Many business travelers have experienced guilt because they are not, shall we say, "carpe"-ing the "diem" ? Fortunately, my business travels frequently take me to the south of France — actually, to Provence, where Amadeus maintains a product marketing and development center . It's never easy explaining to friends that I "have to go" on a trip to the Alpes-Maritimes . You can imagine the tenor of the remarks along the lines of how incredibly tough (sarcasm off) such a work/life must be.
But those of us who have been there recognize that doing long hours of conference-calling into the same Cisco IP phone under the same fluorescent lights inside the same beige conference rooms has a universal blandness, whether you happen to be in Brisbane, Paris, or Milwaukee. In fact, it's when you're in an interesting or especially picturesque place, that being cooped-up stings even more.
Generally, the best most of us get to do is to take a longer-than-usual after-dinner walk when the work day is over. We don't have the latitude to go fishing, golfing, or off on a shopping trip; we don't have time to visit with friends or experience some amazing world-renowned museum. We're here to work, and, quite honestly, even if we've got all the motivation in the world, we don't always have the get-up-and-go at the end of an energy-sapping work day.
But on days when you do have the gumption to jump into some rewarding nonbusiness business trip activity, you'll discover that such experiences will take the edge off of hopping aboard an airplane after being home for only two days. If you haven't been doing a little something like this every once in a while, you need to. When the opportunity to decompress knocks, you should answer.
Personally, I wasn't really much of a museum-goer until Omaha changed my mind. That day the only available flight was an early one. Upon settling into my rental car, I found I had several hours to kill. Alone, and already jacked up on several mugs of high-octane java, I couldn't handle whiling away the hours ensconced in another Starbucks. Instead, I happened upon Omaha's Joslyn Art Museum  perched atop a friendly hill. Deciding to check it out just as it opened for the day, I found I had the place to myself. The Joslyn boasted beautifully curated collections, including galleries featuring regionally appropriate subjects on the Great Plains, Western themes, and several artifact collections from Native American artists. I had a fantastic experience. Energized, I went into my day of meetings feeling inspired. I'm a little disappointed that I haven't yet been able to make it back there.
Similarly, after a long day of travel and meetings one day about six months ago I ditched my briefcase in my hotel room, grabbed a cab, and took a long solo walk through London's Tate Modern  museum of contemporary art. Between the end of the work day and dinner, being immersed in world-class galleries was a perfect way to unwind. Admission was free, too.
I continue to rack up great museum experiences. Perhaps it's human nature, but I have to admit that a year later I remember more of what I saw in the museums than what I discussed at my meetings. For some reason, a PowerPoint rarely seems as compelling as a Van Gogh or Gauguin .
Road Warrior • Miami • www.us.amadeus.com