Four lessons from working on the road

Working On The Road - Meredith Gonsalves

Working On The Road - Meredith Gonsalves

//Photo Taken By Christina Slaton// 

After losing my job earlier this year, my soul craved a big change. So when my dad suggested doing some event contract work for his company, I jumped at the opportunity. Not because I wanted to pursue a new career path, but because this job would pay for me to travel to different cities every weekend, and I figured there’s nothing like getting over a ex like jet-setting across the country.

So for the next six weeks, I travelled every week from Thursday to Monday morning. I stayed in beautiful city hotel rooms, lived off of room service, and made friends with hotel event staff. I spent the majority of my days fielding questions from the hundreds of people attending our events, but in my down time I visited the city’s local hot spots, lounged at the pool, and made small talk with fellow business travelers taking advantage of the hotel bar’s happy hour.

From the outside, traveling for work looked glamorous. All I heard from my friends was how lucky I was, or how they wish their job allowed them to travel. For the most part, my brief tenure as a road warrior was exciting, but there was always a piece of me that wanted nothing more than to spend Friday night with a bottle of wine watching Hoarders with my roommate, or to wake up in my own bed on a Saturday morning. So no, I wouldn’t call it all glamorous. There were times when it was very lonely and overwhelming.

But with every new life experience, there’s something to learn from it right? At least that’s what our parents drilled in our heads growing up. So when my month and a half on the road came to an end, I thought I’d reflect on my experience – a.k.a what did I learn other than it doesn’t matter how nice the hotel is, the Caesar Salad will always suck.

1. You’re actually a lot more productive. 

I was drawn to this job in part because I needed time to refocus my energy and think about my next career move. However, I don’t think I was quite ready for the vast amount of time I would spend alone in my own thoughts. My dad had told me that while I would be busy at events most of the day, I would also have time to work on other things in the comfort of a four star hotel room. And he was right. In fact, this blog was ultimately able to launch so soon because of all the lonely hotel nights (thanks Marriott!).

My weekend plans went from lady brunches, shopping, and nights out dancing, to a very sad, very empty social calendar. After I got over the pathetic feeling of being all alone, I started to become extremely productive. Not that I recommend working all the time, but it’s amazing how much you can get done without the distractions of your every day life. I would come back to Chicago Monday mornings feeling more accomplished than I ever had in a typical 40-hour work week at my old job. I owe a lot of the strides I’ve made professionally in the first half of this year, to those six weeks of massive productivity.

Working On The Road

//I took this photo during a weekend working in San Francisco…it was 2 degrees in Chicago//

2. Traveling for work and traveling are NOT the same. 

A common misconception about people who travel for work is that they’re constantly on vacation. Make no mistake, the work trips I took were far from weekend getaways. Even though there were moments of down time, I was getting paid to work, not sightsee. Three days of working events was exhausting (especially in heels), and the hours were unpredictable. My personal plans would consistently get pushed back or canceled because there was more work to do or a team meeting ran overtime. The time we did go out as a team was spent talking mostly about, you guessed it, work. The cast of characters I worked with weren’t my family or close friends, so our initial hangouts weren’t exactly comfortable or relaxing. Don’t get me wrong, alcohol helped, but it was nothing close to talking smack or texting boys with your girlfriends over margaritas.

3. It’s hard on your relationships. 

Ok get ready for some brutal honesty. Your relationships suffer on the road. There’s really no getting around it. My boyfriend works a typical 9-5 job, so our quality time together is the weekends. And since we’ve always lived no more than a ten minute bus ride from one another, we never got in the habit of talking on the phone. Instead, we’d always save our in-depth conversations until we saw each other again. But one person traveling four days a week changes the game. Every week it felt like we were stopping and starting again. There was a lot of pressure to make the time we did spend together positive and happy even if we were both tired. Because he wasn’t with me on the road and didn’t fully understand that lifestyle, at times I felt disconnected. At times it felt like I was living two different lives. To his credit he was patient and understanding and made an effort to stay in touch as much as he could, but as many long-distance lovers know, it’s never as satisfying as being together in person.

The icing on the cake was being surrounded by career bachelors and divorcees, who attributed the ends of their marriages to their life on the road. They talked openly about how traveling for a living killed their relationships and how they were never looking for anything serious again. They enjoyed their single lifestyle and relished in their independence and “freedom”. Suffice to say, they didn’t exactly provide the support I needed during times of missing my boyfriend.

The scariest part was that I believed them. I imagine years on the road would make it extremely difficult to maintain the type of relationship I had grown accustomed to. Your relationships take a beating with this type of work, so if you ever consider a job like this, remember to ask yourself if it’s worth that.

4. Patience really IS a virtue. 

Delayed planes, terrible traffic, expensive cab rides, poor customer service, all different kinds of people and cultures – it’s enough to drive a gal completely mad. My six weeks on the road weren’t simply a test in “finding myself”, they were test in immense patience. In a month and a half I must have personally interacted with over a thousand different people – from hotel staff and event attendees, to airport personal. The nature of my work was customer service and logistics, so I was constantly berated with questions or problems to solve. And just when I thought I handled those issues, I’d get a phone call that my flight was canceled due to another storm hitting the Chicago area.

Glamorous? Not so much.

Regardless, I learned how to interact with all kinds of people – like for instance, how to people in the south, I talk WAY too fast. I learned that a few nice words to United Airlines representative will get you off the standby list, and to always pack KIND bars – they will save your life when you haven’t had the chance to eat all day.

The morale of the story?

There were many highs and lows during those six weeks. But mostly, working on the road opened my eyes to new possibilities and gave me much needed time to think and reevaluate. I loved traveling being a big part of my again, but I don’t know if I would sign on for a job like that forever. I guess I’m still figuring that out. On a high note, it certainly helped me get over my layoff.


Have you travelled for work before? What was your experience like?