I'm a Business Tourist
I’m a world traveller. I can say that now, although a couple weeks ago I couldn’t. Having just gone on a trip to Bangalore, then to Norway, then to Amsterdam and back home, I can honestly say that I’ve seen a bit of the world, met a bunch of people who would never use the phrase, “bunch of people” and experienced the discomfort of 10+ hour flights.
But I’m not a tourist. I’m a business traveller -- a distinction both in destination and mood. When I’m in Bangalore, I set my alarm so I can get to work on time. When I’m in Trondheim, I’m deciding what to wear that will keep me protected from the subfreezing weather, but work in an all day series of indoor meetings.
I think I actually kind of prefer to travel for business than for fun. First off, I have no expectations that I’m going to have fun, so there’s no real disappointment when my accommodations are less than stellar. I do need a few things that I rarely touch on a vacation (like an iron), but I don’t need that room with a view or a hotel with a great pool 'cause I'm not really going to do much more than sleep, shower and leave, anyhow.
But when you’re there for business, you’re in the same boat as the person on the other side of the counter. We’re both just trying to get our job done and get home. I’m not likely to call your hometown quaint, and I’m also not likely to ask you to interrupt what they need to get done to get home for something like, “Can you take a picture of us in front of this cute little religious thingy?”
Travelling for business means getting to say you’re sorry, and be believed. As the Pulp song goes,
’Cause everybody hates a tourist especially one who thinks it’s all just a laugh
Being a tourist makes you an inconvenience, it makes you the product, or at least the source of income, but it doesn’t make you particularly welcome (“Next time just send the money and we’ll ship you some nice photos of the statue”).
Of course, I don’t go to the religious statue. I go to an office block in the outskirts of town. I don’t see what the tourists see, but I see the town in ways the tourist never could. The first time I went to Las Vegas, I never saw the strip -- but I did see a Home Depot and the suburbs.
Which is to say, I don’t travel to the same place you travel to if you go for vacation. When I travel to Orange County, I’m not going to see Disney, but I will see Cisco. When I stay in Trondheim, Norway, I end up at a local pub with the client, not the tourist spots in old town.
So, let me take that back. I don’t enjoy travelling for business more than travelling for fun. But even going to the same town on the same flight and staying at the same hotel, I’m on a very different trip. And that’s kinda a trip in itself.