Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You're Never Alone

When I travel for business, it tends to be to conferences. As the marketing guy, I am there to learn, my main job is to meet new people in the industry. What this amounts to is that what sounds like "getting away from the bustle of daily life" ends up more like a non-stop marathon of being friendly to strangers and desperately trying to keep up with work in between.

A typical day starts with my waking up 2 hours early to catch up on e-mail, walking over to the conference center, mingling and attending conference sessions all day, making my way back to the hotel, and answering more e-mail. Often I have a scheduled meeting before, after, or during the conference.

You might ask how I have time to blog, and the answer is, obviously, I don't and apologize for the 2-week delay since my last post.

Despite having come on this trip alone, I don't get much of a chance to actually be alone. So I greatly cherish the one hour I religiously take for myself, no matter how busy my business trips are: I take myself out to a proper dinner in a proper restaurant.

Being in downtown London, I'm not the only diner eating alone, and on Monday another lone business traveller entered and sat at the table next to mine. Keeping in mind that it's basically my profession to strike up conversations with strangers, this should not have made me in the least uncomfortable; but being as I was quite determined to have this one hour to myself, I immediately started thinking of ways to avoid conversation. Fortunately, the gentleman pulled out his cell phone and began texting away.

Indeed, it's noteworthy how unaccustomed we have become to being alone. One of the VPs at a local cellular carrier told me that they actually have tracked the phenomenon of people who pretend to be talking on their phones in public places, just so as not to have the appearance of being alone or unimportant.

How are you with alone? Do you too feel you need to text, twitter or call someone just so you won't be too bored with yourself? Can you just sit still and enjoy your meal without multi-tasking? Moreover, are you avoiding doing things alone because it might make you look like a loser?

Take heart, you are in the majority. But also take care. We need our time alone to decompress, to think, to enjoy being with ourselves. When we lose touch with that, we lose something precious.

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