Work travel. It happens. For me it often involves high level, strategic meetings in windowless rooms, from which I bolt at the end of the day to find a hotel gym. I want to break this cycle. Why white-knuckle it over the Rattlesnake in winter two hours to an airport, spend all day in flight, and sit in conferences for.. well..just work? I've determined to find some adventure in work travel this spring.
For example: I have to go to Portland in early March. Portland? Blah. But then I think, if we stay downtown, I can run on the waterfront! I love the waterfront! It's flat! There are other runners! No ice! No rocks! I can be swift! I can look at dragon boats! Yay Portland!
From Portland, I am going to Cedar City, Utah. Cedar City in late March?! Have I died and gone to heaven? I can surely find a daylight hour or two between meetings and go hiking in Zion National Park, can't I? After that, I have a work trip to Flagstaff in late April. Hmm....could I possibly stay the weekend? A Grand Canyon Hermit to Boucher solo backpacking loop sounds perfect! And I'm not even mentioning my February trip to Flagstaff and the GC permit I've snagged then- Bright Angel to Horn Creek to Granite Rapids, two of the best campsites in the whole place.
Of course, none of this is as easy as I make it sound. After all, these trips are for work. That's the main objective, and I can't let my adventures infringe upon that. There is paperwork to do to ensure that staying over a weekend doesn't cost any more than flying back on a Friday. There's making sure that all the bases are covered at home. There's checking with the boss. Still..if you can make it happen, it is well worth overcoming the inertia. Below some tips that work for me.
1. Strategic packing. I wear my trail runners both for hiking and for my workday exercise. I usually run in a pair of dedicated shoes, but I figure that a week of using my Cascadias for running won't hurt me. That way I don't need to bring backpacking shoes and exercise shoes. Similarly, for my workday outfits I bring the same color scheme so I only need one pair of dress type shoes or boots. I don't take extras on these trips. Yes, a running outfit for every day is nice...but not necessary.
2. Be okay with solo. I've tried to incorporate friends into these trips, but it doesn't really work that well unless they live in the same town I am going to. Often the work travel isn't scheduled until a few weeks prior, and days of meetings can change abruptly. We aren't allowed to even buy plane tickets until three weeks before we go. Most people can't drop everything on a moment's notice. I've stopped trying, and am fine with exploring on my own.
3. Trip reports are your friends. Before I go to a place, I scour the internet to see what other people have written about the area. As lovely as the federal agency websites may be, they are definitely lacking in real life experiences. If I hadn't found the Big Bend chat forum, for example, I wouldn't know about the water sources and if they are typically reliable in winter. If I hadn't talked to my friend L about the Grand Canyon Tuweep hike, I wouldn't know that the "dangers" are vastly inflated on the park website. Some cities also have running routes mapped out if you google "running in Portland" or something similar. Shuttles are also your friend! Often you can find shuttles to many trails or locations. That way you aren't stuck renting a car and having it sit for days. If other types of adventures are your thing, there might be groups in that town that do them. One woman I worked with was into roller derby, and she brought her stuff with her, finding other teams to skate with.(Digression: I have spent many an hour on the trail trying to think up a roller derby name. I still haven't come up with one! It should be a play on your name, profession, etc, but sound fearsome.)
4. Go stoveless. Thinking about backpacking? A backpacking stove and flying just don't work that well. You have to find a canister somewhere, or fuel, and can't bring it back with you even if you have fuel left. I don't bring a stove unless it is going to be really cold. And speaking of food, I typically fly with most of my backpacking food already in my bag. It's just too time consuming and difficult to try to find that stuff at your destination. That way you are ready to go and don't waste time (I also fly with some of the lunch and breakfast items I plan to eat during the work day. I don't do well with huge restaurant meals and grocery stores aren't often located near hotels).
5. Be realistic. I would love to turn a work trip into a multi-day, multi sport adventure. But I often don't have more than a couple of days to spare, and the gear required is too immense. Less can be more. A day hike is fine! A run is fine! What matters is the experience. You aren't in your hotel watching a Say Yes to the Dress Marathon (don't judge. I don't have a TV, I have done this. I kind of love wedding dresses. I know, I am an enigma).
I can't typically take off and go visit these places on my own. It costs too much and takes a lot of time. But with work travel, I can have the best of both worlds. Go work travel! (Alaska? Need any work done? Call me!)
Do you travel for work? What adventures do you find? And what would your roller derby name be?