If you’d told me when I started working twenty something years ago that there’d come a time that not only would I be able to carry my computer home with me in a compact designer bag, I’d also be able to go on business trips and work from anywhere.
I’m going on a business trip? Really!
The freedom found in having a job that is location independent is in equal parts liberating and disconcerting. At least it is to a control freak like me. I like to know where I’m going to be and when. But there’s also an adventurer lurking beneath the surface, not always as vocal or outspoken, but there none the less.
A couple of weeks ago my boss announced that we’d be going on a business trip which would require us spending a night away from home.
One night, hmmmm, I can do one night. I’ll pack my laptop and Internet connectivity thingie and I’ll be good to go. I’ll write all my posts (including this one which needed to be posted today) ahead of time, so that I won’t have any deadlines hanging over my head. All good.
Then last week Mich informed me that we’d be going for two nights instead of one, and (here comes the clanger) we’d be driving instead of flying.
I wasn’t pleased. It meant a lot more rearranging and whatnot in order to ensure that my workload remained on schedule in spite of the time away from the office. Most of which would be spent on the road driving. I’m more than happy to work in the car, I’ve done it before, but things like battery life* and Internet connectivity make it challenging. Luckily I don’t suffer from motion sickness or I’d really be screwed*.
On Wednesday morning (the day we were supposed to leave) I woke up looking like I’d used my left cheek to store a cache of winter snacks, while a throbbing pain along my jawbone alerted me to the fact that the root canal treatment I’d endured recently hadn’t been a success.
I had to text my boss at 5:15am to let her know she’d be driving up alone. A visit to the dentist revealed an abscess beneath the offending tooth and I was sent home with antibiotics and instructions to return on Monday to have it removed. Mich was already en route by that point so I ended up flying to Hoedspruit the following day.
[This is what we writers call back story so bear with me okay]
I arrived just after lunch to find the company we were visiting in the middle of a crisis, and our business trip’s agenda completely blown out the water as a result.
More punches to roll with.
On the drive back Mich and I dissected the unfortunate turn of events and tried to figure out what the lesson in all of it was. We’d forgone three days of valuable office time for a trip that ultimately didn’t produce any results.
Or at least that’s how it seemed on the surface.
Then we dug a little deeper and looked a little closer. It turned out the trip wasn’t such a waste of time after all. Yes there’ll be time spent on the weekend catching up on all the work we didn’t get to, but that seems a small price to pay for the real value we gained from our time outside of the office. What at the outset seemed like inconvenient challenges, were in fact little nuggets of insight that we wouldn’t have had if our trip had gone according to plan.
Instead of immediately complaining about all the negatives (which we’re so often wont to do), we pondered why, if everything happens for a reason, did the last couple of days pan out as they did.
We both came to the stark realisation that working (i.e. being constructive) doesn’t just mean sitting in front of our laptops and typing with intent. It can also mean taking a solo trip through some pretty countryside and just enjoying the much needed alone time. Or it can mean just being there for those who mean a lot to us when things are tough. Getting to know people in their downtime can reap priceless rewards (so long as there’s no tequila involved).
It’s about relationships, because at the end of the day, if we don’t make the effort to connect how can we ever breathe life and personality into our work.
We didn’t do what we set out to do, but we achieved so much than we could ever have hoped for if we had. And at least we were able to take out our laptops from time to time and deal with the really urgent stuff! God I’m glad it’s not 1987.
And finally on a personal note I realised that being out of my comfort zone is a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
See you out there,
*I later discovered that typing while sitting in the front seat does in fact bring on a mild form of car sickness, so I’m sitting in the back seat with my boss chauffeuring me as I write this. Even more amazing than the Driving Miss Daisy scenario I currently find myself in, is the fact that the boss’ car is equipped with a power outlet so I can charge my laptop’s battery.