Business travelers, afraid? As a class, they’re accomplished and on top of it. Most are highly skilled at every aspect of life, and at life-on-the-road in particular: from magician-like gaining of access to files in the office, to booking airline tickets on a phone while making a sale, to scheduling the ultimate itinerary for the highest possible ROI on the trip. But I have also had many confess to me some fears that lurked in the background, and those fears resonated with my own. I’ll start with the biggies:
Death by turbulence – I’m not afraid of flying at all, but every once in a while I’ll be on a flight that hits clear-air turbulence with a giant jolt, the kind where the whole plane sounds like it’s cracked in half. For a split second I will have the thought, “Oh! This is it!,” along with a huge surge of fear and adrenaline. Then I look around, see everything’s OK, take a few breaths and go back to my book or my work with a little sense of amazement. Amazement at how silly that thought was. And amazement that we’re all just fine after all.
Death by bravado – I occasionally get a little nervous when taking off into a huge thunderstorm, hoping my pilots aren’t overconfident. I project: When I am poised at the top of a ski slope, I will sometimes talk myself into a trail I’m not absolutely sure I can handle: “OK, I’m here and it’ll be a hassle to turn back. There’s no reason to think I can’t do this. OK. I can do this. I’ll give it a try.” I hope that’s not the conversation in the cockpit, spoken or unspoken. My rational brain knows flight crews don’t operate like this, but my fear brain sometimes wonders. So, just in case, I’ll say: Pilots, please stick to the blue runs. (Note: I’ve had a few taxi rides like this, too.)
I’ll lighten it up from here, I promise, but I wanted to get that out of the way. So now, a few fears more metaphysical than physical:
A costly mistake – “I’ve got this,” is the business traveler’s mantra, and the truth is that 99 percent of the time it’s true. We’re pros. But we’re all working so fast, and travel has many moving parts, and, well, mistakes are made. To add insult to injury, when we make a travel mistake it can be expensive. This summer I booked a flight on the wrong day: facepalm. A friend let a large chunk of miles expire: facepalm. Another friend thought her assistant booked the trip: facepalm. Yes, we all make mistakes. We all should have known better. Most expert travelers I know either beat themselves up about some stupid thing they did in the past or fear the inevitability they will mess up in the future.
Confessing the good stuff – This is one no one talks about, but along with the many hardships of business travel, there are a few perks and luxuries, some benefits of being away and of what you get to do. And sometimes that’s hard to admit out loud. I have been afraid to admit how fantastic it was to sleep eight hours in a king-size Westin Heavenly Bed by myself, when I left behind my husband with a toddler who seemed to not need sleep for years on end. I have been afraid to describe some of the fabulous meals and hotel rooms I’ve relished to family and friends. I keep all that to myself out of fear.
A wasted trip – Some trips are no-brainers, but some are high stakes: to land a contract, to repair a relationship, to gain a major insight. I find myself afraid before trips when the payoff could be high but is somewhat risky, not wanting to waste the time or expense for naught. More than anything, the expenditure of time with no payoff is scary. The trips to be feared most are the ones that end with the need to make the same trip back again to complete the job.
Fear? We all have it. But that doesn’t mean it stops us from getting on the next flight.
Do you ever experience fear during or about work trips?