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GUEST COMMENT: Maybe I’m just too old for this

For about ten years of my life I was on a flight at least once a week. Quick hops to visit a local office for a day or two, 18 hour long hauls to run a conference, several weeks in multiple locations to launch an ‘initiative’ across regions. Offsetting the number of visits I made to check up on off shored teams alone would require several forests of trees to be planted. I wouldn’t say I actively sought it out but I don’t remember ever saying no.

In those days I had a platinum card, flew entirely on air miles when travelling outside of work and knew my way to the lounge in most major airports. I had favourite hotels and, even worse, favourite rooms in those hotels. I was in one hotel so often they embroidered my name onto a pillow case which was, frankly, both weird and rather uncomfortable.

For six months, I effectively commuted between New York and London and all I remember is how much fun it was, the camaraderie of travelling with colleagues and a lot of late nights, long dinners and clubs playing 80s music. I don’t remember being pole axed with jet lag, unable to function after about 5pm or being depressed at the thought of returning to a lovely shiny hotel room rather than my own bed.

Last week, however, my current boss asked me to go to New York for a week. I suggested that, in fact, I didn’t need to go at all and that everything could be handled by phone. He considered my position and said that I was fooling no one but myself and that I needed to get on a flight. I agreed to go for three days and he reminded me that a working week was five days. Eventually we settled on four.

I got an evening flight and failed to get drunk either in the lounge beforehand or on the flight. I didn’t watch a movie or eat a meal; I read a book and went to sleep. When I arrived at the hotel it took me 20 minutes to work out how to turn off the lights so I could have yet more sleep. I arrived at the office at 7am the following day and was so exhausted by 6.30pm that I failed to phone the friend I’d arranged to meet for dinner and instead went back to the hotel and straight to bed.

In summary, of the four days I spent in New York I went out on one evening for dinner with colleagues. Not the sort of colleagues I went out with in the old days when dinner would be a prelude to bars and working out whose mini bar we were going to empty but the sort of colleagues with whom best behaviour is the only option and the conversation is entirely about work.

By the second day I was arriving in the office at 5am because I was in bed and asleep by 8pm at the latest and effectively stayed on UK time. I tried to go shopping one evening but my old haunts were full of children buying skin tight, multi-coloured leggings so I made my excuses and left. The jet lag when I arrived back in the UK was unbelievable.

I suspect that either investment banking is a young person’s game or that I have finally started to grow up and I’m not sure which possibility is more depressing.

Comments (12)

  1. 2nd I am afraid..you have grown up..leave the jetsetting (tho there is precious little of that nowadays) to the young sales/marketer types or the old boys who cant work out a videoconferencing solution..personally the excitement of the Sevenoaks Train is enough for me

  2. What an absolute pointless article. I am sure that in this current climate, there would be many willing to have the opportunity so either stop winging about it or give it up altogether!

  3. This is an amazing article for those who have been through what you have. Have been spending more than 200 days a year on planes the last four years and know exactly what you mean…its an awesome life really…or at least it was until we entered 2010….and somehow magically now i dont even want to fly within Europe….
    It does not last for ever but I am glad to read you loved it and so did I.

  4. I sympathise. I suspect it’s both really, as you grow older some things come into focus and some others fade out. I still think that working in this industry can be very stimulating, though, even as one becomes more experienced.

  5. you should watch “Up in the air” with george clooney..many similarities…platinum cards airmiles..etc..quite..fun..actually Graphite cards..

  6. You’ve just watched the movie Up In The Air and you think you’re George Clooney. Wishful thinking, my friend, wishful thinking

  7. :) turning 30 already?

  8. Having spent nearly 700 nights in hotels in the space of two years and done hundreds of flights, I can confirm that once the initial excitement wears off there is nothing exciting about all the travel. Its great to have done it and it was a great experience, but reality catches up with you eventually. In addition to the top hotels, great food and fascinating places, there is the lack of sleep, terrifying plane rides (try clear air turbulence and a 4000 foot plunge), corrupt officials and loneness of it all. If you have the chance to do it and you are young and free enough, go for it, you won’t regret it. Just remember, don’t forget the dream has to come to an end – in the final analysis you will be desperate for a normal life after a while!

  9. I agree even if I currently just hopp around Europe – mostly first flight in last flight out – really getting older and I am in the first half of thirties…
    I cannot do it anymore

  10. Luckily there will always be legions of twenty-somethings ready to fill in when the oldies move on to bigger and quieter things …

  11. Up in the air, that guy was strictly amateur time for flying. He never left US airspace!

    Just a little warning – if you find you don’t have the energy levels you used to, get yourself checked out – my wife had an iron deficiency which of course came on slowly over time, she had a transfusion of specially ironed up plasma this week and is 10 times more energetic than she was. I still have to do the ironing though.

  12. interesting article reminding us that we move on as time goes by. applies to any corporate career

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