For many people, travel is all about relaxation – spending time in the spa, stretched out on a beach for hours in the sun, or finding a great restaurant where you can linger for hours over a nine-course meal. There are times when I envy that kind of travel because so much of my travel these days is devoted to business. A common misconception is that business travel is glamorous, filled with five star hotels and cocktails in business class. The reality is that business travel is increasingly constrained by tightening corporate budgets (economy seats and moderate lodging are definitely the prevailing standard). As a result, you race from meeting to meeting, seeing more conference rooms than anything else.
When I do have time for leisure travel, I’m torn between wanting to have that relaxing vacation and maximizing all the great things you can do when you finally have time away from the office. Recently, on a trip to New York City, I splurged on a luxury hotel in the heart of Manhattan, and the “to-do” list for the long vacation weekend included going to great restaurants, seeing the exhibits at MOMA, idling away some hours at the Strand bookstore, and going to a Broadway show. Did we do all of those things? Absolutely! Were we exhausted from the hectic pace and overwhelmed by all the fun we were having? Absolutely!
Winding down the weekend, we were scheduled to dine at a fabulous restaurant in Greenwich Village, a long-planned and much-anticipated evening. But with the weather not cooperating – 8 degrees outside and 7-10 inches of snow piled on the streets — somehow those plans lost their appeal. Even New York City had surrendered to the unrelenting winter storm, sending people inside to warm clothes, and anything that didn’t involve sloshing through the wet and icy streets. Taking a long hot bath seemed a lot more appealing than bundling up to catch the subway and venture out into the cold.
But this was New York! And how can you justify taking a glamorous Saturday evening in the city, and turning it into a stay-at-home, pajamas and bunny slippers night? Do you know how hard it can be to get a reservation at a top-tier restaurant in NYC on a Saturday night! We considered and deliberated, but finally were cowed by the weather. After all, we were staying in a beautiful, luxurious hotel, with good heating. And yet, there must be some way to salvage the evening, to justify that we were still having a good time, and enjoying the unique and amazing offerings of New York.
In a flash, the answer became obvious – Chinese food and a movie. After all, when in doubt, go native and go local. Without further hesitation, we placed a late night order for the requisite won ton soup, General Tso’s chicken, beef and broccoli, and egg rolls. The local Chinese food take-out place, after a few delays from the relentless weather, indeed delivered. No need to dress up (except some jeans and a t-shirt to meet the delivery person in the lobby), no need to fight to catch a cab, and no pricey tab for dinner. Just a great night in NYC style, which in some ways stands out as the highlight of the trip. A lazy evening, complete with everything but fortune cookies (our delivery guy did forget those), proved that, sometimes, great fun and relaxation are both achievable.