Working under the influence | Travel Research Online


Working under the influence

Recently I had knee surgery. As a big proponent of having emergency plans and back-ups in place, I arranged to have someone back me up for the four days I was in the hospital. What I didn’t plan for, was having someone continue to back me up for the weeks following surgery. I honestly didn’t think it was necessary. After all, I was going to be house-bound with nothing better to do. I re-arranged the bedroom and set up a mini-office on my nightstand. All of my electronics were within arms’ reach or a short hobble across the room. So why would I need to have a back-up in place once I got home? One word—narcotics.

That’s right: For the first couple of weeks post-surgery, I tried working under the influence. Pain management was critical and I was closely following the doctor’s orders, taking the pain meds as prescribed. This ultimately resulted in me sleeping a lot after I took each dose. I slept through the phone ringing. I would wake up to a couple hundred new emails and maybe a couple of voice mails every time. And when I was awake, I was groggy. The brain was sluggish at best. Putting together a simple sentence was pathetic. I didn’t expect this, and I didn’t plan for it. Yes, I was told I would be taking pain killers after surgery, but I can’t tell you how many years it had been since I had taken narcotic pain killers. I thought nothing of it, and assumed I would be able to function normally and work. There is a reason those bottles have warnings on them like: “Do not operate heavy machinery while taking this medication.” They should add another—“Do not book travel while taking this medication.”

In one short coherent period during this time, I realized this wasn’t going to work. I enlisted my husband’s help in keeping the inbox thinned out on a daily basis, helping identify the emails that could be deleted (spam), what to file away for future (lucid) reading, and what needed immediate attention. From that point, it was easy to farm out work to fellow agents that could help with the immediate needs of clients.

The moral to this whole story is this: we are all human, and we cannot do it all, no matter what we like to think. For non-emergency planned situations (like surgery) it’s important to plan for more than just the immediate absence. It is better to over-plan (have backups in place that you may not need to utilize after all) versus scrambling to pull together help while you are recovering. If I was an employee of another business and had to take time off for surgery, my doctor would have had me off work for four to eight weeks. Not only is the time needed to help you heal properly and focus on yourself (super important), but it prevents you from being a worthless, incoherent mess from the pain medications as you try to stumble through work. When we are self-employed it is harder to take time off work—four to eight weeks is unheard of, if not impossible. There aren’t co-workers, employees, or bosses to pick up the slack. We are it. But we don’t have to be it.

If my previous columns about emergency planning haven’t struck a chord with you yet, maybe this one will. Take the time to put an emergency plan in place, and find trusted travel professionals that you can rely on to help you in planned or emergency situations.

Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers.  Through their division Kick Butt Vacations she focuses on travel for 18 to 23 year olds. Susan can be reached by email at or by phone at (888) 221-1209.  

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