When I was growing up in the 1960s my dad traveled for his job. The two impressions it left on me that impacted my own career were, business people who traveled were successful and business opportunities did not stop at the border.
As a result of these two key reflections at a young age, I set out to build a career that included traveling.
I started my corporate career in Sugar Land, Texas in 1982, and at that time did not see how the dots would connect over the next 35 years to put traveling in my career path.
Soon enough there was an opportunity to travel and support another office in another city. It was a one-off trip and it let me know that business traveling was for me. I not only succeeded with the purpose of the trip, but I also had fun being in a new office.
As time went on during the first 10 years of my career, I found myself in the right place at the right time with more opportunities to travel on more one-off trips. I made the most of them when it came to getting experience and exposure. In time, there were leaders who saw the value of having me travel and take on this assignment or that project.
Still, these trips had no regularity to them and were a complete surprise when they presented themselves. It was not lost on me that my career was expanding to include more travel and that I was commuting well beyond the one hour roundtrip each day while working in Houston.
My first frequent business travels came with a role in a regional process improvement team in the early 1990s. The trips were to Dallas and San Antonio mostly, and that did not deter my pure exhilaration for being on those business trips. Now my commutes were expanded to include flight times and I found myself developing the habit of working on only certain paperwork while in-flight, given I had privacy and no interruptions.
When the project ended, I landed a role as an internal consultant focused on organizational and training development throughout the region. This gave me the chance to travel to St. Louis and San Antonio on a weekly basis for months on end. I was on the road more than half of the time and I settled into the routine really well.
Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, I was a bonafide Domestic Road Warrior with spending more time on the road than I did in my office. It was very exciting to get on a flight on Sunday evening or Monday morning and work my week before flying home on Friday evening. The pace suited me well and I felt very successful in my career during those years.
The high demands of traveling in excess of 75% of the time and my inability to find a life-work balance, put me on the road to a health disaster in 2006. It was clear to me that the pace at which I was traveling along with the arduous work of transforming organizations and leaders had fatigued me.
I set out in 2006 to take a break from my corporate career for about six months and resigned my position after much consideration and contemplation. I jumped off into a new experience and believed that I would be supported.
One of the main goals of my break was to find a work-life balance routine that would work for me and keep me from getting burned out again. I thought that the best way to do this was to travel to relaxing places like Kuaui, Lamu Island, and Bali. The pace that I found on those islands slowed my rhythm and heart rate down dramatically and I eventually found my personalized work-life balance model, it took me two years.
In 2008, I was ready, rested, and rejuvenated from my break and hit the job search hard, despite being told by many people that I had ruined my career by taking a break at the height of it. I was told that no one would hire me after taking a break from a thriving and successful career-it didn’t look right.
I can say that I love a good challenge and certainly don’t give in to other’s opinions about my life-I developed that as an openly gay man throughout my corporate career.
I landed a job after my break that ticked all of the boxes AND that included global travel.
As a result of working with my business coaches in China and Russia, and my global travels during my break, I knew that I was ready to step into global leadership role and this new one suited me very well. This role gave me the opportunity to work on three continents in 18 months.
My commute with this role expanded to include international flights and I was thrilled to grow beyond the borders to do business in Europe, Asia, and South America. In some ways, I had been training for this since I started my corporate travels in the early days of my career.
My final corporate role was the one that solidified my role as a Global Leader and Global Road Warrior. I routinely traveled to Europe, Asia, and South America with commutes that lasted more than 24 hours in most cases, a long way from my commute in Houston starting the 1980s.
I had developed the knowledge, skills and competencies to work successfully in more than 20 countries by the time my corporate career came to an end in 2017. I was proficient in the ways of doing business on five continents based onteh extensive set of experiences that came my way.
My commute went from a one hour round trip drive to sometimes more than 24 hours including international flights over my corporate career. Today in the era of the COVID-19 Pandemic, my commute is less than five minutes. I walk upstairs to my home office each day with a sense of gratitude for the amazing experiences that are all a part of my corporate career.
The things that I learned about myself and the people that I worked with over the years have made me a proficient leader and a better ally to others.
Today, I get to work via Zoom with people from all over the world and all the while from my home office. One of the highlights of this stage of my career is that I still have access to working as a Global Leader with colleagues and clients who are in places like Israel.
How are you commuting during the COVID-19 Pandemic and what impact is it having on your career development goals?