Making the Most of It – Chicago, IL

When it comes to business travel, you (like most people) probably fall into one of two categories: you either see it as a vacation or you see it as a week of working overtime. Personally, I started as the former and have gradually slid toward the latter. (Blame around 15 trips to the same office, in the same city, over the course of four years for killing my gentle, business travel loving spirit.)

My first few trips were magical. I got to spend time in a new city (Atlanta), visit the headquarters of one of the most recognizable brands on Earth, and above all, I felt like such a grown up. A few years later, I was bored. Luckily, I ended up to do it less and less as time went on.

This year though, I started in a new position and it looks like I’m back to traveling. I’m with a new group of coworkers and the destinations are a lot more varied, so I’ve made up my mind; I’m going to embrace it. This post is the first in a series about how I’m trying to make the most of my business travel “opportunities”.

Go Early (or Stay Late)
For my trip to Chicago, for the Internet Retailers Conference & Exhibition, I managed to fly in a meager five hours before most of my coworkers. This may not seem like much, but it was plenty of time to visit The Field Museum. I spent the morning looking at dinosaurs (with the awe of a five year old), a nearly disturbing array of taxidermy critters from around the world, and a small detachment of the Terracotta Army.

Find Local Food
I’m lucky enough to have worked almost exclusively with people who despise chain restaurants. While sometimes inconvenient, their desire to seek out local, we-can’t-get-this-at-home fare can be splendid on the road. After spending the morning touristing, I was grateful to meet up with my coworkers and start eating my way across Chicago. During my short visit, I managed to eat deep-dish pizza at Gino’s East, steak at Harry Caray’s, duck at The Duck Inn, an Italian beef, and a hot dog from a cart (with all the traditional Chicago fixin’s, of course).

Be a Tourist
My coworkers made fun of me for four days because I was so vocal about my desire to visit Willis Tower. And, you know what? I didn’t care one bit. Sadly, I didn’t end up going because of rainy weather and poor visibility. Instead, I spent an evening at the Art Institute of Chicago. I wandered the galleries, shamelessly took photos of lovely things, and enjoyed some much-needed alone time in an otherwise very busy workweek. (Check it out, I even found this painting that’s not of Stephen Hawking.)

What I’m saying is, get out and see the place you’re in. Don’t just treat your business travel like a regular week at the office. Be a tourist, see the thing, eat the food. You’ll thank yourself later.

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