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Table for One

“I can be by myself because I’m never lonely, I’m simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me.” — Bohumil Hrabal

There is a moment in solo business travel where you’re inevitably going to feel the aloneness. It might be choosing that table for one instead of the bar, it might be walking into a large hotel suite ridiculously big enough to emphasize the sole nature of your occupancy, or it might just be not talking to a human being for hours on end. But this is the nature of travel: it amplifies the distance between us and those we choose to be with. The leap for the seasoned traveler is when you recognize alone isn’t lonely at all. It’s just an opportunity to be present with your own thoughts.

We all seek connection with the larger world, and the opportunity to see associates around the world face-to-face is a uniquely special gift for those of us lucky enough to travel for work. All of these moments add up to a life beyond all that was previously familiar, and they in turn become familiar. This routine adds structure and normalcy to being on the road, wherever it might take us next.

Alone is a courageous choice of self-selection. Meaningless banter at the bar may do now and then, but deep dialog with ourselves carries us to places we wouldn’t arrive at in the noise of the hive. We must seek solitude to think, and travel offers solitude in spades. Sitting at my table for one last night, I made the most of the opportunity to read a book I’ve been struggling to find time for, to ponder decisions I’ve been deferring for another time, and to savor the moment.

Our time alone is limited. Eventually we dive back into the mix of friends and family and associates that make our world go ’round. This is as it should be, for it represents a healthy diet of solo and ensemble time. Each should be savored for the growth opportunities they offer and for the celebration of returning to the other soon. Each state is temporary, and each is essential.

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