Business Travel and loneliness : Connecting with othersBack to Forum
Bernie Inns, owned by Grand Met Hotels I recall and indeed a place to take a girlfriend where I could show off with my Grand Met shareholders credit card. (There’s a story round that card as well for another day but from a day when life was so much simpler!)
I first floated the idea of a social table (I called it a businessman’s table) back in the early 80’s when I used to stay at the Akwa Palace Hotel in Douala. The owner was a client and friend of mine and noticing so many businessmen (and it was virtually only men in those days) eating by themselves I suggested he set up a table that people could book a seat at, pay their own meal and drinks but have some company. I also suggested he offer them a glass of Laurent Perrier (he was the sole importer and I supplied him) on taking their seat.
The result for him was a very profitable one, as instead of taking just a glass or two of wine, the diners would share among them several bottles of good wine (once one evening, 8 diners and 20 bottles of some expensive chateau) and on many occasion they just split the bill between them. The diners had company and often made good business contacts between them, especially as often government people stayed there as well. Andre Sohaing died a few years ago and I wonder if the tradition has continued?
1 user thanked author for this post.4 Jul 2018
My sister who occasionally travels alone has often approached the concierge in a hotel and asked if there is another single female who would like to share dinner in the hotel. She has made a number of friends this way and has had only one negative experience in ten years of doing it.4 Jul 2018
I have stayed in hotels where the concierge is contacted by the ‘ladies of the night’ to obtain room numbers of single males. One is then awakened by a tap on the door or a phone call, usually unwelcome and in the small hours.
When I complained once about this to the manager of the Marriott in Warsaw he apologised and offered me an upgrade to a suite on my stay the following week.
I asked him why he thought this would solve the problem, and with typical Polish straightforwardness and honesty, he answered that being in a suite, they would probably ask for more money!4 Jul 2018
Ha – a couple of other posters beat me to it! I was also going to suggest what is known in the clubs here as a “club table”.
As I type this I am sitting in the Bowling Alley Bar of the Hong Kong Club and nostalgically missing the days when this bar was members-only at lunchtimes with free seating (well, apart from the judges’ table!). This nearly always meant sitting at a fairly full table of 4 to 8 people whom one either (a) knew or (b) were introduced to because someone else at the table was a mutual friend/acquaintance. I can’t count the number of friendships I have made in here. And then in the refurbishment of the club a while ago they went and spoilt it all by allowing spouse members and guests, which means that nowadays just about no-one wanders in, finds a table with one or more empty seats and one or more friends/acquaintances, and joins them. Such a terrible shame…
I have been fortunate that very little of my business travel has made me be away from home at weekends unless I deliberately engineered it so as to spent time with family back in the UK (a useful add-on to my trips to the US – when travelling to the US East Coast from HK it was often very little more (IIRC about 400 pounds usually) to buy a RTW ticket in F compared to a return ticket in J); but nowadays I more often find myself lonely at home as the Memsahib (who has the advantage of more leisure time than I do) spends time in the UK dealing with school functions, visiting family or sorting out our house (which has just flooded AGAIN, dammit). Fortunately I have a boat so finding friends to come and join me at weekends usually isn’t too much of a struggle 🙂
LP above refers to an earlier forum post – if we are thinking of the same one then I remember it very well, and the number of messages that flooded in to the lonely poster in question was really heartwarming and a credit to the friendly and supportive nature of the forum (well, it was provided we weren’t talking about BA, which thanks to one or two individuals (lost and unlamented) was a particular issue at that time!)
I realise that this will not be an option for all, but being from HKG where there is a significant club culture I have found that using reciprocal clubs has been a real bonus for me. Club memberships need not be that expensive or difficult to obtain. For example, I understand Tattersall’s in Brisbane has a special category for overseas members with a joining fee of A$1,100 but thereafter an annual subscription of just A$133 and an extensive list of reciprocal clubs (I should add I have no conflict of interest here as I am not a member of Tattersall’s!). The Royal Overseas League is another example of an inexpensive club (and members of certain partner organisations get a significant discount) and it also has an extensive list of reciprocal clubs (I’m not a member of the ROSL either). Those fortunate enough to have been members of the older universities in the UK might wish to look at the Oxford and Cambridge Club (eligible, as is the Memsahib, but again not a member!) although their list of reciprocal clubs is in the member-only area (having said that, I managed to find this list of 153 reciprocal clubs that they have).
I have had some fun times in reciprocal clubs, including one memorable occasion when a friend and I caused quite a stir in one of the New York clubs by using the snooker table in the main bar. As the vast majority of Americans have no idea how to play snooker, it quickly became apparent that the table had not been used for some considerable time and very soon we were surrounded by members who were fascinated by these two foreigners who actually knew the game! A very convivial evening followed!
I have also found that using reciprocal clubs for entertaining colleagues and business contacts is invaluable – often they don’t have access to the clubs themselves, so it is an interesting experience for them and makes the meal/drinks stand out from the run-of-the-mill venues they may be more accustomed to. I have always found that invitations to clubs have been eagerly accepted. Another benefit is that they are mostly non-profit, and may own their buildings (and therefore don’t have to pay rent), so they are often considerably cheaper than commercial venues!5 Jul 2018
I am quite surprised at some of the honest, candid and as @Canucklad said ‘heart on the sleeve’ admissions here by fellow contributors.
Been waiting for a spare moment to put my tuppenyworth, but really I can only say that like @capetonianm, I like my own company and me too, am also a G.O.B.
Also I must admit that some of the places I have been, were also rather dark and foreboding, or just plain uninteresting, and so venturing out for any kind of social intercourse was not on my list of importance.
I do however have a problem in that many of my intrepid world travels, were not trips from home, ie away and back, but due to my role, I am often outside office and therefore close to a home environment, for many, many months at a time. This does become troublesome with one’s marriage, but ‘Alaingal’ and I met when I was already lets say ‘an expatriate’ so she knew the score. However, on the beneficial side of when one lives for months in a certain place, one does become, shall we say, a little bit more ‘part of the furniture’ in any city or place. One tends to find some clique or niche, a bolthole that suits your needs, and the locals start to become closer.
Certainly, in one country alone, a female Immigration Officer wished to study my personal details further, there was also a Customs Officer, and she wanted to have more detailed analysis of my imported ‘goods’, and one female airport Security Staff member who wished to inspect any suspicious ‘package’ I had. This was all at the same airport. Away from the airport, there was a Govt Environmental Inspector who also checked out my ‘Green’ credentials. And as for the Hotel Front desk staff, well they were always willing to show me their full 5* star customer service. So travelling can be fun, a great deal of fun.
On the negative side, when there is not a single person to speak English to, its as @Captonianm again said, a matter of catching up with a good book or on the laptop, if you can get internet in the deepest interior or there has not been an earthquake that destroyed pretty much all modes of communication (Bao Xing, China). And that is also hoping one has water in the shower, and that it maybe warm/hot too (Turkistan, a city in Kazakhstan), or heating in the bedroom in deep mid winter (Bao Xing again, in Sichuan Province, China).
So loneliness, naaah, I think I will pass on that yet.
P.S. I did like the idea of a ‘Club Table’, although I have never seen this myself, as actually, I do not frequent Hotel Dining Rooms often, the food is usually expensive and of poor quality, and, as mentioned broadly by many contributors, its full of sad lonely bar stewards!7 Jul 2018
Capetonian, in the summer I’m part of a Burger Boys Club in Cape Town – men only. We meet up once a month for a burger often at the Andros. We are an interesting bunch of +- ten and some of them like you are also GOB’s so you’d be in good company 😉 if you (or other posters from SA) would like to join us, let me know.
LP, I’d like to take you up on this offer. I’m not sure how to send a message on this forum to another member, or even if it’s possible. I’ll be back in CPT soon. Please let me know the next dates and we’ll work out a way of contacting each other. I don’t, want to post my email or ‘phone on the public internet, and I’m sure you don’t either.13 Aug 2018
I’ll be in CPT again from the end of September. I hope we can find a way of making contact so that I may join you at Andros, which is close to where I will be staying.
I had not forgotten, and the few Swallows who are here (5+me (I don’t think of myself as a swallow as I travel back and forth 4 or 5 times a year)) will be having a burger lunch on Tuesday in Ascona, at which we will set the dates for the lunches in Cape Town.
As soon as I have them I’ll ask Tom to forward you my email address and then we can contact each other.
Looking forward to being in contact and till soon, LP.7 Sep 2018
Loneliness? Well, not really. Those times between me and myself are actually somewhat enjoyable (the introvert in me says). This is perhaps due to the fact I spend my days with people I have to somewhat entertain (as a consultant or as a facilitator). So I need these times alone and seldom socialise with other travellers while I do meet local friends here and there to catch up…
1 user thanked author for this post.8 Sep 2018
I am still hoping that LP and I can ‘connect’, along with anyone else who might be in CPT from the end of this week, so that we can have a ‘get-together’.
I don’t know how to send a message on this forum to another user, I suspect it’s not possible, maybe someone from the editorial or moderators team could help here. I doubt if any of us want to post our emails/phone numbers publicly, although I do have a ‘dummy’ email I could use and then delete when it’s served its purpose.24 Sep 2018
Never felt lonely travelling. The people I worked with or met travelling filled the void. Maybe no family at home makes the difference. I am perfectly happy with my company, but at the same time extremely sociable with strangers. When you travel there is always someone to share with – flight attendants, the guy who brings your room service. taxi driver – the list is endless
if you make the effort.27 Sep 2018