I’M A SUPERCOMMUTER. HERE’S WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE | Kanebridge News
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I’M A SUPERCOMMUTER. HERE’S WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE

The money, miles and stamina it takes to work in New York and live in Columbus, Ohio

By CHIP CUTTER
Thu, Jan 18, 2024 3:22pmGrey Clock 5 min

Sometimes I sleep in a different New York City hotel room every night.

On a recent Monday, it was a Midtown Manhattan Hampton Inn. The next night, a budget hotel downtown. Then I moved to a Hyatt in Queens, near John F. Kennedy International Airport, where I waited to check in behind a group of pilots and flight attendants.

The reason for this madness: My job is in New York, but my apartment is in Columbus, Ohio. When hotel prices are high, I property-surf to find a lower rate.

For more than a year, to the bafflement of family, friends and colleagues, I have attempted to live and work as a supercommuter. What began as a postpandemic experiment of flying to and from New York each week has turned into what I am hesitant to call a lifestyle.

Like many, I moved out of the city early in the pandemic, relocating near family in the Midwest. When it came time to return in 2022, I was underwhelmed at the housing options in my price range. I toured one-room studios facing brick walls and climbed crumbling staircases to reach dank apartments with ancient fixtures. I also had grown accustomed to midweek evening walks with my sister in Ohio, and a short drive to see my parents. I didn’t want to fully give that up.

Using back-of-the-envelope math, I thought I could keep my expenses—rent in Ohio, plus travel costs—at or below the price of a nice New York studio, or roughly $3,200 a month. The Wall Street Journal requires office attendance at least three days a week and, since I commute by choice, I pay all my travel expenses.

Luxury suites and room service

The challenge felt oddly thrilling. If anybody could find a way to subvert high New York real-estate costs, while remaining close to family, I thought it might be me. For years, I’ve been an on-call travel guru to friends and co-workers, coaching people on how to navigate flight cancellations and play the credit-card bonus games. I memorize aircraft configurations and spend hours reading mileage blogs and industry sites like Airliners.net.

Before mileage runs became useless, I obsessed over reaching top-tier airline status by spending as little as possible. (Family members still roll their eyes at the six hours I spent in Anchorage one December afternoon to requalify for Delta’s Diamond tier.) When a flight is oversold, I am quick to volunteer my seat in exchange for a voucher. (My best-ever haul: $2,000 after giving up my seat on multiple oversold flights one Saturday in San Francisco.)

Nerding out about this stuff has allowed me to travel farther and in more rarefied air than I could otherwise afford.

Entering my supercommuter era, I had visions of flying to New York on a weekday morning (8,500 points one way on American Airlines), spending the day meeting sources and filing stories, and retiring to one of my favorite points hotels—the Beekman. Mornings would begin with a free breakfast thanks to my Hyatt status, before a short subway ride to the office. After two nights, I’d return to Columbus and my roomy apartment, half the price of a Manhattan studio.

Shocking no one, that fantasy soon came crashing down.

Burning points on fancy hotel rooms was the first problem. The life of a journalist is hard to predict. I repeatedly found myself on deadline and having to rebook flights or stay an extra night, costing me money or miles.

Once I was back in the city, it also got harder to say no. Stay an extra night to attend a friend’s birthday party or meet a CEO in town just for the day? Sign me up. I didn’t want my living situation to strain relationships or interfere with my job, which I love.

To conserve hotel points, I swapped the Beekman’s elegant rooms in lower Manhattan for a Hyatt attached to a casino in Jamaica, Queens. My rooms overlooked a sea of empty parking spaces, but required half as many points as Manhattan alternatives.

Flight delays and blown budgets

By summer, with my miles dwindling and New York hotel rates rising, I reluctantly began to rely on the kindness of those around me. Hearing I might need a place, one friend mailed me the keys to her family’s unoccupied apartment in New Jersey. Another let me stay in her smartly designed Brooklyn one-bedroom for weeks as she traveled. A cherished deskmate, known for her tell-it-like-it-is demeanor, repeatedly offered a bedroom in her Chelsea loft, handing over the keys with a sometimes expletive-tinged reminder to: “Get a f—ing apartment.”

I watered plants, walked friends’ dogs and fed their cats while they were away. Still, working in a city without a permanent home took a toll. I came to dread the go-to question asked at parties and work events in New York: “So where do you live?”

After house sitting for friends, I fell in love with some of their pets, including my friend Vanessa’s Border Collie mix, Ivy. But when in hotels without a refrigerator or stove, uninspiring meals abounded; a late-night dinner of yogurt and fruit.
CHIP CUTTER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

If I admitted, “it’s kind of complicated,” I got sucked into explaining my life as a supercommuter. Sometimes, I’d just tell people the location of that evening’s hotel. (Chelsea!)

Costs mounted in the fall, New York’s prime tourist and business-travel season. Friends teased me for embracing a life of chaos. They weren’t wrong. Without a refrigerator or stove, late-night dinners often consisted of yogurt and fruit purchased from a 24-hour CVS. Needing to pack light, I stored shoes under my desk and left spare outfits on an office coat rack.

To get to the office on time, I set my alarm in Columbus for 4:15 a.m. and hustled to the airport for 6 a.m. flights. When everything went according to plan, I made it door-to-door in three hours. If delays occurred, I scrambled to rebook on other flights.

My obsessive tracking of New York hotel prices taught me that dynamic pricing isn’t reserved for airlines. Hotel costs can fluctuate half a dozen times on the check-in date, so instead of booking in advance, I’d wait to pull the trigger until 10 p.m. some days after the rates fell.

In the end, the math didn’t work. I blew my budget by 15% and drained my miles balance. But I flew so much and stayed in so many hotels that I kept my elite status with Hyatt and American.

I still enjoy having one foot in the Midwest and one on the East Coast, though I’m not sure how long I can keep it up. I’m writing this from Columbus, where I overlook a beautiful park outside my picture window. My lease is up, but hotel rates in Manhattan this winter have plunged now that the holidays are over. Maybe that New York apartment search can be put off a little longer.



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AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations

The Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) is fostering robust trade relations between Australia and Arab countries.

Mon, May 20, 2024 5 min

In an era where global trade and international relationships are more crucial than ever, the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) serves as a bridge, for cooperation and growth between Australia and the Arab nations. Led by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Hage, the AACCI has taken on projects aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering development across borders.

This exclusive interview explores the initiatives implemented by the AACCI to expand its presence and influence in the region including the significant establishment of a new operational hub in Dubai. We also delve into how the Chamber embraces education through training and research, its participation in major international exhibitions, and its active support for both large corporations and small businesses.

Looking towards tomorrow, Mr. Mohamed shares his vision for broadening AACCI’s reach emphasizing the importance of the on-ground operations and cultural understanding in building business connections.

-Could you elaborate on the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including its objectives and main areas of focus?

The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) plays a fundamental role, in promoting business partnerships and trade between Australia and the 22 Arab countries. As a member of the Union of Arab Chambers affiliated with the Arab League, AACCI focuses on strengthening trade and investment ties, across these countries.

To nurture these connections effectively AACCI has outlined four objectives: facilitating trade and investment activities, certifying documents, educating stakeholders, and offering marketing assistance.

Our initiatives are designed not only to empower trade and investment endeavors but to also ensure engagement with specific sectors that drive these activities. With an understanding of the characteristics, strengths and preferences of each country, AACCI prides itself on its specialized knowledge customized to suit the distinct business environments of these nations.

– As the AACCI approaches its 50th anniversary, what have been some of the key milestones and achievements?

I believe one of AACCI’s accomplishments is the opportunities it has opened up for numerous Australian companies to access markets, in the region. Moreover, the strong bilateral trade relationship that has developed between Australia and the 22 Arab nations over the five decades has led to trade transactions amounting to billions of dollars.

This extensive trade covers industries such as food and beverages, luxury hotels and many more services. Each successive generation, within AACCI has built upon the foundation laid by its predecessors enriching their knowledge base and expanding their range of services.

– How does the AACCI leverage its diverse leadership team to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab region?

Since taking on the role of chairman, my main focus has been on expanding our presence in the region. This led to the idea of opening an office in Dubai, which symbolizes our dedication to deepening our engagement in that area. We have successfully secured the license to open our first office in Dubai after 50 years, which will serve as a gateway to the GCC and North Africa.

I strongly believe that building two-way trade and investment ties requires more than a degree of business connectivity; it demands having local representatives present in each region. With trends emphasizing strategies the value of face-to-face engagements cannot be overstated.

Setting up offices in the region is essential for the Chamber to truly serve as a link and support system for business activities. Ultimately this expansion will bring benefits to our members and partners by providing them with access, to dynamic markets and diverse prospects.

– Can you discuss the significance of AACCI’s role in cultural and business exchanges between the two regions?

The importance of understanding cultures in our operations cannot be overstated. To address this, we have included a training platform within the Chamber to strengthen our cultural awareness initiatives. This new program offers our members access to modules on our website focusing on global business practices.

Furthermore, we have set up a Center of Excellence specifically dedicated to researching areas like food security and cultural awareness. These research endeavors are essential for promoting knowledge between the two regions.

By combining the resources of the Center of Excellence, our training resources, and the forthcoming local office in Dubai, we’re providing cultural awareness not only in the region but also in Australia. This approach ensures that our members are well equipped and knowledgeable boosting their effectiveness and involvement, in markets.

– What is the objective of your on-ground presence at conferences and events?

Participating in conferences and on ground events is very important for increasing awareness in industries like construction where knowledge of opportunities in the Arab world may not be widespread. When we see projects such as NEOM or notice the construction boom happening in the region it becomes important for organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight these prospects. By taking part in large scale expos such as the Sydney Build Expo we position ourselves at the forefront of these advancements.

Our presence at these events enables interaction giving entrepreneurs a chance to visit our booth engage in discussions and learn more about the region in an approachable and personalized manner. This plays a role in simplifying the process and making opportunities concrete.

– With such a diverse membership base, how does AACCI tailor its services to meet the needs of both large corporations and small startups?

When it comes to discussing business it’s important to grasp how influence and vision come into play. Businesses looking to expand are often motivated by a desire to achieve something whether they are big companies or small enterprises. Small businesses typically aim to raise their brands profile while larger corporations seek recognition and market dominance.

Standing out in this area can be tough mainly because the key driving force is the passion to showcase the brand and products on a platform. This determination serves as a motivator for entrepreneurs.

At the Chamber we make a point of recognizing the needs of both big and small players by understanding each members individual situation. We ensure that every member is well informed about the opportunities and risks that come with expanding. For small businesses, this means being aware of the financial demands, while large businesses are advised on the necessity of both financial and emotional resilience.

– How does AACCI plan to expand or evolve its services in the coming years to further support its members?

The importance of having resources on the ground cannot be emphasized enough. Having local staff is key to establishing connections with the communities we serve. Without a presence in the area staying updated on events and activities becomes quite challenging.

This is why, as I’ve mentioned before, we have established an office in Dubai, staffed with personnel dedicated to supporting our members. This local office will help us effectively bridge the gap between Australia and the Arab world. And our members will benefit from insights and assistance from someone who truly knows the landscape.

In Australia we have equipped offices throughout the country staffed by individuals who play a significant role in our operations. This strong domestic network complements our efforts ensuring that we provide support to our members both locally and globally. This strategic approach is crucial, for nurturing business relationships and fostering continental understanding.

 

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