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How to Overcome Loneliness and Stay Connected to Your Loved Ones when Traveling for Business

November 25th, 2016 /

I remember the feeling of early-career business trips quite well. I loved (and still love) traveling, but the emotions always seemed to hit when I settled down in my empty hotel room: the boredom, the vague restlessness, the sudden nostalgia for home. These inevitably tanked my mood.

Most business travelers are familiar with the tell-tale signs of loneliness, but we tend to avoid talking about it. While my colleagues and I joke about spending night after night alone in hotel bars, we rarely chat candidly. So, ironically, I learned to handle my isolation all on my own, slowly finding ways to stay close with friends, family, and my partner while on the road.

avoiding loneliness when traveling for business IS possible

Pre-planned coffee dates with friends—old or new—can help ease the loneliness. Image by Flickr user Vanessa Porter (CC BY 2.0)

Foster Old and New Friendships

I like to schedule get-togethers with friends for the days immediately following my return. This is nothing new in itself—the trick is to make these plans before I leave. I’ve found that if I don’t set up a meeting for coffee or cocktails ahead of time, I rarely have the energy when I get back. This worsens the spiral: I set off on my next trip already wishing I’d spent more time with the people I care about. But with plans already in place, I have something to look forward to during the trip, no excuse not to honor pre-made arrangements when I get back, and good memories to smile over when I’m on the road again.

I’ve found that it’s also important to be conscious of your social media use. It’s easy to spend an evening scrolling through your newsfeed, trying to glean connection from others’ posts, but this usually just makes me feel more isolated. So I try to keep Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to a minimum, with one exception: I sometimes use social media to send out a call for short-notice meet-ups. A friend of a friend lives in Chicago? Get in touch and set up a coffee date. On top of getting in your social fix, you never know what connections you’ll end up making—who might refer your next client or request your services. I never turn down an opportunity to meet new people.

Stay Close with Your Kids

kids sometimes experience the side effects of business travel loneliness

Use technology to your family’s advantage while you’re away on business. Image by Flickr user Jim Bauer (CC BY-ND 2.0)

As a father, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my erratic schedule a little easier on my kids. This lessens my nagging feeling of guilt and helps ease the worry that I’m missing out on valuable moments.

First, I try to set personal challenges that my kids can hold me to. Recently, I’ve been bringing home one local food or sending one postcard from every city I visit. This gives me a mission during off-hours and gets me out of my hotel room. Plus, it inevitably involves chit-chat with strangers, a proven method of improving your mood.

My kids also sent me off on one memorable business trip with a favorite stuffed bear.  In a free moment, I took a photo of the bear at the Empire State Building, and this has developed into a family tradition: I take pictures of myself and the stuffed bear at every local landmark we pass. As my kids have gotten older, they now try to guess where I am based on the photos that I send. It’s a lighthearted game but helps us all feel a little more connected.

Keeping routines is also incredibly important, especially if your kids are still small. I try to Skype or Facetime with mine every day, even if I’ve only got time to say a quick goodnight. When my schedule allows it, I also have “long distance story time”—I pack a book or two in my carry-on and read to them before bed, sometimes taking turns doing character voices with my wife. My kids’ bedtime schedule coincides pretty well with pre-dinner hours when I’m visiting the West Coast, but if timing is an issue, you can also try recording yourself reading so that your partner can play it for them.

Keep the Flame Alive with Your Partner

if you're traveling alone and feeling lonely, write a letter to a loved one

Sweet traditions help to keep your relationship with your partner strong and healthy. Image by Flickr user Peter Hellberg (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s a little old-fashioned, but I love stamped, from-the-mailbox letters. So when I’m away on business, I spend the occasional quiet evening writing letters to my wife. Everyone appreciates the surprise of snail mail that’s not a credit card offer or a bill, and being away gives me an opportunity to reflect on what I love most about her. (On short trips, my letters often appear at home after I do, but this doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of writing or receiving them.)

My wife and I also leave notes for each other to discover. I’ll hide Post-its in her favorite box of cereal or under her pillow, and in turn, I find messages stashed in my suitcase lining, in my socks, or rolled into my toothbrush holder. These never fail to bring a smile, especially as we get more and more creative about hiding them.

beat business travel loneliness by practicing kindness to yourself

Traveling alone doesn’t have to be lonely—they can be a chance to reflect on your relationships. Image by Flickr user Transformer18 (CC BY 2.0)

Remember to Be Kind to Yourself

Seeking connection with friends and loved ones is beneficial to your own well-being—especially if you’re a frequent traveler. Loneliness is a difficult emotion to handle, and part of being kind to yourself on the road is making sure your emotional needs are met.

While nothing beats genuine connections with the people you love, it’s also a lot easier to fend off the loneliness if you’re staying at a hotel that makes you feel pampered and valuable, whether through excellent room service, a suite upgrade, or even just free WiFi. Check out JetLux for access to luxury rooms at reduced corporate rates, and ensure that your accommodations help boost your mood even more.

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