my life up in the air


I’ve written about this before, but digging through my files I found my schedule from the early 2000s on a European business trip.  The headlong hectic nature of the trip is almost unbelievable to me today.


  •  evening: Depart from New York, headed to Frankfurt.


  • morning (German time): Arrive in Frankfurt, go to hotel, shower up, work a 10 hour day.
  • evening: out late for drinks with colleague from Frankfurt office, don’t make it to sleep until 2 am-ish.


  • morning, afternoon: meetings with Frankfurt colleagues; separate off-site meeting with consultants
  • evening: fly to Paris


  • morning and afternoon: meetings, meetings, meetings
  • evening: fly to Istanbul


  • morning: meetings at consultant offices, quick lunch with partners and managers before heading off to local office
  • afternoon, evening: on-site meetings with local office, carried on into dinner


  • 12 hour day; mercifully left alone for the evening


  • work, both at consultant’s offices and in my hotel; a mere 7 hour day


  • day off, flew to Warsaw in evening


  • meetings with Warsaw office in the morning
  • in the afternoon, met with officers from the Moscow office who happen to be in Warsaw – schedule meeting in Moscow in a month


  • morning, fly to Bucharest; spend day at work (approximately 10 hours)
  • evening in local sports bar (befriending Romanian bartender named Magdalena), moving on to a casino


  • 14 hour day at the local Bucharest office; return to local sports bar where said Magdalena provides far too many free glasses of tuica.


  • take 14 hour connecting flight from Bucharest to New York wishing tuica were not so strong.  Preparing reports and memos for most of flight back.


  • Back at work at corporate headquarters in New York.

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 (2 hours of “other”, natch). 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 contrast this with my schedule now:

Monday: leave for work at 8, home at 6.
Tuesday: leave for work at 8, home at 6.
Wednesday: leave for work at 8, home at 6.
Thursday: leave for work at 8, home at 6.
Friday: leave for work at 8, home at 5:30 (skip out early).

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 two kids, I couldn’t tolerate it.  I don’t even vaguely understand how it could work, although I know married guys with kids who do it.

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

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3 Replies to “my life up in the air”

  1. Man, that looks HORRIBLE. Even if you were making serious money (I hope you were) that looks awful. Did you care about the subjects of all those meetings? Were you at least engaged in the subject matter? I hope so! It seems tragic to have been physically present in all those cool places, but locked up in meetings the whole time.

    I need a nap just reading that.

    1. Well, it wasn’t all awful. I did get to see a lot of the world and I was making good money… but the main thing was that I did have a lot of fun experiences attached to the horrible work schedule. I had some fun times, made friends with colleagues in the local offices and got to see parts of the world I never would have visited otherwise (not like I would have gone to Bucharest for fun, for example). I view it as a bit of a wash, to be honest – a chance to tour the world in crappy conditions… 🙂

      And I guess I enjoyed my colleagues and clients, and I enjoyed the business I was working in (a big cosmetics company) but the actual work I did was not all that engaging. Then again, the work of accounting and finance has seldom been very interesting for me throughout my career, so that’s no surprise.

  2. Wow! You look at that schedule a lot more charitably than I would. I had job where I had to travel a lot, once. Basically, fly out sunday afternoon, fly back Friday night, unpack, do laundry, repack, and fly out again on Sunday afternoon. I hated every waking minute after about the 3rd week. Zero life and I really never got to enjoy where I was at as I had to work. You don’t make any friends only acquintances and I have always preferred a few really strong friendships over a bunch of acquintances. Plus, an apartment was useless.

    It always amuses me that the Big 4 (realy Big 2 now) have offices in almost every city, but refuse to use those people on jobs in those cities. People in Chicago fly to Seattle, people in Seattle fly to Dallas, people in Dallas fly to NYC, and people in NYC fly to Chicago. A few of the SME’s I can see, but regular low level grunts? What a waste for everyone.

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