Friday, April 30, 2004

Corporate Backpacker

Corporate Backpacker

Another weekend--a long one--is coming up. Weekends make no difference to me these days; I actually prefer weekdays, as everyone else is at work and the neighbourhood is a lot more quiet. And the malls on weekends are cauldrons of madness. I try to avoid them as far as possible.

I am guilty of spending too much of my weekends working and too much of my weekdays on non-productive activities. Weekends have become a time to catch up on work.

Somehow I find that my utilization of time is also a lot better when I'm on the road. I did a lot of my work last time in hotel rooms and business centers. But if your colleagues happen to be travelling with you on the same trip, it's a different story. Often a business trip is an opportunity to indulge in an orgy of gluttony and late-night drinking--all on company's expense. Some lucky individuals spend their entire corporate careers jetting from one city to another, staying at five-star hotels and partying at all the latest nightspots in town.

But corporate travel can hardly be called travelling--you move in a pampared world of luxury and comfort. After a while every airport and hotel begins to look similar--that same air-conditioned sterility of lounges, lobbies and limousines.

Being the solitary creature that I am, I have no qualms about travelling alone. I can understand the happiness which Theroux describes in The Great Railway Bazaar when he finds himself alone in a train compartment for the entire journey. I am perfectly comfortable--even blissful--staying alone in strange hotels in faraway lands. Being alone gives me more time to observe and study my surroundings. I get more opportunities to loiter around the city aimlessly and this allows me to observe local habits and customs more closely.

Now that I'm no longer working for a multi-national, I don't enjoy the perks and privileges that come with their kind of corporate travel. This could be a blessing in disguise--I can avoid those disgustingly luxurious hotel and turn business trips into pseudo-backpacking adventures.

But still I have to maintain some measure of "respectability". I can't tell my customers that I'm staying at Hotel Labu in Kota, even though some of the best Chinese food in Jakarta is located around the area. Hmm, maybe I can consider staying at the 3/4-star Mercure Hotel near Mangga Besar next time--respectable enough, not too expensive and close to all the interesting places in Chinatown...

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