What happens in China stays in China?
So many hoped this was the case on my recent trip there with my husband and his MBA group. The schedule was a packed five-day extravaganza of tours, meetings and events in Shanghai with local companies. As the little wife and avid traveler, I came along for the ride.
The group had been looking forward to this trip for a long time. China is not exactly a hop, skip and jump from Los Angeles. A few others brought along their spouses and tacked on additional cities to make it a vacation, but most came solo to fulfill the trip abroad requirement.
I was looking forward to having some time with an intelligent, mature group of people. Many were, but many more were ready to party and saw their airplane ticket as a golden ticket back to adolescence. I was amazed at the debauchery.
This was technically a student trip, but about eighty-five percent of the group were professionals over 35-years old who were married with kids. To me, this should mean that they might be over their crazy party days and would take the five days seriously. Boy, was I wrong. Many times when you take someone away from their home turf and a regular schedule and throw them into another country, there's bound to be trouble.
I recall my college days where drinking to excess at parties was not only encouraged, but demanded. I thrived at this task - so much so, that I decided to carry it into my late 20s in New York City, and early 30s, as a single gal in Los Angeles. But here I was, over 40, in the middle of Shanghai, feeling the peer pressure. I know no one meant any harm, but every night, there were bar crawls and nightclub expeditions that I frankly wanted no part of.
Sure, I love some cocktails and a cool scene, but wanting to party like a rockstar when you're our age just seems, well, lame. Maybe the fact that I spent my twenties in New York, where chic nightspots, gorgeous people and partying till 4:00 a.m. was de rigeur made me a little jaded. Most of this MBA group live in the suburbs and we all know how stir crazy that can make people. I had expected we would live it up at the final party on Saturday night and go out for some fun dinners, but wanting to reenact a scene from "The Bachelor" every night seemed a bit much.
Plus, how were they going to retain anything from the program each day with a throbbing headache? I admit that my husband and I gave into the peer pressure and wound up dancing the night away rather than getting a good night's sleep. Would I have preferred sleep? Probably. Yes, I'm that old and boring these days.
What happened to these seemingly respectable people? It is interesting when accountability and responsibility are taken out of the equation. It's hard to go out on a bender till dawn when little Timmy needs to be put to bed or your husband is wondering why you're not home at nine p.m. It made me very happy that my husband was not flying solo on this trip, especially when I saw people flirting their butts off. I watched with nervous anxiety at the married man cozying up way too close on the trip with another married colleague. I trust my husband tremendously, but he is a joiner, and there is pressure to be cool in front of your colleagues. I could never imagine him staying back at the hotel, telling his friends he wanted to watch TV and call his wife while the others went looking for something intriguing like the "happy ending" massage parlors which were on every corner. Many from the MBA group were overjoyed to frequent these establishments and I'm sure a few received full service.
I asked a male friend about this naughtiness and if it was just me or was this group crazy. He replied, "They do it because they can't do that stuff at home."
He then proceeded to tell me about a single friend of his who has picked up a woman at an airport bar on every single one of his business trips, and he travels a lot. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.
This all made me wonder how many businessmen (and women) see trips for work as an opportunity for tomfoolery. How many are being bad?
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Why is a work trip an instant enabler? Obviously, you can't stop your significant other from going on a business trip, so how can you be confident that they aren't out being naughty? I believe there are two factors: experience and maturity. Those with little experience, who haven't "lived", tend to go a little whackadoo when given the opportunity.
This is exactly why my friend in high school who went to the strictest Catholic school and had an overbearing mother was the worst of all of us. She was so restrained that given just a little chance, she went Britney Spears on us. When someone has had fun and crazy experiences, usually by the time they are in their forties, they are not easily swayed by the frat boy mentality. Talk to a New Yorker and you'll know what I mean. They have been there and done that. However, I could be wrong and maybe experience doesn't help, which scares the hell out of me. Maturity depends upon the person, but I believe it is someone who simply knows better and can do exactly what they want, even if it goes against the herd mentality. A mature person does not act in the moment, but instead calculates the pros and cons and then acts.
There's also another factor - that of the man or woman who is a player and just wants to get laid. These people don't need a business trip to be bad. Either way, when sending your loved one on a plane, you trust that they will have your best interest at heart, but is trust enough to keep them from joining the dirty dozen?
Whatever the reason for people behaving badly and taking on completely different personalities on times away, all I can say is thank god my husband doesn't go on many business trips!
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