Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

My Photo
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Life OFF the Road

About a year ago I expressed in this web log my intent to find an alternative worklife that did not require me to travel 100% as I had been doing for 30 years. This is an update on my efforts to get off the road and my feelings about the adjustment so far.

After nearly abandoning consulting in January last year following an epiphany while on assignment in London, I instead subsequently accepted an offer to stay in consulting but be away from home just four days a week. That didn't last; I came to realize that I had lost my desire and commitment to be away from my wife and kids over half the week. In late April, 2008, I threw in the towel and took a sabbatical from consulting.

My goal then was to decompress for a few months and to nose around my local area (Raleigh, North Carolina and nearby Research Triangle Park) to look for job opportunities. I figured, worst case, I'd go back on the road to replenish the family coffers by Labor Day.

My timing couldn't have been worse. The sinking economy put thousands of good consultants on the streets in the last six months of 2008. As opportunities dried up, I considered the prospect of never returning to my former life on the road.

What would it be like? Could I REALLY adapt to being a peon traveler again as I gradually lost all my frequent flyer, hotel, and rental car elite memberships? Would I lose my edge and almost animal sense of knowing how to successfully navigate every travel mishap?

Against these mild anxieties I weighed the benefits of being at home: Simply put, I have NEVER been at home for long periods, but I LOVE being at home with my wife and my two wonderful kids (ages ten and five).

And there are many things I never miss when not on the road. People who don't travel for a living imagine that those of us who do live a glamorous life out there, flying first class, sleeping in the penthouse suites of five-star hotels, dining in swanky restaurants, and riding in limos down the famous streets and boulevards of big cities they have never seen.

Truth is, of course, that I have never stayed on business in a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons and only once in thirty years been transported in a stretch limousine (and that was not at client expense). We consultants can tell you a lot, though, about certain types of inns--Holiday Inns, Quality Inns, and Fairfield Inns--in out-of-the-way places like Marquette, Michigan and Alva, Oklahoma and Leominster, Massachusetts. And how hard it is to find anything but a Cracker Barrel restaurant or a KFC open at 11:00 PM when we often leave the client workplace in Des Moines, Yuma, or rural Tennessee. We also know much about center seats in coach on rebooked connections, the mirage of airline upgrade programs, the average taxiway wait for takeoff at LaGuardia, and the myth of airline customer service.

Just the same, as Joe Brancatelli is right to remind those of us who DO travel for a living, we are the lucky ones. Travel is a great teacher. Experiences on the road are always unique.

However, in the end it was easy to admit that, for me at least, school is out. I am ready to matriculate to a new experience: that of being mostly at home. Now the trick becomes how to create a new work life for myself.

Frankly, after almost of a year of reflection, I have few clues as to new endeavors that might generate income. But I am working on it.

Usually when I sit down to write a blog post here, my thoughts and feelings flow easily. Not this time. This is a difficult subject for me, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because I am, like all of us in this uncertain economy, unable to predict what opportunities, familiar or novel, will be out there.

I think it's more than that, though. I've enjoyed writing this travel blog, and I see its relevance fading. Perhaps I can keep it up as I experience firsthand an occasional travel situation, but there will inevitably be longer intervals between posts henceforth.

In the near future, for instance, I have two trips planned, and I will write about them. The first is to New Orleans in March, and the second is in April to visit my wife's family in Minnesota. It was more difficult than I anticipated in this supposed buyer's market for air travel to find a bargain to either MSY or MSP. We are also trying to pin down tickets in August to Montana, and that's up in the air (no pun intended) for the same reason. And there's another Amtrak trip to be coordinated.

These and other topics may be worth a post or two, so stay tuned.

Meantime, safe travels to all still out there on the road.


Blogger One Woman said...

Please don't stop writing. I've been reading your blog since it started, and its the one blog I can't miss. I'm also finding myself off the road and looking for a new job and life locally. Its wonderful to be home, but challenging to find a new career. We aren't alone. Many of your readers probably find themselves in the same place.

2/20/2009 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm off the road as well -- sidelined by a corporate travel freeze at my company. I'm happy to have a job, but I am a bit apprehensive about the inevitable return to the road without my much-treasured, well deserved status. Honestly, without 1K status on United, Hertz Presidents Club, and multiple hotel programs -- will I have as much incentive to get out there? Sure there is the pure joy of traveling, but without the perks it can be that much more taxing..

I'm sure your blog post will stir some interesting comments this week -- the economy is making many people rethink their travel lives.

Keep up the good work with the blog, travel or no.

2/20/2009 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i stepped down from my frequent traveling perks 10 years ago and couldn't be happier to be home more and on the road less. I'm still on the road about a week a month except for December and January, so I keep a suitcase packed and my 3-oz. liquids filled. But it is true that when I'm on the road now I have to remind myself of all the tricks of the trade. I don't get upgrades anymore, and stay more often with friends than I did before. But all in all, my life is much better quality. The best of it is that I am much less aggressive, and a nicer person to be around.

2/22/2009 12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still on the road; had thought seriously about changing my lifestyle and staying home more - however, with the economy, decided to be thankful for a job travel or no. Not a time for me to start over. I admire those of you who are out there by choice and feel those who were forced into it.
You're right, travel without the perks is very taxing. Maybe the travel industry will find a way to re-vamp and award road warriors so as to help us keep our status!

2/24/2009 1:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home