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by Vault Consulting Editors | June 30, 2009


Exploration, Part I

This may seem off-topic, but this one is crucially important to work/life balance, satisfaction, fulfillment and maybe even a little bit of networking when you're on the road.

I begin this tale with a warning—a warning of a life more ordinary, one of mediocrity and of boredom. There are consultants who eat every meal at TGI Friday's, Applebee's, Chili's, the hotel bar and the like, and they are not small in number. A certain amount of this must be tolerated in certain situations of late nights and exhaustion. There are also the "never eat alone" types, which is valid and a great way to build relationships. But eating alone as a respite also has it benefits, including speed, as corralling troops and deciding on destinations can be a time-consuming endeavor. It's also a great way to develop relationships with servers and sushi chefs. I still hold a special place in my heart for a sushi place in a strip mall south of Charlotte, North Carolina.

However, I would encourage you to spark your sense of exploration, and you will be rewarded with a much more fulfilling and exciting life while you're on the road. So break out your UrbanSpoon, Yelpers unite! Wait to acquire sufficient GPS satellites in search of new POIs. The technology is there; utilize it to improve your experience. Organize team, sub-team, casual group dinners or head out on your own. Don't let your weary souls settle for KFC Grilled Chicken every day (but it is good, especially if you own YUM Brands stock). It cannot be said often enough: Try the local specialties.

Beer. Since you'll be spending your free time in the hotel lounge, you may as well try regional stars Shiner in Texas, Yeungling in Pennsylvania, Boulevard in Kansas City, Schell in Minnesota or even smaller micro brews. Some of them you can't find beyond a few surrounding states.

If you're in upstate New York, try the bologna (it's more like summer sausage), the maple syrup from each side of the river and a Weck, a sandwich with a bun that has caraway seeds (did you realize that's what the 3rd W in BW3s stood for?). If you're a barbecue fan, try it everywhere and then you can debate the virtues of Kansas City vs Texas vs Carolinas vs Memphis BBQ with credibility. If you're in Long Island, Long Island duckling is a must; they actually introduced ducks from Beijing a hundred years ago. If you're in New Ulm, Minnesota, try eating room service rabbit washed down with a Schell Snowstorm beer. If you're in Evansville, Indiana, try a cow brain sandwich. If you're in Los Angeles, chase down a Taco Truck, purveyors of mobile Mexican munchies that tops the best in the entire rest of the United States, giving even Rick Bayless some serious competition. On my consulting tour of the United States, I did all of these things (except the brain sandwich) and am the better for it.

If you are alternating between a Hampton Inn continental breakfast, company cafeteria and Applebee's for dinner, you are simply missing out on experiencing the variety of life. Expand your palate, mind and experience. It's a small joy in your day, but a nice one. So make like Louis and Clark: Explore.

- Taylor O'Neal is a supply chain consultant for a major consulting firm. He graduated from Miami University School of Business in 2005 and Indiana University's Kelley Masters of Information Systems program in 2006.


Filed Under: Consulting