Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

The Joy of Work Travel

I was well over 15 years into my worklife before I ever had occasion to board a plane when the ticket was paid for by my employer, or to stay in a hotel knowing I would be reimbursed for the fee. While I no longer get the wild giggly feeling about it that the first few trips engendered I still enjoy this very much. I have enjoyed this particularly, I admit, because my work travel has mostly taken me to the Bay Area, where I have many friends and contacts and always have a good time.

Since all my work travel has taken place against a background of continual budget cutbacks, I have always had to fight very hard to make these trips (despite their necessity for getting my work done properly). During the time I was traveling the most, all business travel had to be approved at a VP level, which meant I had to get managers two levels above me to write up trip justifications (which I never had any problem doing). Later I discovered that these travel requests would reach the relevant VP's office and she would glance at them and say, "Oh, it's Steven" (my projects at that point were quite visible, as, I suppose, was I) and she would approve the request without question. But we had to go through the ritual, and it was worth it to me.

The odd thing was that after fighting and arguing and making my case for why I needed to meet with development groups or to research my work where I had access to the products I was documenting, I would be thanked and praised for being willing to travel. "It's so great that you came out here," the project leaders would say. "And you're willing to travel" my boss would say at review time, and give me good ratings. "Huh?" I would say, remembering his "there's no money for travel this quarter" insistence that I would overcome by going over his head. I guess the deal was they would make it as hard as possible for you to travel, but if you jumped through the hoops and crawled on broken glass (to quote a colleague), then you got pats on the back. I don't know if this is a metaphor for something larger that I'm just not seeing or whether corporations really do take their marching orders from Dilbert comic strips.

It's true, though, that many of my co-workers in Minnesota do not like work travel at all. It takes them away from their families, and leaves them stranded in strange cities where they don't know people. But me, I have a reputation now for being the guy who's happy to hop on a plane.

And so it came to pass today that my manager (my new manager, the most supportive cheerleader of a manager I've ever encountered) has asked me how I feel about taking on a new and unusual project. There are various atypical aspects to this project, and a level of vagueness that would thwart a more organized individual than I, but all this makes this project more, not less, appealing to me (which my boss well knows). He then told me that getting started on this project will involve a brief trip to Boston. The man spearheading the project has said that it isn't a requirement that a pubs representative attend this upcoming meaning, but it would be a wonderful thing if it were possible. My boss told me this while trying to hide a smile, pretending that he was asking me to do something unpleasant as a big favor to him. So, he said, (A) Can you fit this into into your schedule and (B) Are you interested in the project and (C) would you be willing to go to Boston for a day in a few weeks.

No, Yes, and Yes, of course, and we can negotiate the No. Yeah, said my boss, I wanted to give you right of first refusal here. The problem, I said, is that this is Boston. I'll want to see if I can meet up with Norumbega Harmony (the shape-note group), or Commonwealth Morris. And then I've got friends I'll want to see and oh, are we sure we can't make this more than a day's meeting? This trip comes from a budget associated with this project, not my department, which is what's making it possible.

I think that now that I'm traveling a lot less each individual work trip brings back more of that exuberant fun of the first few trips. I'm just chomping at the bit to get going on this project now, and I've already been off web-searching to familiarize myself with general background in this new area. There will be new people to meet and to establish working relationships with, and new problems to address. I think I needed something like this at work just now.
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