I’m on day one of a three-day business trip to Dusseldorf, where the beer is plentiful and what little remains of my O-level German is woefully inadequate. I don’t travel with work often and it’s been a long while since I did so alone. In doing so I’ve had something of a Road to Damascus moment.
Travelling alone has its ups and downs – the latter more than the former. On the plus side, I had the pleasure of my own company for the entire trip out last night, unencumbered by the need to accommodate the needs of one or more companions.
That meant I could go browsing – only I will know how close it came to purchasing – a £400 Mont Blanc pen. I could call home to say good-night to my nonplussed kids. (Isaac talked to me, Kara cried and Toby couldn’t even be bothered to come to the phone.)
And it meant strolling into the airport eatery of my choice – invariably as mediocre as they are exorbitant – and asking for a table for one, like the lonely saddo that I am.
At least flying on a weekday meant I was in good company, with half the tables showing single occupancy, mostly suited or what we now call ‘business-ready’ (which translates as ‘too lazy to put a tie on’). Where ten years ago we would all have had our noses buried intently in newspapers in a who-needs-conversation-anyway kind of way, every lone flyer in the place had a laptop, tablet or smartphone out. One even had all three on the table in front of him like some kind of protective force-field.
I’m pretty sure at least a third of them were playing Candy Crush or updating their Facebook or Twitter statuses, though. I know I was.
Living the life of the business traveller for once. That’ll be a table for one, thanks
— Tim Liew (@timliew) October 22, 2013
Long story short: with typical Teutonic efficiency my flight was 20 minutes early into Dusseldorf and I breezed through passport control, baggage reclaim and was straight into a taxi, barely breaking stride as I went. I’m on the edge of a large business park in a standard Holiday Inn – they’re the same the world over, consistently adequate but studiously never more than that – sleeping in one of twin beds with too-soft pillows.
Instead of enjoying the rarity of a night’s sleep alone and without fear of having the boys come in and jump on me at 5:30am or earlier, I worked until 1:00am and woke up at 5:15am with nothing better to do than to start this post. In the past I’d have quite happily enjoyed a lie-in.
And this brings me to my little nugget of self-discovery. I’m supposed to enjoy this rare three-day freedom pass. I can do what I want, when I want to. Instead, I’m sleeping terribly and all I can think about is looking forward to getting home on Friday night and hoping I can do so soon enough to put the kids to bed.
People who know me know I’m an introvert. I used to love opportunities like this, to have time with me, myself and I. Not any more. I’m actively looking forward to getting back to the noise and chaos of home.
Some people can’t wait to get a break away from their families. Not me, it seems.