Day 381: I went on my first work travel since February 2020 yesterday – Durham to London and back in a day. It did spark a bit of anxiety before I went but I guess it is understandable considering we have been living like hermits for the last few years! I was anxious about the trains, about the busy buzz of London and meeting my new work colleagues for the first time (as my team recently moved departments within the company I work for).
The train travel was fine to be honest and the carriage I was in was very quiet – not sure if that was just a lucky shot or if the aftermath of the pandemic has continued to impact commuter numbers.
London was experiencing a second day this week of tube strikes which meant I was to make the trip between Kings Cross and Hoburn in central London on foot (just under two miles and it was a dry day so I was actually quiet happy to walk).
So yes, all in all the actual moving between places was stress free and I felt at ease. I think the anxiety was typically more of the lead up to the day and the nervousness of doing something that has become so unfamiliar to me in recent years as I’ve squirrelled away working from my desk at home.
I did think a little about alcohol but certainly wasn’t tempted. I think travel, especially on trains in my adult lifetime has been associated with drinking whether that be on football away trips, days to the races, lad’s weekends away or commuting back home from a work trip. Drinking when travelling was always partly to numb social anxiety and also because it’s so boring and time consuming.
I remember travelling back from Somerset with work alone one late afternoon – I was going to be on the train for around 6 hours. and it was one of those annoying journeys where the train stopped everywhere as it travelled from the South West of England to my stop in North East England. I bought a bottle of Jamesons’ Irish whisky before departure and poured it into my flask – I was already ‘hiding’ my drinking but I saw it as a treat to myself for having to endure such a long trip home ‘off the clock’
Another one that jumps out was about 10 years ago when me and a mate made the long trip to Southampton for a football match – We departed Durham at 6am and were drinking cans of lager by half past. By the time we arrived on the South Coast (around 1pm) we’d had copious amounts of beer and gin. We kept drinking all afternoon at the footy and into the evening! I ended up in a shopping trolley getting pushed around Southampton by my mate that night!
But back to yesterday, I walked past a few places where I used to have a drink when I was working in or passing through London. None more so than a pub called ‘The Lucas Arms’ close to Kings Cross Station. Nothing special about the place – just a typical chain pub on a street corner but if I ever had time to kill before a train home I’d sit in there and have a good drink.
I also walked past the off licence that I’d often grab a pack of beers from for the train home – and there was the Marks and Spencers food outlet in Kings Cross where I often grabbed the cans of Gin & Tonic for out of hours onward trips to Brighton via St Pancras.
In the grand scheme of my drinking it’s all pretty mild stuff and I’m certainly not the only person to ever drink when travelling but I think this first sober trip away with work reminded me of the old me and my relationship with alcohol.
There was also a drinks reception after the work meeting yesterday which had the potential to be triggering but I chose not to overly think about it and not approach the table where the free wine, beer, etc was.
It also gave me an excuse to make an exit ahead of making the 2 mile walk back through London to Kings Cross.
Work travel will no doubt return with some kind of regularity but my time spent guzzling liquid on said trips won’t return.