This is a story of how we found a way to make business travel work for us.
As working professionals, my boyfriend and I travel a lot. Whether it is to visit a client or go to a trade show, all this business travel can add up, overwhelm, exhaust and make you feel like all you see is the inside of the airport. Fortunately, we are in the travel journalist industry which means we get to travel for work like we would for leisure. But when you think of an average corporate traveler, that is definitely not the case.
Anyone who has lived a business travel life can attest to the fact that it is a weekly shuffle of uber, airport, inside boardrooms, back to uber and airport. So we set out to figure out how we can break the cycle of #realtravel and make it SURREAL.
A Once in a Lifetime Experience during Business Travel
This past August, we signed up for a conference we wanted to attend, in Concord, North Carolina. At first glance, not the most exciting destination. But we managed to turn it into an amazing experience that we would love to share with you.
Some time in the middle of August, we sat down to book our flight to the trade show. I sat there looking at the booking information, feeling uneasy. It just seemed like such a waste to spend money on a plane ticket to a place you have never been and not even see the area but business travel can do that to you.
I looked at tickets before and after the trade show. There I saw it: if we flew in a day earlier, we could save a lot of money on the flight. But what do we do then? We did not have a hotel for that night, or transportation. We did not know the area. These are the standard mental blocks that people have that prevent them from stepping outside their box and experiencing the world.
I checked out a car rental: $40 for the day. Not bad. I looked to see the hotel prices in the area. Hampton by Hilton: $80. Great price. I did a quick google search for the area. Nothing really appealed to me. I wanted nature. So I pulled up some maps and explored the nearby area by satellite. I saw that the Smoky Mountains were within 3 hours of driving. Also within 3 hours driving distance were some Indian Reservations. I was getting somewhere.
I kept looking at the maps, the flight calendar and then it dawned on me. ECLIPSE! The day before the trade show was the day of the Total Solar Eclipse. I started frantically googling it and that’s where it came to me. With just 3 hours of driving from my original destination, there was an area that was in the path of totality! For those who missed the whole drama of the eclipse, totality does not happen in the United States often. If the eclipse is not total, you do not get the minutes of darkness. Normally we would have been in Florida, but our business travel was bringing us within 3 hours of path of totality.
This was our chance to take an opportunity to explore an area we otherwise would not have, or that otherwise would cost us additional time and expenses.
We booked a car, a Hampton By Hilton room, and a flight that arrived a day earlier. We flew in at 7 am in the morning, dropped our stuff into the car, grabbed breakfast and took off on our adventure. We did not have a set plan as to where we were going. We just knew that totality was going to happen 3 hours away from us. So we drove and googled locations.
After some discussion we settled on an Indian Reservation of the Cherokees. They were going to have a festival devoted to the Eclipse. By Indian traditions and mythology, the tribes would chase away the frog that is eating the sun by making loud noises and banging the drums.
We arrived into the area and came across a gorgeous river park. On both sides of the river, all along the bridges, people were sitting with their families and alone waiting for the “sun to get eaten”. We found a perfect sunny spot, and waited. We arrived in enough time to play in the river, talk to the people around us and then watch as the shadows began to dance. Someone driving by screamed out of the window: “pay attention to the shadows!”
The shadows right before the eclipse and right after were unreal, little half moons of everything creating beautiful un-earth like shapes.
The total eclipse lasted less than a minute. But everything got very yellow first, then very very dark, the street lights turned on figuring it was night time, it got chilly, and just like that the sun started coming out. It was amazing realizing how much light the sun produces to keep the day light going even when there is a sliver of it shining through. It was a humbling and a surreal experience that we will never forget and we would have never had it, had we not taken advantage of #realtravel, obligatory work trip.
So a lesson for us, for you, and for everyone who might be reading this: take every opportunity to explore and experience, spend an extra day to enjoy and open your mind and soul, allow yourself to experience something out of your comfort zone. Focus on being spontaneous and unpredictable. Do not be afraid, go with the flow and find ways to learn more and see more. Because at the end of the day, it is wondrous experiences like this one you will remember, not the meeting you had or work you did. Combine both and come out ahead.
Steps for Making Business Travel Fun
- Fly in a full day earlier or fly out a day later, especially if the plane tickets are cheaper on those days.
- Research the areas that are at most 3 hours away from your destination. Find activities, sightseeing or nature that appeals to you most.
- Rent a car for a day and drive to the area you picked out.
- Book a Hampton By Hilton hotel to spend the night (read why at the end of this post).
- Turn off your brain and enjoy being in a new town, not knowing anyone, exploring on your own without an agenda.
- Take photos, stroll down streets, have a picnic in the park, enjoy nature, talk to the locals, enrich yourself.
- At the end of the day, get back into your car and during the drive back to your original destination, reset your mind back to business.
- Arrive at your Hampton by Hilton hotel, refreshed, excited and full of ideas.
Why We choose Hampton By Hilton for Business Travel
It’s not hard to explain why Hampton By Hilton hotels have been our #realtravel hotel choice since as long as we have been traveling.
- You can expect the same conveniences and perks at every hotel regardless of the destination.
- You can very easily rack up and then use your Hilton points to stay for free.
- You can grab a Hampton’s On the Run™ Breakfast Bags when you don’t have time to eat breakfast
- You can expect the same complimentary breakfast at all locations: fruit, eggs, meats, cereal, yogurt, waffles.
- You can rest your body in some of the most comfortable beds ever.
- You don’t have to search for hotel, it’s an easy choice and decision because Hampton By Hilton is EVERYWHERE and affordable.
- Their free WIFI is fast and a must for business travel.
If you have some business travel coming up, please plan to make it fun and make it count. There is sure to be an amazing and unexpected experience waiting for you no matter where your business travel will take you! #RealTravel is about making the most out of every trip whether you travel to an exotic location or just to some random city for work.
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Photo Credits: EveryAvenueGirl