Gary sent in this post while traveling on business to the other side of the country. He’s a Chesapeake Bay fisherman who every once in a while ventures into other waters, but never while on business. Here’s his fish story: 

How many times have you gone on a business trip to a destination you hadn’t explored, but had a jammed packed schedule that didn’t enable you to take advantage of your trip and time there?

For years, this has been the situation I confronted and I was usually asking myself as I was rushing to grab a cab from the hotel to the airport, “Why I hadn’t I at least taken one more day to see the sights?” My weak, but truthful, self-reply was nearly always the same…because I didn’t make plans in advance. How easy would it have been to add a day either on the front or back end of a trip? Actually as simple as blocking it in my calendar, making sure I booked the corresponding flight to/from and slightly modifying the hotel arrival and departure date. Once that was done, the next step was to figure out what my one day itinerary might include.

This past week was an example of how I decided to extend a very busy business trip and add in a little fun and reconnect with an old friend.

I was in Portland, Oregon, for an educational conference my organization was hosting. We had 850 attendees from all over the country. During the three days of the event, every minute was filled with great sessions, hundreds of programmatic details and scores of important business conversations. From Sunday morning through Tuesday evening’s final dinner I barely had a moment for myself, but that didn’t bother me because I had created a little incentive for myself. You see, I was going fishing on Wednesday morning with friends on the Columbia River not far from Astoria, Oregon.

The plan was set. Friends Todd Davidson, President and CEO of Travel Oregon, and Kevin Wright, VP of Marketing from Travel Oregon, would meet me in the lobby of the hotel at 3am, drive two hours to the coast, connect with our fishing guide, Kyle Wilson, and head out into the Columbia in search of Chinook and Coho Salmon. We pushed off in the dark from the dock at 5:30am and watched a magnificent sunrise crack over the beautiful Oregon mountain range.

Lines were dropped in the water before six and the quest had begun. Around noon we encountered a huge gray whale which breached right in front of us, then flipped and bumped its massive tail underneath the bottom of our 21-foot boat. What an exhilarating and frightening few moments. This was certainly not something any of us (or our guide) had ever encountered before. The fishing was good, unfortunately the ‘catching’ was slow, but the conversation was always fun, witty and involved a certain amount of business (these guys were with me during the aforementioned event).

Gary Oster fishing in Oregon

Gary Oster fishing on the Columbia River in Oregon on a rocky boat

Kyle worked the river hard in search of the elusive trophies we were hoping to hook. Then, WHAM! The reel started to sing like we had just snagged a freight train. Grabbing the rod I began the process of pumping and reeling, putting every ounce of my strength into the fight. The big fish made three big runs before Kyle was able to lay the net under it and pull it into the boat. And was it ever a beauty! I had caught a my first big trophy salmon — a 35-inch, 17.5-pound Chinook that had just entered the Columbia from the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately it was our only catch of the day, however we were still thrilled with the time we were able to spend together. Once back at the dock we said our good-byes to Kyle and headed east for our return two-hour drive to Portland. I needed to be back by 6pm because I had also scheduled a dinner for that night.

Gary Oster with a chinook salmon

Gary Oster with his trophy-sized Pacific chinook, 35 inches, 17.5 pounds, caught on the Columbia River in Oregon.

I was going to meet Charlie Selhorst, one of my best friends from high school. He had recently relocated from Hawaii to Portland so I was going to take the opportunity to reconnect face-to-face because I hadn’t seen him in over 40 years! We had a fantastic dinner at Higgins (yes I had Chinook salmon) and spent over two hours catching up on the goings-on of our respective brothers, sisters and children. There was a lot of ground to cover because we had four decades of details to cover including both of our careers and respective families. Between the two of us we have 14 siblings and 8 children.

As I was walking back to my hotel later that night, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much I did, saw and experienced by adding a leisure day to my business trip (called a “bleisure” trip). Needless to say, I can’t wait for another trip I am making to Florida next month. Plans are already taking shape. What about you? Isn’t it time for you to leverage your next business trip into a leisure trip?