No, It's Not A Vacation, It's A Business Trip


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I'm always fascinated when I tell non-frequent flyers about my sojourns for the magazine and how they inevitably liken them to a vacation. "I just got back from Italy," I tell a friend. They usually reply, "It must be nice to have an expenses-paid vacation."

Over the years, I have stopped trying to explain that a business trip is work. These trips take time away from family: I miss numerous birthdays, weekends, anniversaries, PTA meetings and more. Luckily, I'm blessed with a wife and kids who understand that I travel because it's part of my job. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my job. But who would equate going to the office with a vacation? Regardless of the destination, business travel is work. Perhaps my most recent trip to Europe will illustrate my point.

I board the Delta flight, which hopefully means the airline won't declare bankruptcy before I land in Atlanta to connect with my flight to Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy. After flying all night, I arrive in Milan at 9 a.m. Italian time on Thursday morning.

I'm met by my contact, Stephanie Clement, who ushers me to our car for the 2-hour drive to lathe builder Biglia (www.bigliaspa.it), which is represented in the United States by Stephanie's company, Eurotech (Brooksville, Florida). We tour the factory and join a meeting with Luca Biglia, the son of the owner who is taking questions and answers from the U.S. distributors who are part of the delegation. These distributors' only apparent complaint is asking for more machines because business in the United States is good for this line. What a difference a year makes.

About mid-afternoon, we take off for the Top Automazioni (www.topautomazioni.com) plant, which is normally 3 hours away. However, Italian traffic makes the trip 7 hours. Top is a 5-year-old bar feed manufacturer, also represented by Eurotech, that has recently entered the U.S. market and has had great success in Italy. I'm there to see an innovative system that automatically adjusts the guide channels and allows elimination of spindle liners in the machine tool.

From Top, our caravan heads to dinner, arriving at about 9 p.m. Dinner Italian style is a delicious meal with many courses. The secret to surviving the gastronomic marathon is to eat small portions of each course. As good as this food is, discretion is much easier said than done. When dinner ends at about 12:30 a.m., we head to the hotel. It's been an interesting, but very long first day.

We assemble the next morning (Friday) to visit MT Marchetti (www.mtmarchetti.com) for a factory tour and open house. MT manufactures driven tools for turning machines. Eurotech represents it in the United States for Biglia turning centers. For other turning center brands, MD Tooling (Howell, Michigan) represents the MT line for builders other than Biglia.

After a very nice buffet lunch at the factory, Stephanie and I return to Top to tie up loose ends from the previous night's abbreviated visit. Mostly, I wanted to get some CAD drawings of the bar feed and its interesting guide system for use in an article.

We also visited the machine shop where Top makes parts for its bar feeders.
We returned to the hotel about 5:30 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., our caravan hit the road again for dinner, which lasted until midnight.

After two eventful days in Italy, I bid farewell to my hosts and then pack to catch my 6:30 a.m. train on Saturday for a 12-hour ride to my next destination (Switzerland). Here, I'm scheduled to hook up with another U.S. delegation to attend a press conference and tour the Esco and Tornos factories (see pages 27-29).

That's a brief description of a typical international business trip for me. Granted, I enjoy being in Europe. It is interesting, stimulating, mind expanding, often beautiful and usually fun—but a vacation? I don't think so.