Traveling for business can often draw us out of our regular, comfortable routine, and therefore we are vulnerable to misunderstandings and awkward moments. In the best cases, these moments make great stories to tell back at the office. Other times, things are better left untold.
A table for one please
Introverts, extroverts, loners… it doesn’t matter. Few people are comfortable with the idea of eating alone in a restaurant. We often picture business events as a series of festive cocktails and fancy dinners that fuel conversations and networking. Deals are negotiated, wine samples – perhaps even some gentle flirting. The reality is that more often than not, business travel is a solo affair. After a long working day, travelers walk back to the hotel, pondering what to do next, whilst their stomach rumbles. The table for one anxiety looms. The sight of only a single person occupying a whole table usually raises some eyebrows. What’s wrong with that person, couples at candle-lit tables might wonder. Eating alone is hard. What to do?
- Option A: Avoidance - Ignore restaurants. Go to a supermarket or deli and take some food back to the room. Gulping down pre-cooked food with plastic utensils and meal-deal-style delights while watch a show on TV might not be that
- Option B: Be brave - Find a local restaurant and face the fear of eating alone. Bars and pubs are casual, easier places to blend or even strike a conversation with other patrons. You can take a book with you, glance at your phone or watch a game if you’re into sports. However, fine dining alone - that’s for pros.
- Options C: Last resort - Fast food restaurant… Maybe not. Business travel is hard enough.
Stuck with terrible companion
Every now and then we all need some alone time. Science backs this up with a multitude of studies that tout the benefits of solitude. Unfortunately, between meetings and business meals, finding some ‘me time’ during a work trip might not be that easy. When not talking shop, we network over cocktails or just chitchat with colleagues and clients.
And, let’s face it. Sometimes we don’t like the people we meet at a networking event, or in the worst-case scenario, we travel with a colleague we don’t have good chemistry with. Every seasoned business traveler can quickly identify those annoying individuals. They are the ones that appear out of nowhere the minute we’re alone during a business trip. They join us for breakfast at the hotel. They keep nervously babbling during the flight, and they insist on following us during a conference or trade fair. These cringe-worthy moments will turn any business trip into an uncomfortable and awkward experience. Before your next trip consider rehearsing a few ways to gracefully exit a conversation. For example, ask them to introduce you to others.
The travel wardrobe emergency
It happens. We show up to a meeting with a peculiar outfit. Colors don’t really match or the suit is slightly too casual for the occasion.
Packing for a business trip can be a major pain point for travelers. Trying to fit all the essentials into a carry-on suitcase is complicated —plain nightmare if you need suits or elegant dresses. Mix and match is a good strategy… until accidents occur.
Broken zippers and accidental spills do happen. It might be wise to think twice before buying takeout coffee on your way to a big work meeting. The unexpected will happen. A rounded, brown coffee stain on our shirt can’t be easily hidden, ruining our carefully planned travel wardrobe.
If our calendar is not fully booked, we might have time to find a department store or shopping center to buy new clothes. If not, consider packing lifesaving items, such as double-side tape, safety pins and a small sewing kit; your hand luggage can include tiny scissors and needles without breaking flight security rules.
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As difficult and awkward as these moments are, they’re also part of traveling life, so rather take them with a sense of humor. They happen to everyone sooner or later. Did you have any other awkward moments while traveling for business?