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Friday, August 30, 2013

Business Travel is Easier Now

I am a 70-80% on-the-road consultant with clients from Annapolis to San Diego.  I have over 35 clients in 11 states.  I did this kind of work in the 90's with 40-50% travel usually involving regular trips to the same half-dozen-or-so destinations.  I can say after 9 months on this job that its easier now than it was back then, even though I travel more, because of advances in technology across a number of fronts:
  • Smart Phones
  • Mobile Computing (Wifi and VPN)
  • Better Designed Luggage
These developments make the travel less lonely and less taxing physically. 

I know it isn't news to you that smart phones are a game-changer in society, not just travel or business.  But take a moment to consider what we used not that many years ago.  I started travelling with one of the first Intel 286 laptops and a pager. This was before the first cellular phones.  I was gone from Sunday night to Thursday night every other week and often travelling in Mexico or Canada.  For the first two years there were no international pagers, so when I crossed out of the US I could not be reached.  Now with Outlook and Facetime on my iPhone my company and family and I can find each other anywhere at any time. I can check email from anywhere as well as chat with friends and family on social media. 

Mobile Computing
My current employer does not use tablets for travelling ; we use HP Elitebook laptops.  So even though we aren't using the slickest Mac or tablet technology, we have VPN access into the company server.  Aside from VPN, I travel with an AT&T mobile hot spot.  Combined with on-board airplane wifi I have the luxury of being locationally agnostic.  I can access the corporate server and research client needs at any location from the side of the road (where I have done video interviews sitting on the trunk of a rental car) to an airplane seat (where I am writing this post).  Not having to relocate for work and yet work for anyone in the country is a game changer. That has been the case for IT staff and management for years but now it is literally available to any intellectual property or administrative services career.

This may not sound like a big deal, but I am almost 20 years older than the last time I did this job.  Combine the greying of the skilled workforce with the advancement of women into these types of jobs (not true when I was on the road before), being able to haul your stuff around injury-free is a big deal.  The developments with the most benefit are spinner carry-ons, large spinner suitecases, and "mobile office" bags.  Spinners do not require you to support part of the weight of your bags; rather you just push it forward.   The wheels on the major label bags are high-quality and smooth.  You can turn a spinner carry-on sideways and push it down the airplane aisle to your seat rather than bumping along between rows or carrying it.  Large spinner suitcases with pop-up handles can be used to stack your small bags on top and push the stack as one item.  Mobile office bags like the one I use roll with a long telescopic handle and allow you to move freely.   Once my other bags are checked I never have to pick it up.  It stores under the seat in front of me and has a strap where it stacks securely on top of my suitcase.

With these advancements a guy in his 50's with orthopedic issues can never stop moving and yet stay injury free. With Skype and Facetime my wife and I have a video chat every night instead of me going dark in some foreign country for 2-3 days at a time.  With social media I have conversations with multiple friends daily.  My next experiment will be having my "home" office days in remote locations.  Why do they have to be in Nashville?  They could just as easily be on a beach or a mountain somewhere.  It is only the desire to be home that requires me to ever go home for office days.

I may eventually get tired of this, but I predict that it will take years.  Right now "not" going into an office and "not" supervising people is sweet.