My passion for travel isn’t a very well-kept secret. But as I write this week, from a hotel in Amsterdam, I am reminded that travel isn’t always a glamorous, relaxing holiday.
I came to the Netherlands with Andrew who was supposed to be working here today and tomorrow. At the moment however, he’s on his way back to Brussels to fix a problem before driving back to Amsterdam tonight.
One of the perks of Andrew’s job as a computer-geek-for-hire is that he gets to travel – a lot. At times, like this week, he would argue that it is less of an advantage and more of an annoyance.
Andrew spent Monday and Tuesday of last week in Amsterdam. Wednesday he was back in Brussels. Thursday and Friday he was in Slovenia. This Monday saw him in Brussels again and today and tomorrow he’s back and forth to Amsterdam. He travels frequently to Spain and Austria. He has been to Denmark, Finland, England and Germany, among others.
To the uninitiated travel junkie, it sounds like a dream.
In fact, it does have its perks. His hotel, food and travel costs are paid for and if time and finances permit, sometimes I am able to tag along. In this way we’ve been able to visit Helsinki and Barcelona together, and I’m able to visit my old Amsterdam haunts fairly regularly.
Friends hear these stories and are envious of what they see as a jet-setting lifestyle of exciting travel.
Through the few business trips I’ve been able to accompany Andrew on, however, I’ve come to see the downside to his so-called jet-set job.
For starters, technology companies generally aren’t located in the most interesting areas of town. More often than not they are situated in soulless business parks on the outskirts of a city.
Because Andrew’s visits are usually only a day or two at the most, his sightseeing consists of the airport, the interior of a taxi, a business park and his hotel room, which is normally near the airport for convenience sake. It’s hardly the way to experience the soul of a city.
The time constraints often lead to long work hours. Meals are often on the run or late-night, bland, hotel room-service. Then there are the oh-so economical 20 Euro hotel breakfast buffets of toast and runny eggs and Andrew’s personal favourite – airline food.
On the subject of air travel, Andrew spends a great deal of time waiting around in airports. Standing in security lines isn’t conducive to getting much work done. Because most of his travel plans are made at the last minute, flights are often convoluted and inconvenient.
When Andrew is on the road, his work days are much longer than normal. After he spends a full day with his customers, he then has to catch up on all of the work he would have done normally (double the work day, double the fun – not likely).
Finally there is the challenge of working and communicating in so many different countries. Although the common language in the IT sector is English, often it is a third or fourth language for the people Andrew is working with. This can make getting technical details across challenging to say the least.
When I am able to tag along on Andrew’s business trips, it’s a welcome relief for him to be able to escape for a good meal and some sightseeing in the evenings – If we can make a weekend of it, all the better.
Today though, I wait for him in a rather bleak hotel room in dubious anticipation of a late-night room-service extravaganza.