I went to India for a business trip a week ago: my employer has an office in a suburb of New Delhi. And it was great talking to my coworkers in that office: lots of interesting and useful discussions, they’re a great group of people.

I was also kind of excited about the travel part of the trip. It was only a week (and in a location that’s more or less maximally bad for jetlag), and I was going to spend most of my time doing work stuff, but still: I was visiting a country I’d never been to before, I like visiting new countries / cities, and I certainly like eating Indian food.

Unfortunately, the travel aspect of the visit wasn’t so great. Part of that was expected: jet lag was actually not as bad as I feared but still a real thing, and the air quality was quite bad. And part of it was something I wasn’t necessarily expecting but was totally predictable in hindsight, namely that my tolerance for spicy food has gone down over the years, so my stomach wasn’t always happy. (I didn’t even pack an antacid; whoops.) But that’s not all that was going on.


Each day basically went the same: I’d get up and shower, then go down for breakfast (usually eating alone), then take a car to work with other coworkers who were also visiting from the US (we try to synchronize visits), then I’d be in the office all day (spending most of that time in meetings with Indian coworkers), then I’d take the car back to the hotel, and then (usually but not always after a short break) I’d have dinner with my American coworkers; sometimes in the restaurant of the hotel we were staying at, sometimes in the restaurant of another hotel nearby.

And there are two problems with that. One is that I’d was spending time with coworkers basically twelve hours solid every day. And, nothing against them, but that’s not how I would normally want to do things, I’m way too introverted for that. I get that the whole point of the trip is to meet with Indian coworkers, so I expect to be spending lots of time talking to people; that’s totally fine. And I can even accept that there’s something good in having an excuse to spend time interacting with American coworkers in an unusual context. But still: 12 hours (with most of those hours actively interacting with people, not just happening to be in the same location) is not what I want to do day after day, especially when I’m feeling a bit off because of time change / stomach uncertainty and don’t get as much refreshment from the post-dinner time as I normally would.

The other problem, in retrospect, is how hermetically sealed it felt. I wasn’t visiting India: I was visiting a hotel and an office and being shuttled back and forth in a car. We placed ourselves in a bubble, and never left it: even when we went out for dinner, it was just to a different hotel!


There are some good reasons for that: the CDC is happy to warn you about bad things that can happen if you eat or drink the wrong thing while traveling to India, and certainly the air quality didn’t make me excited about walking around outside. But I would never seal myself off that way while visiting a country on vacation; on a business trip, it’s easier to let myself get sealed off because I have less unscheduled time and because other people are handling a lot of the planning, but still.

I did have one unscheduled day, on the Sunday at the start of the week; one of my coworkers very kindly showed me around that afternoon. Which helped a lot; the one drawback in retrospect was that he took me places by car, so I missed an opportunity to get a better feel for the area right around the hotel. (Though the place where we ate dinner wasn’t all that far away from the hotel, something like half a mile or a mile away, now that I look it up on a map.)


So, the next time I go, I should probably lean into that more: seeing the city some on Sunday, but doing it on foot? And then hopefully that will make it easier for me to leave the hotel bubble after getting back from the office? It’s actually even possible that next time I’ll be able to avoid getting driven to the office, too: there’s a metro station that’s opening up right across from the office, so maybe we’ll decide that that’s a better way to get to the office from the hotel.

Not sure how well that will work, to be honest: there are logistic reasons for the current setup, and I may also find that they environment just doesn’t agree with me. Still, I feel like I should at least try to leave the bubble a little more? And I should also probably make sure to reserve a little more time for myself: it’s okay if I eat alone half the time, I think…

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