I started a training course in the fall of 2021 that involves making 10 trips to Washington, DC, from Austin, TX. The training was actually in Silver Spring, a suburb.
I was very enthused about working with this teacher! And…I didn’t think much about all the travel, not ever having had to do much business travel back in those olden days.
The first trip was adventurous! I took the Metro and visited museums on the Mall on an extra day. I stayed in a crappy AirBnB that was close to the training so I could walk.
The second trip I stayed in a nice rowhouse in Columbia Heights and took the Metro to class each day. I visited the Phillips Collection, a good art museum, on my extra day.
On the third trip, I stayed in an AirBnB in Silver Spring where the owner (who did not live there) had gone crazy with a label maker.
Oh, yes, you could find “BOWELS” on a shelf in a kitchen cabinet.
I took the Metro to the Mall and walked to the Lincoln Memorial when the cherry trees were first starting to bloom. It was cold and windy, and I wore myself out, but I’m glad I did it.
On my fourth trip, I burned out. I’d been in a high speed car accident a couple of months before, and I’m convinced that even though I wasn’t seriously injured, going from 65 mph to 0 quickly and getting “spine-lash” is not something the human body is designed to bounce back from. It’s taken PT for my body and many months off body/energy work and breathwork and meditation for my nervous system to recover. I’m still taking Cortisol Manager. It’s been almost a year.
And there’s more… I’d planned to arrive a day early, but my one-stop flight ended in Oklahoma City because of bad weather in DC, and I unexpectedly had to book a hotel room and then be at the airport at 4 am to get a three-stop flight to DC. I was in six airports in two days on next to no sleep. I was tired when I got to DC, and things didn’t improve much.
I had signed up for a 3-day training right before my regular 4-day class. I learned that 7 days in a row in a classroom doesn’t work well for me. I love learning, but I need time to rest, to move, to sleep well, and to integrate.
And more… The Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade happened the first day of class. I read articles that night about the white supremacist, anti-LGBTQ intent of the new conservative majority, which felt threatening to my beautiful rainbow family’s integrity, and it was happening right there in DC.
And still more… The AirBnB I stayed in seemed haunted, in hindsight. The location was good, but day by day, I felt lonelier and more depleted, and I simply did not want to be there. I couldn’t tell if “there” was in that AirBnB, in the training, in DC, or on the planet. I felt empathy with Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. He probably just wanted out.
Being not suicidal, I later wondered whether in my depleted state, I was picking up energies from a previous occupant of that basement apartment who’d been depressed and suicidal.
I went home earlier than I’d planned, drained.
Business travel is not like going to Maui. I thought about dropping out. I stayed home and did the fifth class on video.
Given time, I recovered and went back to DC for the sixth training, staying in a hostel in Adams-Morgan, which I liked better than most of the AirBnBs, again taking the Metro to and from class. I got a couple of nice walks in every day getting to and from the DuPont Circle station.
I enjoyed the hostel. It has dorm rooms with privacy curtains around each bunk and a shared bathroom. Sometimes there’s a happy hour with games. The staff and guests are young, vibrant people who come from many places. The staff knows the neighborhood well and are very friendly and helpful.
There’s a free washer and dryer with detergent and dryer sheets, as well as a big, fully equipped kitchen to cook in.
I also treated myself to a floatation tank session one evening during this sixth trip. It was a great reset.
I was curious about other introverts traveling for business, and fortuitously, the wife of a member of my spiritual book group, Laura, sat next to me at our annual December potluck dinner. I knew Laura was an introvert who had to do a lot of business travel for her consulting job, and I asked her for tips for introverts doing business travel.
Here’s what she kindly shared with me:
The key is to reduce stress by making everything as close to your home routines as possible.
Think about when you are ready to face the world each day, and schedule your departure to the airport for after that time.
Book flights far enough in advance to get desirable nonstop mid-day flights (or at least less time in transit) and make the whole day a travel day. It’s way less stressful.
She advised packing everything into one carry-on and one personal item to avoid waiting at baggage claim. She re-wears or washes clothes.
I haven’t done this yet, but it’s appealing. My big bag that I’ve been checking is heavy for someone not quite five feet tall, and baggage claim can be very slow and crowded, not to mention managing the big bag on the Metro.
She recommended staying at the same place. For her, it’s always the same hotel chain, because the layout and rooms are similar no matter where they’re located.
I’m traveling and training on my own dime and can’t afford hotels. Don’t really like them anyway…so impersonal and corporate and don’t feel very fresh.
If I can’t find an affordable nice AirBnB near the training on my remaining trips, the hostel is my next best choice.
Laura advised ordering food delivered from Whole Foods and eating what I’d eat at home.
That works for me. Having a kitchen to cook in is a big plus. I cook for myself most of the time at home, knowing the ingredients are healthy and my food is made with love.
Not to mention, dining out has gotten expensive.
Laura advised setting toiletries out in the bathroom the same way you do at home, and putting clothes in drawers and the closet the same way you would at home.
If your meeting starts on Monday, and you fly in on Saturday, spend Sunday relaxing and reading a good book.
Laura also advised not joining extroverted colleagues in evening activities after workday meetings. Since we introverts recharge our batteries in solitude, make sure you get enough alone time to fully recharge after a day of being in meetings or training with others. It’s also good to reconnect with loved ones back home every evening on the phone.
I got lucky for my seventh class and found an AirBnB on the same block as my training. I could walk to Whole Foods to get groceries, cook for myself, and walk to class with ease. I brought matcha, frother, and add-ins from home.
It was a spare bedroom in a high-rise apartment complex. I saw some gorgeous sunsets from there and a cherry tree in full bloom on my block. My host was someone nice to chat with a few times, and I had privacy. I felt safe and comfortable, staying with her.
I only used Uber to get to and from the airport and never used the Metro this trip. That helped reduce wear and tear quite a bit.
I’m probably not as introverted as she is, because I joined a few of my classmates on Friday night at an ecstatic dance in DC. Since it’s nonverbal movement, it didn’t drain me. It gave me some satisfaction to move exuberantly after so much sitting all week. I blew off a lot of steam.
I slept well that night and returned to Austin the next day. This was the easiest trip so far.
Only three more to go.
What would you add, if you’re an introvert who travels for work or training?