so you want to be an international business jet setter…

Here’s an interesting look at my work schedule from about 7 years ago (I dug this up from my journal, which I’ve kept daily for 11 years now).

– evening: Depart from New York, headed to Frankfurt

– morning: Arrive in Frankfurt, go to hotel, shower (European time is morning, but more like 3 am New York time).

– work a 10 hour day, assisted liberally by German jet fuel, er, coffee.

– evening: out late for drinks with colleague from Frankfurt office – beers in Germany – who knew?

– morning, afternoon: meetings with Frankfurt colleagues; separate off-site meeting with consulting team.

– evening: fly to Paris and its lovely airport, lovely late evening traffic, lovely chain-smoking taxi drivers, lovely $500 hotel room with paper-thin walls. Ah, vivre bien!

– morning and afternoon: meetings, meetings, meetings in grim lifeless Paris office – maybe one of the most humorless cities I have ever seen and my least favorite international destination (other than Brussels).

– evening: fly to Istanbul. Without opening my mouth I am mistaken by every single last person I meet as being Russian, not American – despite looking about as American as a blond, blue-eyed freckled guy wearing a Polo shirt and Dockers slacks can look in Istanbul.

– morning: meetings at consultant offices (cramped and uncomfortable but with stunning views of Istanbul)

– afternoon: on-site meetings with local office.

– evening: hit the bars with consultants; any preconceptions about the lack of alcohol in a predominantly Muslim country are quickly swept away.

– lunch meeting, which I discover in Turkey means (a) more food than I have ever seen in my life and (b) work is more or less done for the day.

– work, both at consultant’s offices and in my hotel – which sadly enough feels like a break when I’m still typing out reports at 9pm on a Saturday.

– day off, (i.e. sleep and eat long lunch reading what sports news I can get my hands on in the hotel bar)

– late afternoon: flight to Warsaw. They serve peanuts (I am allergic) and I spend the flight wondering which would be worse, vomiting in the teeny tiny Polish airlines bathroom or passing out in the teeny tiny Polish airlines seat.

– meetings with Warsaw office in the morning – about 17 people around a conference table designed for 10.

– in the afternoon, met with officers from the Moscow office who happen to be in Warsaw (which makes me irritable since it removes any reason for me to go to Moscow within the next few weeks and I love Moscow).

– morning, fly to Bucharest; spend day at work and evening in local sports bar (befriending Romanian bartender), moving on to a casino (still in the hotel – I am unwilling to attempt Bucharest proper most of the time due to roaming packs of wild dogs and a predatory look in the cabbies’ eyes when they see Americans get in the cab).

– 14 hour day; return to local sports bar where friendly bartender, in the spirit of Romanian-American friendship, provides far too many free glasses of tuica for an American unaccustomed to it.

– take 14 hour flight from Bucharest to New York wishing tuica were not so strong. Plum booze. Argh.

– back at work at corporate headquarters in New York – file expense report, file memos on trip, meet with boss, start planning next trip.

That’s 5 international cities in 10 business days (12 days total). Most of the days tended to include approximately 14 hours worth of “work”. That might mean 4 hours of meetings, 4 hours of email/calls to New York HQ, and 4 hours of report writing either in the office or in the hotel room. I usually took a break for 2-3 hours starting at 7 or 8 for a trip to the hotel bars (which tended to be quite fun, filled with other business travelers and local cheerful bartenders and waitresses), then return to my room for another 2 hours of work before collapsing. I saved the drudge work for those last two hours – updating my assistant on travel plans, filing expense report info, dealing with the non-technical emails, formatting reports (gotta get the TPS just right).

I took a step back from that lifestyle, and as a result here’s my schedule. The hours are long mainly because my client’s about 1.5 hours from my home.

Monday: leave for work at 8, home at 7.
Tuesday: leave for work at 8, home at 7.
Wednesday: leave for work at 8, home at 7.
Thursday: leave for work at 8, home at 7.
Friday: leave for work at 8, home at 5:30 (skip out early).
Weekend: I have worked one Saturday in the last 3 years (and that was at home).

I look back and think that my previous schedule was certainly glamorous from outward appearances. I was the very definition of a jet-setting businessman. I had an American Express Corporate Card and no limits on spending. The horrific demands of traveling (physical, mental and emotional) meant that the company was willing to make every single last creature comfort available, because otherwise people just wouldn’t do it. I didn’t mind so much because I was single (and likely to stay so, with my “2 weeks in New York, 2 weeks overseas” schedule. I never understood how the people who were married with kids tolerated it. Now that I’m married with one child (and another on the way) I couldn’t tolerate it.

So if you’ve ever wondered what a big-shot corporate international travel itinerary looks like, ta-da.