When it comes to business trips, all are on the go. Corporates prefer to keep executives in motion and airlines clock up frequent flyer miles; the more you fly, the more you fly. Cutting through time zones briefcase in hand, all your tête-à-têtes are with your travel agent. But with work-related tours at the drop of a hat, how to work them into the conversation?
Time was when people freely bragged about their journeys. The plane they took, the airports they waited in, the places they saw, any incidental shopping, the hotels they stayed in, the accents they picked up (why they say ‘wear’ for ‘where’)… There were loads of photos of them posing with random strangers who just happened to pass by. These were passed around by proud mothers of the ‘foreign’ traveler, especially if he was a bachelor shopping for a bride. ‘He travels abroad’ was a babe magnet.
Once upon a time companies sent you to remote corners and expected you to slum it for the sheer joy of being sent there. Roommates were a given on junkets. And if you were unlucky, as most people are, this roomie will wait up for you to land up even if it is at 4 a.m. Described by many as a really nice person, he/she will regale you with anecdotes, which are deeply interesting only to him/her, in the guise of discussing next day’s presentation. You nod, nod, nod off. But even as you sleep the story goes on; in fact it never pauses. You return to office and join the general chorus about him/her being a really nice person – but from a distance like all the others. ‘Nice’ co-workers rarely make suitable travel companions.
Cut to post-liberalization and the abundance of MNCs in every nook and cranny. Tons of bleary-eyed people alight from aircrafts after grueling long flights every day, jet lagged and pissed off, swearing at customs officials, with their luggage roaming in another country. ‘My job involves travel’ is no longer a status report. It is passé. Brings to mind bad manners, indigestion, the total beating India takes via the traveler, hordes of exhausted, verbally abused air hostesses and trash everywhere. The average Indian abroad is not a pretty sight and there is no reason to presume his business counterpart will be any different from his tourist avatar.
All this leaves the jet-set with little to say by way of arrivals and departures. So how does the top brass show off now? Of course they only fly business class. Of course they speak a minimum of six languages. Of course their tux or LBD (little black dress) is never unpacked. And – yawn – they have seen every sight everywhere. No opera, can-can or monument is left unseen. Their travel guides are frayed with use. Everyone is going for the umpteenth time to anywhere. If the far-flung is your backyard, there is no destination truly exotic.
Vacations and work are conjoined, mixing business with pleasure, for culture is such an essential part of commercial transactions. The ‘world is a village’ theory has to come through in your bedroom as well as boardroom conversation. You may not know the by-lanes of the taluk you were born in but you are expected to know this new country like the back of your hand. You should know how to say ‘this is awesome’ in colloquial French even if you cannot pronounce ‘thanks’ in your own mother tongue.
If your bags are packed and you are ready to go, just leave on that jet plane. Do not breathe a word about the trip; not before, not after. ‘Been there, done that’ is all you will hear. Wait for someone else to have the bad taste to mention his, which is when you agree or disagree, globetrotter that you are.