Isolation

January 2014 368

Isolated. adj. alone, by oneself, segregated, out of regular contact.

Business travel is neither fun nor glamorous.  A business traveler does not “get to see” and “explore” new places.  There is nothing “exotic” about the life of a frequent flier.

Here’s what a typical trip looks like.  It starts with a drive to the airport, clearing the security line, and then sitting in uncomfortable chairs waiting for the plane.   When the plane arrives, I have to impatiently wait for my zone to be called, get in another line, shuffle onto the sardine cans we call airplanes only to then be forced to quickly (and efficiently) throw luggage in an overhead bin and get settled.  The flight is typically short, so I have little or no time to either work or relax.

When the plane lands, I reverse the process, exit the plane and immediately hunt for the nearest restroom (i.e. usually too much Diet Coke) on my way to the car rental desk.  As I maneuver my luggage and other belongings through the crowded terminal, toward another unknown vehicle, I am reminded that I have email, voicemail, and other “important” matters to immediately address.  I am also reminded that it’s time to check in with my family to ensure they are safe.  I then exit the airport, go to the deposition and/or hearing and work for five or six straight hours.

Finally, the work day ends and I check into another hotel room on another Marriott property.  By this time, I remember I need to eat something and then try to squeeze time in to run.  I’m keenly aware, however, that if I sit down I will end up laying down and . . . if I do that, I won’t get back up until morning.  There are few things more demoralizing than forgetting to eat while traveling because you are too tired to leave the room.  Thus, I force myself to immediately drive to the same restaurant and order the same meal.

By now, it’s about 6:30 and I realize that if I stay too long at the restaurant I won’t  have time to run.  I quickly eat the meal, drive back to the hotel, lace up the running shoes and spend 45-60 minutes running.

It is this time — the time I spend physically exerting myself for nearly an hour without break — that I look forward to the most.  This hour . . . this short hour . . .  allows me to clear my head and relax.  I know I have to enjoy this time because when it’s over, I’m back to work for another hour or so to work before the day ends.

The next morning arrives very early and I repeat the entire process (albeit in reverse order).

I have tried to explain to others why, after these trips, I am so physically and emotionally exhausted, but it’s impossible to explain why a “trip” is so unpleasant. . . . thus, I usually bottle it up, say nothing negative, and begin to assimilate to my “regular” life routines.  I do this, of course, knowing exactly when my next flight leaves.

To this point in the post, the reader might be wondering why the entry is entitled “Isolation”.  My response is quite simple . . . during these “trips” one begins to feel completely cut off. . . removed, even, from day-to-day activities.  It’s as if one is actually detached from his/her life.  These 24-48 hour trips are spent in total isolation.  I find myself wanting (and needing) to detach myself from the strangers that surround me, not wanting to interact or engage.  I have no family around, no friends, and am sleeping in a rented bed.  I “escape” the doldrums by collapsing inward.  Noise canceling headphones help me to separate myself from the strangers, but I know I can never truly “escape” them.  Sure, the running helps, but no activity or distraction, actually removes me from this state of isolation.

I don’t want to confuse my terms. . . I am careful not to use the term “lonely”.  It’s not “lonely” to be a frequent traveler. . . it’s “isolating”.  There is a difference.  It’s just me, in a room or terminal, with hundreds of strange people, wanting to get home as quickly as I can.  I eat alone, drive alone, run alone, work alone, but it is not “loneliness” I feel. . . rather, I feel cut off. This feeling of isolation often exacerbates my already constant anxiety and depression.  I have some coping mechanisms (i.e. the run therapy), but the depression and anxiety, combined with being shutoff from my known world, weigh me down.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. . . I’m not.  I really do love my job and my chosen profession, but I cannot deny the existence of the attendant isolation.  I am merely attempting here to articulate the ever present sense of being disconnected from my world.  Thus, if this sounds like a “complaint” post . . . I apologize.  It is not intended to be.  This forum, however, let’s me unload some of these burdens. . . I suppose it’s therapeutic even.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. John Minahan says:

    I read this twice. I can almost “feel” the hurried grind of business trevel. This line resonated with me for some reason: “I ‘escape’ the doldrums by collapsing inward.” (edited)

    Liked by 1 person

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