“Business” Traveling like a Human Again

A change so natural I almost missed it

With Josephine operating in several states, I’m back to traveling almost as frequently as I did in my first job as a management consultant. But being on the road just feels viscerally different now.

Mostly, I chalked up the change to the obvious — liking work, loving our cooks, choosing my schedule. But last night on a long layover at the Dallas airport, the real, tangible difference just struck me like a ton of bricks.

I had used my last hotel loyalty points (the good part of the post-corporate hangover) to book a nostalgic night at the local Westin. The room I checked into was nearly identical to the rooms where I booked almost 50 nights a year as a consultant… but it could not have felt more alien.

My Room Last Night (i.e. Work Travel Then):

This suite had the same generic, hospital-room-style prints… twice!

Without fully noticing, my norms have totally shifted. Rather than book a hotel room and eat at the bar downstairs, I now Couchsurf or use Airbnb and eat with Josephine cooks and their friends. A couple workdays in Portland now means staying in a neighborhood I love and walking down the street to visit one of my favorite cooks for dinner.

After a long day on-the-road in my past life, I would have collapsed into my hotel room and ordered some rich, craveable room service. Last week on a business trip up to Portland, I walked down the block to cook Tracy’s house, where I was greeted from the street with the sound of laughter and the wafting scent of homemade coconut curry.

My Room Last Week (i.e. Work Travel Now):

Tracy is a warm host, trained nutritionist, and inspiring full-time food entrepreneur

As I walked into Tracy’s house, an elderly customer was explaining how excited she was for her first “meal out” in several years —she has stringent dietary needs because of an autoimmune disorder. Tracy, a nutritionist and dietician, was more than happy to geek out about meal planning.

Not only did I grab healthier, home cooked takeout, but I also met a few of Tracy’s neighbors who mentioned a local show and invited me out to drinks. When I nonetheless collapsed into bed an hour later, it was with a wholly different feeling than if I’d just scarfed down a delivery order at a hotel.

The promise of “the global village” and “learning to trust again” may just be early tropes of the sharing economy so far, but I sure feel privileged to have a front seat as more of these norms unfold.