I travel quite a bit for business. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting in an airport in Madrid, Spain on my way back to NYC. I’m not one of those folks who lives on a plane but I have my share of long distance business trips. As you can imagine, these trips are full of meetings with me rushing from place to place where I never have enough time for real sight-seeing. I always feel like I’ve missed out when I get on my return flight.
Business travel provides another type of window into foreign cultures though. I may not be able to witness all the museums or ancient ruins available, but I get something different. And I’ve learned to appreciate these travels even more as a result. First, because I’m not traveling on my own dime, I feel less concerned about saving every euro. I feel freer to explore without sweating the cost too much. Second, my meetings with people are usually with people native to the city so I get access to interesting stories, places and people right away. Third, I must immerse myself in the day-to-day activities of local life as soon as I land. Of course I’m only mingling with a small subset of society, but I still need to understand the traffic situation, the local geography, where the closest super market is and the telecomm industry right away in order for me get to my meetings on time, with the nutrition I need and with full access to the rest of the world.
I realize that my visits are so limited that I can’t quite argue that a get a full taste of the local environment. But vacationers only get a certain taste as well. There is a particular beauty in jumping in knee-deep into a small piece of culture. It may not always be an aesthetically beautiful experience but it is a fascinating one nonetheless.
For those of us lucky enough (or unlucky enough depending on how we look at it) to travel for business, we don’t have to necessarily extend our stays another week to feel we are deriving some beauty from our experience. Sometimes it’s matter of taking advantage of the small moments to look around and realize we are surrounded by something new and exciting. See some of my little moments during my 3- day business stay in Madrid below as an example.