Modern Nomad: Staying Grounded While Living Life in the Air
“Thank you for your platinum status and for living your life out of a suitcase; we appreciate your business Ms. Jones,” remarked one Delta agent as I was boarding yet another flight in my life as a Management Consultant. Don Cheadle in House of Lies has helped Management Consultants join the ranks of sexy professions. At the other end of the spectrum there’s George Clooney playing a lonely jet-setter in Up in the Air. Thankfully, the life of a consultant lies somewhere in between these extremes. Here’s a look at my reality on the road:
Four years as a Consultant in numbers:
- 270 number of nights I have stayed at a Starwood hotel
- 410,549 miles flown on Delta
- 20 cities and 13 states in which I have worked
So with all the miles flown, my home during the week is often a hotel. When I explain this to others, I hear a variation of two remarks: ‘Wow, you are so lucky to travel to new cities for work!’ or ‘I don’t know how you manage being away so often?’
As consultants, we prefer to work side by side with our clients which means we often pack up our belongings and fly out early Monday morning and return home Thursday evenings.
Though family and friends like to describe me as a jet-setter, it is rarely as glamorous as it sounds. It is an unusual and sometimes taxing routine that is my norm. It comes with the job where I have learned tremendously; one that is constantly changing, always challenging, and working so closely with clients can be very rewarding.
As I travel from city to city, I have picked up a few tricks to keep me sane as I chart my course as a modern day nomad.
ESTABLISH A TRAVEL AND PERSONAL ROUTINE
For travel, pick an airline and hotel alliance and stick to it so that you can quickly earn status and get upgrades. Trust me, it can make a big difference. Airline status allows you to zoom through TSA and past the occasional traveler via Pre-Check or Priority Access. Staying in the same hotel can give you a sense of familiarity. The hotel staff will come to know you, your schedule and will greet you. That will really become your home away from home, and I have been fortunate enough to also receive gifts from those I care about at my home on the road.
Personally, maintain the any of your regular routines you keep at home. Whether it is morning yoga or reading before bed, keep them while you are on the road.
I believe to successfully maintain a healthy lifestyle on the road; it starts with a mental commitment. Although every city has a wide array of local cuisine for your sampling, if I only filled up on pancakes from the morning hotel buffet and decadent dinners then I would quickly be shopping for a new and bigger wardrobe. Balance the healthy eating and regime with the local eats and latest hot restaurant.
Travel wears and tears on you and exercise can really help you decompress. You may enjoy taking a morning scenic run or finding a local cross fit class to join. Either way, keep moving!
WORK HARD. PLAY HARD.
Having traveled to 19 cities, it would be a shame if I had not seen anything more than my downtown hotel. Though it can be challenging to live out of a suitcase, I love seeing new cities and experiencing different cultures. Before I make the initial trip to a new city, I always go through my contacts and Facebook friends looking for old friends and co-workers to see who I know there. It is always nice to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar city and they can give you tips on local spots and help navigating the city. And on your way there, get to know the person sitting next to you on your flight. It might be 2 Chainz en route to his next show (yes, this actually happened) or a business contact that could lead to your next client or job opportunity.
Whether you are in small town or big city, make time to explore your temporary home and find some mid-week fun with your work family. Try to take as many team outings to bars, dinner, and sporting events as time allows. These people are your travel family and may be one of the few people who really understand this nomad life. In many cases they become good friends with whom you maintain relationships once the project wraps.
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH LOVED ONES
One colleague said it best, “FaceTime, FaceTime, Facetime! It makes it so easy to feel connected and engaged with family and friends during the travel week.” Around 7pm, those who have children tend to step away from work or team dinners to call or FaceTime with their child before bedtime. These times are not only reserved for children, but can also be used to stay in touch with other loved ones and helps you stay connected to home.
“Flybacks” are a perk that allows you to – instead of flying home on the weekends – travel to a destination different from at no additional personal cost. I have used these benefits take mini vacations with friends and to be with my niece and nephew in Miami for dance recitals, half birthdays, and other minor holidays.
HOME, SWEET HOME
After all of the traveling, there is nothing like coming home for the weekend. The work it takes to maintain relationships is the one major downside to being a modern nomad. It takes effort and advance planning to see friends and family as your time is usually limited to the weekends. If you can, outsource the time-consuming menial chores like laundry and house cleaning. Spend that time instead keeping up with hobbies and seeing the people who mean the most to you. As my friends and family in New York can attest, I am often out socializing, trying to maintain relationships, and experiencing the city.