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Traveling for Business Naturally

Just me. Table for one please. I was tired of eating in my hotel room out of take-out containers in front of the tv and my work laptop. This was a great restaurant and I always enjoyed it there but this time I was by myself. That should be ok I bravely told myself following the hostess. Everyone has to eat. She led me to a table by the window overlooking the water and as I sat down she cleared the other place setting and left me with the menu. The telltale sign I was by myself.

I usually avoided this at all costs due to the uncomfortableness of it but not this time. I was tired of hiding simply because I was traveling alone. It was a nice evening out and I wanted to be part of it. I opened my book from my handbag and read while taking in the sunset over the water and thoroughly enjoying it all. The bravery for what I was doing now made me smile in remembrance of an important piece of wisdom I’d come to learn from a traveling nurse I had dinner with a few months prior to this night.

It was one particular trip to Chicago in January. Like a true Chicago winter the wind was blustering off Lake Michigan making the drizzly snow come down at a hard angle. I was ready for something hot and comforting after the long cold walk to the hotel from the office that evening. How on Earth do people do this for so many months I said to myself? It was damned miserable out and my feet were soaking wet. When I got to the hotel I unbundled the layers of clothing and changed into my warm thick socks and tennis shoes, heading to the split bar restaurant off the lobby for food and wine to finish thawing myself out. There was a big fireplace there and hopefully I could get one of the big oversized chairs near it at this time of evening. It was still early, I could avoid the busy crowd that usually collected there.

As I slid into a chair next to the fireplace, I ordered a merlot and sat with my hands over the top of a magazine I’d brought along. The heat felt incredible and I could feel the gradual melting of the stresses and coldness of the day ease back. As I sat waiting on my drink I scanned the menu thinking about what I would take back to my room to eat. This was such a comfortable spot I could have easily sat where I was, reading and eating, enjoying my wine but I hated doing that by myself in a busy bar or restaurant. It was embarrassing I thought. People would think me weird if I was by myself, wouldn’t they?

I never liked being in many places by myself. Not because I felt unsafe but rather it felt awkward and was lonely hearing all the conversations around you and not having one of your own going on. I felt confident to do some things on my own but eating out somewhere just wasn’t one of them. It was the downside of traveling by yourself I always thought. Those evening hours when we connect with people on a variety of topics and share laughs. I didn’t have that usually when I traveled for work. I didn’t mind most of the time but it was nice to sit in pretty places like this one, have food presented prettily on plates instead of containers and real silverware compared to plastic ware.

A woman came up taking the other oversized stuffed chair across from me at the fire. She commented about the snow outside as she wiggled out of her puffy coat and put her handbag and laptop bags down. I quick look out the window told it was snowing harder now and I nodded in agreement about the fierceness of the weather and sipped my wine in comfort. We enjoyed our drinks in relatively silence as I waited for the bartender to come back around for my order. She made several comments trying to start a conversation and I participated nicely, making the most of the time getting warm. We exchanged names, occupations and the typical things about each other. She then asked if I was staying here in the bar to eat and could we eat together. She said she really didn’t mind eating alone but much preferred company. The fireplace sure did feel good and they would raise the table between us for eating. How could I say no to that? We were both two solo business travelers who would otherwise have eaten alone so why not I said.

She was a traveling nurse in the area doing an assignment at the hospital. Quite a few years older than me, she proudly said she was retiring at the end of the year and would only be doing pleasure travel from then on. I asked her how she had liked it, the traveling I meant. What I really wanted to ask her was how she liked doing it by herself all the time. The hardest part for me was always this time of day, the evenings when it was meant to be with oth