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Flexibility Can be Refreshing

I’ve never gone this long without eating meat.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an enthusiastic carnivore. I get excited about going to a Brazilian steakhouse (and make sure to get my money’s worth). I love carbs too, but when all is said and done, a meal just isn’t a meal without a hearty helping of meat.

Over the years, I struggled to understand vegetarians. Animal protein was so central to my diet that I couldn’t imagine a satisfying life without it. Whenever I saw a vegetarian meal served to a dining companion, I almost felt sorry for them.

But as I write this in mid-January, I’m on my sixth straight day without eating meat.

Several years ago, my wife and I got in the habit of taking a few weeks each January to intentionally disconnect from things we tend to overindulge in. In past years, we have stopped eating sweets, given up caffeine or taken breaks from social media. We find the practice helpful in all kinds of ways. And this year, we decided to stop eating meat for a few weeks.

Before we began, I wasn’t at all sure I could do it. I expected to be hungry and miserable the entire time.

Day one the rubber met the road when we took our kids out for our weekly lunch at our favorite local pizza place. Instead of my usual order, I got margherita pizza — just sauce, cheese and basil. I cut a slice, and with some trepidation, took a bite.

It was delicious.

I had eaten versions of that pizza many times but always with sausage or chicken. But this time, the flavors came alive in a new way. The tomato sauce was deep and spicy. The fresh mozzarella tasted rich and creamy. And the basil seemed to dance on my tongue. Without meat to dominate my palate, I was able to enjoy the other ingredients in a new way.

It took a couple more days to figure out how to fill up on vegetarian meals. But now that I’m almost a week in, it doesn’t feel like a big deal. I’ve been enjoying this adventure in vegetarianism, and I don’t miss meat nearly as much as I thought I would.

I tell this story to illustrate something important — sometimes, change isn’t nearly as difficult as we fear it will be.

During this period of difficulty and disruption in the travel industry, you may be faced with tough decisions about how to run your travel programs. You may find some services or amenities your customers had grown accustomed to haven’t come back yet. Or you might need to make some cuts to reduce costs in this environment of high inflation. Those changes can be understandably nerve wracking. But they shouldn’t cause fear.

Thriving in today’s travel environment requires flexibility, and sometimes flexibility feels like sacrifice. But there’s a good chance those sacrifices won’t hurt as much as you think. In fact, mixing things up might expose you to ideas or opportunities you would have missed otherwise.

By the time you read this, I’ll probably be back to eating meat. But I’ll never be scared of a vegetarian meal again. 

In fact, you might just catch me ordering a margherita pizza.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.