I have not traveled for a month now, and I am getting itchy feet. The thing is, business travel is a drag: get up at stupid in the morning, schlep to the airport, dissemble luggage and get half undressed in a public place, re-assemble luggage, get dressed again in a public place, trying to ignore the feeling of being sneakily watched; find breakfast and try not to get it on your clothes; walk and walk some more, fight for a place to store your compliant little suitcase on the plane, find a taxi that will take credit cards, and finally make it to the office. Everyone there aspires to my life and wants to breeze in just before lunch time like I do. If I am lucky I get to have lunch, with people who have all sorts to discuss because they don’t see me often enough. The rest of the people are waiting for something bad to happen because they hardly ever see me. There must be a very good reason for my visit, and it can’t be good news. Umpteen meetings and conversations later I get to make my way to a hotel halfway across the city and look forward to a dinner by myself. Sometimes I get company, which can truly be that but just as often turns into another work meeting. I am really really tired by then.
And yet here I am, wondering when my next trip is going to be. I love being home, but routine bores me. I crave input from other people than those who surround me every day, and enjoy being in different places. For all my whingeing about the drag of business travel, there often is a brief window when I can appreciate my surroundings. I like to walk to and from my hotels, if at all feasible (mostly in Europe, to be honest). I discovered how nice that was once I was forced to, having waited for 20 minutes for a taxi that just wasn’t getting through traffic in Paris. In the end I assured the hotel reception staff I would be fine, and started walking. I checked the city maps on my way to keep myself on track but any other human would not even have to do that – I just have a formidably lacking sense of direction. And even I got to the office without getting lost. Since Hausmann Paris has a backbone of wide boulevards and follow-on arteries that take you effortlessly through the city. I noticed how recently a lot more people are cycling to work or college there. People also dress differently than they do in the UK.
Smells play a key role in experiencing the environment, I noticed while walking. Paris in the morning smells of the cigarettes of the many pedestrians smoking, with a dash of croissant and bitter coffee wafting out from coffee bars. One July morning, after a violent thunderstorm, it smelt freshly laundered.
And then there was that time I had a hotel room with a view out to the Atlantic in North Carolina. I watched the sun rise, pouring watercolours over the ocean in ever changing shades. It was so mild I threw the doors open so I could smell the salt on the air. That was terrific.
When is my next trip again?