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Ballad of the Road Warrior

The secret pleasures of the business trip
Ballad of the Road Warrior
Photograph by Coppi Barbieri/Trunk Archive

More sedentary friends gasped when I told them last fall that I was about to embark on a 56-hour set of flights from Santa Barbara to Hyderabad (and then fly away after fewer than 72 hours there). Upon arrival, I knew I’d encounter information booths with no people in them, roads with no signs, and taxi ranks with no taxis. Yet the only one not deterred by the prospect of the lightning business trip was myself, for one simple reason: I’d taken such journeys many times before. Here was a chance—though I wouldn’t tell this to friends too loudly—to be loose in the world, out of radio contact, pampered by kind strangers, and in the thick of adventure for days on end.

When I got off my first flight, from Santa Barbara, where I live, to LAX, I heard that the next leg had been delayed because of an anticipated typhoon over Tokyo. Wonderful! Three extra hours amid the low lights and plush sofas of the Star Alliance lounge, surrounded by free drinks, tasty soup, and surprisingly delicate sandwiches (some of which I could stash in my carry-on for jet-lagged midnight feasting in Hyderabad). Then I climbed into my upper-deck economy seat on Singapore Airlines, which offers better food, more interesting movies, and much more attentive service than the business class of many other carriers. I’d have time now to watch at least three of the hundreds of movies on offer, enjoy a le Carré novel I’d been longing to read, and avoid phone calls or e-mails—and not feel guilty about doing so.