My Switch From Seat 3A to Seat 27E

I’ll let you know upfront that this post doesn’t offer much business insight. No great marketing advice. Nothing to help you with business strategy. Instead, this post describes a simple “ah-ha” moment that happened to me that I thought worth sharing.

When I started my career as a young, impressionable 22 year old, the opportunity for business travel was one of those things that I desired. Having the company pay for your airfare, hotel, and meals. A chance to see new places. It was all intriguingly fascinating. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would ever complain about business travel. When I would by chance meet a 40-something whining about travel, I was convinced that this was some secret ploy by all the business travelers in the world to complain so us younger guys would not want to travel and leave more opportunity for them. Come on, I thought, how could you not love this?

I still remember my first business trip. I went to Tuba City Arizona to meet with a school district about beta testing some new software we’d developed. Now nothing against Tuba City, but it obviously wasn’t Boston, New York, or Paris. Yet, for me, Tuba City on that first business trip was the best place in the world.

As my career moved forward, more and more travel was required. It was part of the job and I, and my family, adjusted to it. Once I became an executive, I was on a plane a significant portion of the time. I was a Delta Diamond from the inaugural year that Delta introduced that highest rank amongst road warriors. I loved the treatment I had earned — personalized service, first-class seats, special accommodations. I wore my million-miler badge with honor. And on the personal side, I worked hard at creating balance. I would tell people, “Give me enough notice and I can usually adjust my travel schedule to be sure I’m home when I need to be.” I rarely missed an important family event.

Then in August of 2014, I took a CMO job for a local Utah company with limited international presence. My 33 weeks of travel each year dropped to about 12. I said goodbye to my Diamond status. No more free Sky Club membership. Theoretically, I traded my first class seat in 3A for a coach middle seat 27E.

Now to my point…my ah-ha moment…comparing my heavy travel years to my much lighter travel schedule, there is a significant cost. While travel might be enjoyable — at least for awhile, there are things that I missed out on. As I mentioned earlier, I was a master scheduler. I rarely missed anything important — or so I thought. What I did miss was dinner at home every night. Casual conversations. Helping kids with home work. Staying caught up on the smallest of details in the lives of the people who mean the most to me. At the end of 2015, Delta sent me an email that said, “Your most visited airport this year was PHX.” Phoenix Arizona, the home of my daughter, her husband, and four of our grandchildren. I thought, this is how it’s supposed to be.

Young people. Those of you still sorting out how you plan to earn a living. Don’t get overly enamored with the glamour of travel. Sure, it’s fun, but it comes with a cost. As you plan your careers, consider strongly those opportunities that will keep you close to home.

You’ll be glad you did.

Joe Staples
About the author: 

Joe Staples is the Chief Marketing Officer at Workfront, Inc., a project management software firm based in Lehi, Utah.  His executive career includes assignments with Interactive Intelligence, Captaris and CallWare Technologies. Follow him on Twitter.