Knights of the 500 Kingdoms of Fortune

So I’ve been traveling for business for a few months now, and its high time I record some observations…

The first is that men (and perhaps women, although I’ve had less samples to observe) traveling on business are a solitary bunch. Although they represent families, employers, teams, and sometimes even churches, while traveling we are each alone. Despite spending the day with partners, or customers, or other team mates, at the end of it, we retire to a hotel room alone.

The strategies employed to manage this loneliness are varied — almost as much as the temptations available — but everyone I’ve come across has recognized the need to employ self-discipline in order to survive. What’s just as interesting is how readily we each compare our routines with each other. One guy I frequently see on my trips is very regimented in his diet — going so far as to buy groceries upon arrival in each place he visits, so that he’s not tempted to splurge on eating out. Others have a strict morning exercise routine in the crappy little gyms that hotels usually have.

For myself, I’m frequently traveling from east coast time to west coast, which makes it very easy to wake up in the morning, and very difficult to stay up at night. This means that my mornings are purposefully full: I do my stretches, read my Bible, spend some time in prayer, and allow myself one Starbuck’s Chai Tea Latte (my only coffee for the day) on the company’s dime. If I have extra time, mornings are also a good time to call home.

Another thing people do when they travel is try to fill their evenings. Customer and sales guys, partners — even ones with some tension in the relationship — will invariably look for a business reason (excuse) for dinner, a hockey game, a scotch tasting… anything to avoid the hotel room for a little longer. This usually works fine for me, although being an introvert near the end of my day (where 9pm = 12am with the time change) sometimes leaves me exhausted. If I do end up in my hotel room, I’ve taken a page from a long time mentor and resolved not to turn the TV on. Downloaded TV shows on my laptop ensure I’m not watching anything my bride’s not also watching at home. And accountability software on my computer, that reports any risky material to a friend at home who also travels for work, ensures the loneliness doesn’t lead to temptation.

Almost everyone I’ve come across has similar rules and strategies, so although our missions are different, with this shared need for self-discipline, and a common aloneness, there’s an almost instant comradery when coming across another guy traveling on business, which is something I’ve never really experienced at any job I’ve had before. It’s like we are lone warriors of the Kingdoms of the Fortune 500, knights of the board room, ronins on a lonely path welcoming the chance for a drink and a conversation — about anything. Even about faith…

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