
Snacking and meals at the airport and airline boxed lunches. Starbucks multiple times a day, for a grande latte or cappuccino, and gigantic sandwiches or muffins. Maybe something sweet in the afternoons…
Big dinners out at restaurants. Always wine. Often dessert.
There was never time for exercise.
And then once home, I’d be mad at myself because I was just a victim of the inevitable world of business travel, that wrecks havoc on nutrition, sleep and activity level.
I’d spend the next few weeks “dieting”, trying to undo the mess.
Certainly my opt-out-of-work, stay-at-home mom years have not done much for my fashion-sense, but over the last few years I have learned something. I do know how to balance my fit and health needs in an uncompromising way, and am more prepared than ever, to apply what I know now, to business travel.
And with this new-found confidence that I did learn something useful over the last few years, here’s how I planned and managed my goals on this first extended business trip:
- Choose ideal flight times: When I first looked at flights, it looked like the only ones were at 6 a.m. or ones that arrived late at night. I kept checking, and finally found one that left mid-day. Perfect timing to ensure a good workout in the morning, before a day of sitting on my rear during the long drive to the airport and the long flight.
- Maximize activity at the airport: One of my pet-peeves is having too much to carry while I’m at the airport, so I always check my suitcase. Armed with just a purse and briefcase, I’m not hunkered down with too much luggage and I can keep moving during the downtime, while waiting to board. I take laps from one end of the gate terminal to the other, and choose to walk rather than take the moving walkways. Before this trip, even more fun, I bought a new gadget: a fitbit flex, an activity tracker that motivated me to keep walking, accumulating activity and competing with myself throughout the day for more movement.
- Bring your own food to the airport and make smart choices: At the start of the trip, it’s a little easier, because you are coming from home vs. on the return flight or trip home. But don’t leave it to chance that you’ll find something healthy. I became used to bringing our own food on flights because of my son’s food allergy. Basically, you have to, because 99% of the food at airport restaurants aren’t safe for him. I’m sure you never noticed unless you have a food allergy too but all the restaurants have signs on their walls basically saying “allergic? Eat at your own risk!”. But I do find this practice of bringing food has helped me eat healthier too. If you put fruit, a healthy sandwich, your own crackers or snacks in your carry on bag, you won’t over-eat, or have to spend a lot of money. And if you can’t resist that trip to Starbucks? Although I love them, I don’t need a latte, I would have regular coffee with cream at home, and that’s what I’ll get when I’m out too.
- Know your hotel exercise options ahead of time, and plan. I checked the hotel website prior to leaving and saw there were some nice walking paths around the hotel. There was also a gym open 24-hours, and I have quite a few 20-30 minute workout DVD’s I could bring from home that I could play on my laptop, and do not need any equipment. I had all the options, woke up early and decided that morning what I’d do. I’m not much of a gym person, so a room workout plus a walk, to get a little fresh air, plus taking the stairs rather than the elevator, gave me a great start to a full day of sitting on my rear at meetings. My flight the next day was super-early the next morning, I couldn’t get out of that one, but did manage a lot of airport walking (and many, many steps my fitbit tells me) and a more formal workout once I was home.
- Avoid big meals early in the day: As much as I love Eggs Benedict at a hotel restaurant for breakfast, I opt for yogurt and granola or something filling but light instead. Big meals early in the day, or mid-day aren’t so great for attention span, and it’s important to stay alert for the rest of the meeting. So I say no to the cookies and brownies brought out at the meeting as well, because they’ll typically cause that 3pm sugar crash.
- Splurge when it’s worth it: When I bring my own food, choose to eat light during the day, have a short workout in the morning, and get some additional activity throughout the afternoon, just walking and making use of any down time, that means when I do sit down to a business dinner that night, I don’t worry about what I eat. Bring on the wine. And the dessert! Contrary to road food, a nice dinner, to me, is well worth a splurge after being active and deliberate with my food choices earlier in the day. The planning really helped this time, as I had one of the best meals of my life at a restaurant called Flagstaff House in Boulder one night.
And now? Back from my trip, I have no regrets.
There will be no diet.
No complaining that I feel out of shape.
I still have a lot of work to do on the wardrobe, since my outdoorsy-mom style doesn’t cut it. I know now, it’s finally time to take all those old suits that have been hanging in my closet for the last 5 years to the consignment shop.
And start investing in new, appropriate clothes for my new role.
But thanks to stepping away from the business world, I have been able to pre-plan the travel part of the equation like a pro, while also staying true to newly-developed personal goals, ones I never even knew to set prior to staying home.
Have you had unexpected issues with work/personal transitions like this? What are some of your tips for healthy business or personal travel? Would love to hear your thoughts and comments!