"Wilding" in Atlanta

By R. Caldwell





As corporations become more global and expand business beyond their home city and state borders, the need for business travel has increased. Over the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to make some observations of the behavior of certain frequent business travelers and have conducted interviews of travelers within this specific population about their behavior away from their own household environment. The consensus: behavior changes in the home away from home for the business traveler — a wilding.

Is it the true personality of the frequent business traveler that is exhibited in a "wilding" episode in a comfortable environment geographically distant from their homes and families? Or does the distant travel environment serve simply as a safety zone where the traveler can release anxiety through socially atypical actions, opposite to the values they believe in and adhere to at home, without accountability? Does this outlet — or wilding -- improve the traveler’s relationships at home? For purposes of evaluating the change of behavior of frequent business travelers when away from home, interviews and surveys were conducted of persons of varying gender, profession, education, and marital status. Of the survey group, the near whole admitted that they have acted in a manner that they would "never do at home" while away on leave. A touch of Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde, similarities amongst the members of the group — despite their varied backgrounds — was remarkable. Within the survey group, seventy-six percent of the people were between the ages of 29 and 39 years old. Sixty-eight percent were married, and of those, about three-quarters had at least one child. Whether married or single, educated or not, wealthy or not, man or woman -- there was no significant percentage deviation between groups with respect to admissions to deviated behavior when away from home. For example, forty-five percent of married people surveyed claimed that would be faithful to their spouses, but nearly one hundred percent admitted to partying or socializing more actively then they would be comfortable or accustomed to doing at home while they were away on travel.

The length of time in years the members of the survey had engaged in frequent business travel inversely correlated with the number of times they traveled per year. For instance, the most frequent travelers had fewer years as a frequent business traveler. Although this could indicate a "travel burnout", none of the survey of frequent business travelers admitted to a desire to stop or even slow travel down. Many of those surveyed acknowledged that they frequently traveled to the same destinations, and stayed at the same hotel in the same foreign city. Of the survey, none were willing to give up the "ease" of returning to the same hotels and cities. Acknowledged by the survey, people who travel to multiple destinations are more likely to be stressed than those that always travel to the same destination. (Seattle Post-Intelligence) The most important factor with respect to travel for the survey was comfort. Without achieving the level of comfort while away from home, according to the survey, behavior was not significantly altered.

Behavior change while on travel, according to the survey group of frequent business travelers, is achieved once the hotel becomes a secondary "home." As one would expect from a typical hotel room, it is usually a mere 400 square feet. But it becomes the home away from home for the frequent business traveler. The preferences varied for those surveyed. Some preferred two queen beds so that one bed could be used as the "home" for a suitcase, clothing, and other miscellaneous personal articles. Others preferred one king-sized bed because it increased their chances of getting a date to engage in physical intimacy should they be lured back into the room. Every room is similar: a 25-inch television, a desk, and a phone jack for computer access. Near the door is a large closet, sometimes with an iron and an ironing board. On the other side, is a well-sized bathroom that, along with the usual one-ounce bottle of a shampoo-conditioner combo, has a coffee maker ready for the next morning. Of the survey group of frequent business travelers, all customized their rooms within minutes of arrival: shaving kits/makeup bags placed near the sink, adjustment of lights, opening curtains, turning on the air conditioner, giving the room an instant "lived in" look. The desk in the room becomes a mock home office with laptops and files and filofaxes connecting the traveler to the rest of the world. None traveled with much luggage, usually one small suitcase, a briefcase, some with a computer laptop. Now, time to relax.

The hotel room is a home away from home for business travelers and a stress release. Basic amenities, food, drink, a newspaper, a shoeshine, are a quick phone call away to the Front Desk. A light bulb burns out, a quick call to the Maintenance Desk, and it is fixed within a few minutes. A late arrival from the airport into town, and room service will bring up a late, warm dinner at your beckon. On business travel, problems are not owned by the traveler — but by the hotel. In contrast, at home, problems result in a trip to Kmart by you and money out of your pocket. Of the survey of business travelers, needs are satisfied simply while staying in hotels. Without the need to clean up the mess, the hotel room becomes "homey" — and the traveled city becomes "freeing." The fact that the hotel room is in another state does not matter; it could be in Cleveland, Dallas, or Toronto. The weather could be warm and sunny, or there could be Tornado warnings. Whether the business traveler has taken a one-hour or a three-hour flight away from home, there are no solicitors, screaming children, or demanding spouses. Late evenings are at the dictate of the traveler only: socialize, dine, play on the computer with bare feet on the desk, watch HBO or Nick-at-Nite all night without the resistance (or the need to be courteous) to another’s ability to sleep.

And for the frequent business traveler, social relationships begin to develop between the traveler and the hotel personnel. Hotel employees know frequent guests by name. Hotel employees and guests alike talk to each other on a personal level: asking about family and relationships. Hotel employees commonly join frequent guests to socialize, for dinner or drinks. It feels like living in a small town, a Mayberry of the likes of "The Andy Griffith Show", where everybody knows your name. Many first time travelers are amazed by the level of intimacy. Hotel employees are supposed to refer to guest as "Sir" or "Madam", but the frequent business traveler is referred to by first name or even nickname. The complacency exhibited by all is evident. This environment of personal comfort is a prerequisite for much of the deviated behavior of the business traveler when away from home.

Scanning the hotel lounge, business transients populate the area. Some are loners, some enjoy socialization -- with anyone, and some gravitate to colleagues purposefully for conference or business-related tasks only. They could be from anywhere in the world, and often are. Conversation throughout the hotel lounge by business travelers retiring for the night usually centers on some current non-controversial news going on in the world, or maybe talk about families, or lack thereof, or small talk about each other’s different line of work. Groups of travelers begin to mix and blend as the evenings progress. This is where it all begins. The business traveler is comfortable, and hotel guests feel secure without any worries. It is a feeling of contentment — knowing you are in a new home with the realization that it is not home. Here is where the frequent traveler, both alone or with a group, ends his/her business in the late afternoon to socialize and to look for a familiar face — another frequent business traveler or the faithful hotel bartender.

This unique transient environment promotes socialization because people do not feel as though they are in a typical local singles bar where people equipped with one-liners try to pick-up someone. Rather, the hotel’s level of comfort, compiled with the distance from home, allows people to relax, drop their guard, or be far more vulnerable to new experiences — or indiscretions — than they would normally be. It is the sense of "home comfort" without the roots, without repercussion, the ability to start anew — if but for a few days. With this carefree comfort, many frequent business travelers scout the hotel lounge for available men or women, quickly inviting them to join their own group of business travelers for dinner or an evening trip to a local bar or club. This is where the evening starts and sometimes ends.

Although people express themselves differently, atypically wild behavior is a stress release which many attribute to helping their personal and family lives. Of the survey group within the population of frequent business travelers, there are numerous persons with varied family status. Some are married; some are single. Regardless, behavior did not seem to vary much between the two. No one interviewed could associate their own behavior to anything psychological, but like college kids on spring break, situational behavior was evident.

Although the survey group reflects individuals of different social, economic, and religious backgrounds and home life, the behavioral similarities were astounding. Business trips served as a relief, according to the whole of the survey, a "private vacation" from their own daily lives. Everyone knows that we all need an occasional release from time-to-time, and the ways of doing so vary for everyone. Commonly there is the family vacation where once or twice a year the whole family goes camping or takes a trip to Disneyworld. When you just arrive at Disneyworld, your eight-year-old can't wait to go on all the rides, but your five-year-old is crying to go back to the hotel. You are on a long family car trip to go camping. Besides hearing "are we there yet?" between the screams, your youngest just urinated in his pants. After a week or two of this, you are desperate to go back to work, without having had any stress relief whatsoever. Every individual handles these pressures differently. Some will do nothing and then explode physically or verbally at their spouses, children, or coworkers. For other people, getting away is the release -- the escape.

The frequent business travelers surveyed, while having different personal situations, all sought this release. Interestingly, none rated their marriage or personal relationship as poor or had "significant" complaints about their spouses. None had separated or divorced since beginning their frequent business travel, nor did they intend to.

Case Study Number 1: Sean is a thirty-eight year old married male who lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and eleven year-old son. Socially, he describes his wife as his "partner in crime" and "best fried." He has just as much fun with his wife as with his male buddies. An undeniable impression is of Sean’s devotion to family — his conversations of work revert to an explanation of family needs, and discussions about social activities revolve around family. It is apparent that he turns to his wife first — both as a lover and friend. In Plumas County, rural and mountainous Northern California, Sean and his family have a vacation home. It is a mere hour-and-a-half drive north of their house. Sean speaks proudly that his oldest son skis "at least fifty days a year" and is able to do so by virtue of the family’s vacation retreat.

Close family relationships are crucial to Sean. Last summer he accompanied his son to a hard rock concert by Rage Against the Machine; "Not only was I the oldest…but my son was the youngest." Sean volunteers as a Boy Scout leader for his son’s troop and is "honored" just to have the opportunity to be involved. His office is filled with pictures of his wife, kids -- and even dog. Although he prides himself in being a hard worker, he is known for never sacrificing family for the job.

As a frequent business traveler, he admits to "blowing off steam in a way that I would never dare do at home" while away on business. Vehemently denying that he would ever partake in an extramarital affair, he admits to heavy drinking and partying while on leave.

"The craziest time? I’m not that crazy, but I guess it would have to be when we all were at some [job related/continuing education] class or something where all those GM [General Motors] guys were there. We went out for dinner and drinks every night. The class was incredible boring and I remember the G.M guys would disappear for hours and go sleep in their rooms. I couldn’t because Lucy [the pipeline to his boss] was there. One of those days, it was the day of the election, we went out to dinner and then went to a topless bar, which I can’t remember the name for the life of me. I hate those places and almost didn’t go. Once we were there, we were hanging around the bar where we could watch the election results. The women were unbelievable. I was sort of half-sitting on a stool when this one started giving me a lap dance. I looked over at Mike [from GM] and knew he was up to it. She was so hot, and it was weird because this [lap dances] used to bother me. She smiled and was very nice. When she was done she stayed, and we talked about how she going to school as an engineering student. I used to thing the women were all manipulative whores, but she totally changed my mind. I guess I learned to take it with a grain of salt. It was so much fun. We stayed there until three in the morning. I was in so much pain the next morning -- I overslept and was late for class."

Like Sean, some use drinking and partying to release their stress, while others seek casual sex and the "one night stand." On first impression, the loss of inhibition of the business traveler is thought of in light of the "cheating spouse." Although philandering is generally unacceptable in American culture, for some, it is an effective avenue of stress release that will actually enhance their marriage and family lives back at home. This philosophy is advocated by a significant bulk of the survey of frequent business travelers.

Case Study Number 2: Tim is a forty-four year old married male who live in Houston, Texas. Tim, who is third oldest of the survey group of frequent business travelers, is the most outgoing and vibrant person interviewed and surveyed. By virtue of his business with a major airline carrier, he travels about ten times a year to Atlanta, Georgia.

Tim is introduced to the within survey by Jimmy the bartender at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Atlanta. Tim, a frequent traveler to the Crown Plaza — and to Jimmy — explains that Gilda is the other bartender, but she only works on Jimmy’s days off: Sunday and Monday. She is also employed by another hotel bar on the other side of town which Tim sometimes visits. Tim explains that the Crown Plaza bar starts our each night as fairly low-key, with few customers. But, as the evenings progress and the alcohol continues to pour, the crowds increase and discretion abates -- dancing on tables, singing karioki for the first time, or romantic liaisons that would never occur at home. Tim admits to personally participating in all three.

Tim considers his two best qualities to be his "personality and good work standard." He adheres to a traditional home life. His parents and his in-laws all live within fifteen miles from his home with his wife in Houston. Tim spends a lot of time with his family and enjoys camping, boating, fishing, and other outdoor activities. He enjoys his job and the "freedom of Houston…we’re not cramped." A true Southerner, Tim would never move; "Houston is home." He lives in a middle to upper-middle class neighborhood in a twenty year old home. He passionately describes his neighborhood: sizable lots of land with homes that are well maintained. He enjoys the home-town feel, describing the neighborhood children playing basketball on an asphalt half-court, surrounded by the park grounds and fresh cut grass for the weekend soccer games near his home. He discusses home improvements, and the contrasting architecture of the south with oversized rooms, wide hallways, and high ceilings to that of the limited space of the northeast. He tells of his junk-filled garage, and the computer that he commandeered from work after the company updated its technology.

But when he turns to business travel, Tim says its time to "break free." Whenever there is a group on business travel planning to go out for drinks, Tim is the first to sign up for the party -- and always amongst the last to return to the hotel for the evening. The more he drinks, the crazier he becomes. He is a happy man, one that no one has ever seen angry, and an even happier drunk. After a couple beers, he becomes louder and funnier — the bartenders cannot decide whether they love him for his warmth or hate him for his indiscretion.

"Most memorable business experience? Last year, what was that, August? We all got together for the annual [work related] conference. It’s a yearly event that is a one-day meeting followed by a dinner. It has become almost a tradition to go out and party afterward. The night before the meeting, we took it easy and went to bed early. Me and the guys brought back a twelve pack of Bud to the room after dinner, shot the bull, and were in bed by midnight. But at the conference the next day, you know what it’s like to stay awake at that thing? I must have had three cups of coffee, which made me have to piss a lot. I had to hold it in so that I didn’t look like I was leaving all the time. Right after, me and a few colleagues went up to our room to drink a couple beers. In about an hour, we came down and met up with some more people for dinner. Afterward, many of us decided to go to a sports bar next door to the hotel — the rest of the group decided to stay in for the night. But, if I wanted to stay in…why leave home? So about ten of us kept on drinking at the sports bar. By midnight, I was just about to get everyone to go on a beer run and bring the party up to my room when a group of five women, and one man, came on into the bar. I didn’t know any of them from work. But me and I guy I was with, Jeff, went over by the rail and just started talking with the five women who were sitting down at the table. They were all airline flight attendants who were staying in Atlanta for the night. Right after I started talking to them, three of the women left to go back to their rooms for the night. So, Jeff and I moved in and sat down at the table and talked for about an hour. The guy seemed to be a fag, and one of the women was so excited showing off pictures of her husband and kids that I knew there was no way I was going to get any of that. Her friend wasn’t bad looking at all, but was a little chunky. If you ask Jeff, he’ll tell you she was fat and old. But, she liked me, and I liked her. We just kept talking, and somehow I ended up walking her home alone. I don’t remember why she didn’t walk with her friends, but I’m pretty sure that she wanted me to be with her alone, in fact I had no doubt. She was staying at the Holiday Inn, which was a distance away from my hotel. She invited me to stay for a while and I really don’t remember what I said, but next thing I knew we were going at it. I was drunk so I probably was really lousy in bed that night.

"The best part was in the morning she had to fly out early. When I woke up, she was in front of me pinning her little wings on her uniform. She came over to the bed and kissed me and left her number. She didn’t know I was married, but I doubt she would have cared anyway. I mean she lived in Chicago, I think, so she was just being nice, or maybe didn’t want to feel slutty. I never called her, but the wings part was like a dream come true. The stupidest thing I could have done was admit to Jeff that I nailed her."

The ultimate indiscretion of the business traveler is to make love to someone without the possibility of marriage. For some in the survey group, this indiscretion has assisted their marriage. Marital infidelity should be viewed as something that hurts the family of the likes of spending a child’s college fund at the horse races. For some people, not all, extramarital sex is not considered a violation of marriage because it enhances the marriage. Of the survey group of business travelers, a significant three-quarters believed that infidelity had assisted their marital relationships. Do people seeking marital indiscretion chose jobs that entail frequent business travel or does the wild loss of inhibition (although not intentional) of the business traveler lead him to this conclusion?

Certainly, a healthy stress release can only assist in making a marriage last. Although there is much argument that marriage is an outdated institution (Hancock 140-151), it is fair to say that the meaning and values of marriage are subject to individual perception. O f the married business travelers surveyed, those admitting to marital indiscretions away from home all reported they had a "strong" marriage. If almost half of all marriages end in divorce, then does the indiscreet business traveler have something we can learn?

"Wilding" throughout America by frequent business travelers is not solely limited to extramarital affairs. Whether married or single, people act incredibly similar — a loss of discretion, "wilding" -- away from home. One of the single males surveyed claimed that he has made a self-rule not to date at home, except for on weekends, due to his busy schedule and strict professional goals. No weekday "interferences" are permitted, claiming they are too distracting. When he is out of town on business leave, however, he can do and pretend to be whatever it is he wants to be, without the possibility of the stress of additional responsibilities or commitment.

Case Study Number 3: Steve is a thirty-five year old male divorcee with no real interest in a committed relationship. He has been divorced for seven years and has been a frequent business traveler for the last two years. He rarely dates at home in Denver, Colorado, nor is it a concern of his at present. As a marketing executive for an industrial mechanics corporation, there is significant room for job and salary enhancement. His focus, therefore, rests almost exclusively with his professional advancement.

Steve recently took a three-day trip to New York for a corporate conference. On the night of the first evening, he went out with others from his company for drinks and dinner -- "the corporate thing." At this dinner were various company people who resided in New York. Because New York was a primary marketing objective for Steve, he wanted to cater to his East Coast colleagues. Although he had set up another dinner date, for eight o’clock, with a woman he met on the plane, he was running late.

"I got out of there [the dinner with New York colleagues] about eight and walked down to this trendy brewery type restaurant to meet [his date]. I guess I got there about eight-thirty-ish and found her patiently waiting in front. I would have been pissed of if someone did that to me, but instead she smiled and appeared happy to see me. Our dinner, and the drinks that followed, was long, and the conversation was good. At about eleven she drove me down the street in her rental car to my hotel. We talked for only about a minute outside when I leaned over and kissed her. This normally would have been awkward, it’s hard for me to get the guts up to kiss a women — drinks or not. But I really didn’t care, I knew I had nothing to lose. I didn’t live in New York, so who cared? I don’t remember exactly was she said, but I knew that she was attracted to me. She gave me her number and asked me to call.

"I walked into the hotel lounge to gloat to Bob [the bartender at Steve’s frequently visited hotel]. Before I got the chance to do that, I recognized a pretty blond sitting near the bar. She was the coworker of a woman I had slept with on a previous trip — my company had done a marketing presentation at her franchise. I said ‘hi’ with no intent of making any moves. As we talked about her coworker, Bob announced last call. The bar begin to clear on out as people went up to their rooms, while the two of us continued to talk in the hotel lounge. I don’t know if it’s because I had nothing to lose, or was confident because the woman I had dinner with earlier had clearly found me attractive, but I wasn’t afraid to take a chance. I told her that I thought she was married the first time we met, and had I known that she was single, I would have never been involved with her coworker. Of course, she was 22 and from Alabama, so the line worked. Whether it did or not, I’m not sure I really cared.

At two in the morning we were walking hand-in-hand back to my room. Walking past the Front Desk, you should have seen the look on Dave’s [the Front Desk Clerk] face when he saw the two of us together. Dave congratulated me the next morning."

Reflected in the interview of Steve is the loss of inhibition for the business traveler when away from home. Notably, Steve’s loss of inhibition is within the confines of an environment where he knows people (the bartender, the Front Desk Clerk) and is comfortable. Whether sexual, social, or merely atypical, those surveyed attest that the "wilding" behavior of business travelers away from home is a primary form of stress relief.

The sex, drinking, and crazy behavior exhibited by business travelers like Steve and Tim outside of their home environment has been equated to an emotionally stabilizing triangle. (Watson 104-108) Whether a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or the suffocation of a demanding career, there are underlying advantages to distancing oneself from a significant "at home" commitment for small periods of time. When anxiety rises at home, your choice of possible responses is limited by the very nature of repercussion: acting out can result in a loss of job or of spouse. At home, one can resolve, or work on, their problems by confronting and dealing with their relational difficulty or be forced to end the relationship (including professional relationships) completely. This level of confrontation is avoided by much of the survey group, it was deemed to "trying", whereby "complacency" developed. According to the survey group, bringing a third variable into the professional/personal relationship equation can serve to alleviate stress in the primary relationship by mitigating the tensions that naturally occur.

Introducing a third variable into the marital relationship, specifically "marital triangles", allows for a variety of responses other than the two polar extremes of conflict or avoidance. (Scarff, 142-143) Triangles develop as a self-protective reflex on the part of the emotional system itself: a system, which is struggling to maintain its own ongoing integrity, equilibrium and balance. One way of thinking about marital triangles, suggested by marital therapist Stuart Johnson, is to visualize the extramarital affair as the third leg of a table, obviously easier to balance than a table with only two legs. Like a conventional relationship, where there are only two legs to the table, the extramarital affair relieves stress — serving as a tripod for the marital base. The sexual release while out of town, was viewed as the third leg of the relationship for much of the survey group, relieving the stress on the other two "legs" and balancing out the "table." Within the survey of married persons, the proposition of stress relief, by virtue of the marital triangle, was commonly espoused.

According to the survey, when a couple's anguish and unhappiness meter happens to be on the rise, an extramarital "fling" is advocated. Getting into a "triangle" for some survey members was an effort to preserve the emotional system of their marriage, and to counter tensions, which may threaten a marriage or lead to its eventual demise. These survey members noted resentment for their spouse when they did not feel "sexy" or their spouse was overly critical. Of the survey group of business travelers engaging in extramarital relationships, a significant portion believed the "flings" had relieved resentment toward their spouse because their sexuality had been validated While "triangles" had a tendency to prevent the marriage from getting worse according to the survey, admissions were made that significant problems in the marriage were not prevented from getting worse. (Scarff, 145).

Some argue that sex is the cure-all; some argue it is the end-all. Some simply argue that it is overvalued in society. The thrust of this survey revealed a more reasonable philosophy, taking into account modern times. Sex is a form of play, a release between two people, or simply a way of expressing affection between people who are not necessarily in love or bound in any way to each other. For some people, sex offers a much faster and less expensive way of releasing stress or mental anguish. Despite this "play", society places significant limitations on its engagement — whether it be an extramarital affair (Tim), a lapdance (Sean), or an uninhibited kiss (Steve) — we are aware of the scrutiny that is cast by society with respect to sexual behavior -- and the repercussion that befalls such judgment. But with the birth of the frequent business traveler, with the hotel home-away-from-home, there is comfort without the fear of condemnation from your peers. After all, in a strange town, dispersions cannot really hurt you. You are anonymous; you are free.

"Now such a thing happiness, above all else, is held to be; for this we choose always for self and never for the sake of something else, but honor, pleasure, reason, and every virtue we choose indeed for themselves (for if nothing resulted from them we should still choose each of them), but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that by means of them we shall be happy. Happiness, on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in general, for anything other than itself." (Ziskin, 225, citing Aristotle)

Whether evaluating sexual indiscretion, loss of inhibition, or increased confidence, the survey of frequent business travelers reveals that the freedom associated with frequent business travel, in a comfortable outside environment, positively effects one’s primary, home life. Some assert that travel indiscretions serve as the "tripod" stabilizing the tensions of a marriage, relationship, or work commitment at home. Is the uncharacteristically wild behavior exhibited by many of these frequent business travelers a baptism of change — reflecting deterioration in the forbidden behaviors of a structured culture? Or is it simply a means of relieving stress in a fun, sexual, and confident way? Regardless, the survey group of frequent business travelers advocate the loss of inhibition — albeit in different ways — as a means of facilitating their personal well-being. The "wilding" of America — one business trip at a time.








"Would ye both eat your cake and have your cake?"
(commonly misquoted as "You can't have you're cake and eat it, too.")
JohnHeywood, John Heywood's Proverbs, 1546


"Most of the things we decide are not what we know to be the best. We say yes, merely because we are driven into a corner and must say somethign."
Frank Crane., Essays


"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be."
Douglas Adams


"The journey is the reward."
Taoist Saying


"Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community."
Anthony J. D’Angelo


"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home."
Johann von Goethe









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