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Women in Business: Challenges of Traveling Alone
by Suzanne Randolph, Founder & CEO of The ALIX Experience
This piece was published on the August 2016 French American Chamber of Commerce Membership Newsletter.
In today's global business economy, staying on in a company and moving up the ladder of success, more often than not requires frequent travel. For many executive women, business travel has been the tie breaker between profession and family, with many women deciding to take a time out. Each year the percentage of women traveling for business domestically within the United States, and internationally, is growing. The most recent government statistic projected that women will comprise 47% of all the business travelers leaving the United States.
For many years it was assumed the impact and challenges of business travel were the same for both men and women. But with the rise of women in corporate leadership positions, as entrepreneurial innovators engaged in corporate initiatives, women's voices and needs are being heard. While there may be overlap in the needs of men and women, studies in recent years have shown the impact on women traveling for business is decidedly different. Women have said being away from their family is probably the hardest issue when they are traveling for business, followed by maintaining their personal routines and coping with time "alone time."
Most business trips last between four to six days, with younger staff spending closer to four days and the seasoned executive spending closer to six. Women have said that the third day is when the reality of business travel really hits them. You've rested from your trip the first evening, attended the client dinner with your team on the second evening, followed by a full day's work on the third day. By day's end many women ask: "where can I go and what can I do?" These moments of "alone time" are handled differently by each woman, and for many women who travel to the same city regularly it can vary from visit to visit.
Some women embrace "alone time" with open arms. An investment banker who travels regularly to San Francisco says she looks forward to time alone as it allows her to catch up on shopping, taking time for a massage and simply catching her breath. Many experts agree, that alone time is necessary and beneficial to our mental health. As explained by Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter in Psychology Today, "In today's constantly connected world, finding solitude has become a lost art...seeking solitude can actually be quite healthy. In fact, there are many physical and psychological benefits to spending time alone." Carter goes on to discuss how alone time provides an opportunity to think deeply and disconnect in order to effectively sort through personal problems and discover oneself.
I recommended that the traveler, research, research and plan ahead! While your hotel concierge may be able to give you advice, always be your own best friend! Research experiences in your destination so you can sketch out a solid plan that is tailored to your interest. I often create my own calendar for reserved or "just in case" moments. Short evening cooking classes or wine tastings are all by definition fun in bringing people together. For performances, often house seats become available at the last minute and you can find yourself in a fabulous center orchestra seat for a memorable experience. Lecture series or author's talks at select bookstores can round out a day nicely followed by receptions where you can meet and mingle! And for those quieter moments nothing beats an evening massage!
In Anne Marie Slaughter's recent book, Unfinished Business, she shares "Working really hard for something and someone you believe in is exhilarating and often necessary. But it can and should be punctuated with periods where you take far better care of yourself."
Whether it's taking a cooking class, exploring top fashion boutiques or indulging in an extravagant spa treatment, women to transform their solo-time into a journey of self-discovery and do the things they love. When you're recharged and inspired, you feel fulfilled, boosting productivity and overall performance.