A Professional Life Tethered

Posted February 5, 2021 by Keith Seiz

I just hit the one-year anniversary of my last business trip. On Jan. 30, 2020, I arrived back in St. Louis from Portland, Ore., at 11:50 p.m. I checked bags because it was a long trip on the West Coast. I left the prior Monday and spent a great couple of days in Oakland and San Francisco meeting with Clif Bar & Company and See’s Candies.

Alison tagged along with me on the first half of the trip and we had a great time. We arrived Monday night and went straight to Almanac Brewing to have some drinks and check up on a Honey Beer Summit alumnus. On Tuesday, we had a morning meeting in San Francisco and an afternoon spent doing things tourists do in the Bay Area. We went to the wharf, ate lunch at Boudin and saw seals. That night, we checked out Berkley’s campus, ate a disappointingly mediocre meal at Chez Panisse and finished the night with a tiki drink at Trader Vic’s.

Wednesday morning, Alison flew home and I went on a glorious 15-mile run along the bay. Showered, ate a marginal hotel breakfast buffet and flew to Portland for all-agency meetings with the California Walnut Commission. A great day of meetings and then back home to St. Louis.

Although it was a year ago, I vividly remember the exhaustion from this trip. It’s the type of exhaustion business travelers know well. A full-day of mentally draining meetings, a stressful trip to the airport praying you don’t miss your flight, and then the boredom of the terminal. Two Manhattans and some fried foods at a terrible airport bar and then four hours of eye-strain as you try to catch up on emails, staring blankly into a white screen in a dark plane.

It was my third trip to California in 15 days and the third trip of an expected 32 in 2020. Alas, it was the last.

For someone who has spent a good part of his professional life on the road, 2020 was quite a shock to the system. Not that you’re asking, but “how are you adjusting?” That’s a complicated question I don’t have an answer for quite yet.

I miss having a cocktail with a client. I don’t miss networking happy hours at conferences.

I miss running in cities I’ve never been too. I don’t miss running on hotel treadmills.

I don’t miss the loneliness.

I don’t miss the chaos of balancing work, family and the task at hand. I do miss always having something to do and somewhere to go.

I miss working from airplanes. I don’t miss working from airplanes.

I don’t miss all the shitty food. I do miss the one in ten meals that is truly inspirational.

I miss the joy of exploring other cities. I don’t miss the guilt of work travel and the impact it has on my family. 

I don’t miss being away from my kids. I do miss the tightness of their hugs when I got home from a long trip.

I miss the utter exhaustion of a successful trip. That feeling you get when you’re heading home, mentally and physically broken, but also knowing that all of the hard work paid off.

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