According to Project Time Off, 55 percent of Americans are not using all of their vacation time; moving from an average of 20.3 days in 1978 to a mere 16.2 in 2015. This statistic personally hits home as I have struggled to negotiate time off, feeling pressure to show my dedication and sacrificing precious days away from my desk.
Extend your business stay
One of the ways I have combated this shift in American work culture is to blend leisure travel into business trips. This strategy requires minimal additional days off from work. The best way to pack in the most travel time is to take advantage of the weekend and fly out on a Friday for a Monday meeting. It’s a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and explore a location that would otherwise go undiscovered.
Another benefit to business travel is the reduced costs. One of the largest costs involved in vacation planning is air travel. When travelling for work, your company will pick up the tab. This frees up extra cash to do the things you love to do; in my case eating, and you guessed it, more eating.
This past month I incorporated travel into a business trip. Houston, Texas wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list, but I quickly learned the city has plenty to offer and is well worth a visit.
Connect with a Local
One of the ways to discover a new location is to see it through the eyes of a local. There are plenty of ways to research a destination online, but nothing compares to first hand insight of someone who has ‘been there and done that.’ I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to catch up with an old college buddy (and travel nut) who relocated to Houston a few years ago.
Justin was a very gracious tour guide, picking me up from the airport and taking me straight to a bar with hundreds of Texas craft beers. I must give him credit for planning out the short but sweet 24-hour trip.
‘Houston, we have a problem!’
Thirty minutes south of the city center, Johnson Space Center is a must see. The exhibits include the astronaut and space suit gallery and life at the international space station. Stepping back into middle school levels of maturity, we found the exhibit explaining how to excrete waste sans gravity intriguing.
Be sure to take a trolley tour of the campus, but beware of winter weather in Texas! This New Englander was sorely unprepared for temperatures dropping into the 30’s. I thought I was escaping the cold but boy was I wrong.
Our tour stopped at Mission Control as well as Rocket Park. Admittedly, I didn’t pay much attention in science class. My prior knowledge of space was based off the movie Apollo 13, getting to see the rocket in person was a humbling experience. Well worth the drive; I’ll be sure to return the next time in town.
Margaritas and palm trees
One of the best views of the city skyline can be found at Buffalo Bayou Park, located in the heart of downtown. My inability to prepare properly for inclement led to a very short walk around the park, but we did get to see a few palm trees during my time in the south! In more favorable weather, this is the perfect spot for a morning jog or afternoon picnic in the city.
How did we warm ourselves up you may ask. Well by enjoying a margarita from a drive thru bar and grill of course! Have no fear – we made sure not to crack open this delicious frozen treat until we arrived home.
Eat like a local (meat lovers paradise)
When in Texas, eat as the Texans do. This means steak, steak, and did I mention steak. I’m not a huge fan of steakhouses, but no trip to this southern state is complete without enjoying this local staple. We choose to satisfy our palates at Taste of Texas, ranked as one of the top ten steakhouses of Houston.
The Filet, wrapped in bacon and slathered with garlic sauce was the equivalent of biting into a piece of heaven. Vegetarians beware, this steakhouse focuses on meat-lovers. We did take advantage of the salad bar, trying to balance out all that red meat with some greens. Somehow I managed to return to my seat with about two spinach leaves and enough asiago rolls to feed me for days. This steakhouse also has a more casual atmosphere, jeans are absolutely acceptable here.
Sit back and relax before the big meeting
Battling an overwhelming workload and jam packed schedule can can lead to pushing personal interests down on the list of priorities. Traveling has become an essential part of life, and finding ways to fold it into a busy lifestyle has been the key to happiness in my adult years. Be sure to make time to sit back, relax, and explore before the big meeting!