Making business travel awesome

Business travel makes me anxious.

When I book my flight and hotel, I wonder if I’ve chosen the right airport and the right flight, and if I can get to the hotel and to the venue easily. I wonder about the moments I’ll miss, the stories I’ll skip by being away. I worry about my visas and about being stuck on the wrong side of an immigration counter. I worry about losing my paperwork or running out of foreign currency. I worry about forgetting things in hotel rooms or forgetting myself in work.

I can work through the anxiety. My checklists and travel gear make packing easy. I’ve figured out the trick to doing work at airports and on airplanes. A netbook and a paper notebook mean I never run out of things to do. I wake up early. I explore public transit. Each trip gives me ideas for making the next trip better.

And when I’m there at the presentation, meeting, or workshop, I’m there, not wishing I was miles away.

Many people I talk to who have loved ones at home think of travel as a necessary evil. Travel has its perks: meeting new people, cementing relationships, experiencing new things. But it tires many people out.

If anyone can figure out how to make travel awesome, I can. If travelling will help me create the most value for our clients, the company, and myself, then I might as well figure out how to not only tolerate it, but even enjoy it.

So I made a mind-map today about the things I didn’t like about travel and the things I liked about travel, and I decided to work on emphasizing the positives. Here’s what I’m going to do to make future trips awesome:

  • Learn more. Interesting experiences + time to explore = awesomeness. =)
  • Focus on the advantages of stretching my comfort zone. Yes, it’s hard to find your way around an unknown city, particularly when you don’t have GPS or maps on your phone. But if anyone’s prepared to do it, I am. My parents took us backpacking across the US and Europe when my sisters and I were kids, and I loved reading maps. As a technical intern in Japan, I took overnight buses to Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto to see the sights, practice Japanese, and just enjoy wandering around. I’m not one for packaged tours or popular tourist spots. I love starting to find my way around a place, starting to get a feel for the public transit and the pulse of a city.
  • Take more pictures and share more media. I usually don’t
    take a large camera because I pack light, but if I carry a camera, I
    can share more experiences with W-, J-, and others. I always take a
    recorder, thoughMy netbook has a built-in webcam, so I can explore
    videoblogging and I can use it for video chat. Maybe if I take a camera, I can get better at figuring out what a place looks like and feels like.

  • Enjoy eating out more. I hardly ever eat out in Toronto because home-cooked food is fun to make and eat. When I’m out and about, however, I have to eat at restaurants. I prefer to find small, local haunts instead of eating at multinational chains. W- reminded me that I can use these trips to explore cuisines and look for inspiration. Besides, not spending time on cooking or cleaning up should give me more time to learn, write, and explore.
  • Sew more stuff. I liked bringing an eye mask that I made myself. =) I think I’ll spend this Canada Day sewing pajamas, and a passport organizer, a travel kit… <laugh>
  • Take more pictures and share more media. I usually don’t
    take a large camera because I pack light, but if I carry a camera, I
    can share more experiences with W-, J-, and others. I always take a
    recorder, thoughMy netbook has a built-in webcam, so I can explore
    videoblogging and I can use it for video chat.

  • Meet up with friends. I can get better at tweetups and other meetups. Maybe this is what a virtual assistant can help me put together–a list of restaurants near the hotel, a list of people who want to meet up… =)

Maybe I can help find ways to make travel better. =)

  • Regarding dining while traveling: The Chowhound message boards have never steered me wrong…

  • Great list Sacha … meeting friends is great during the trips.
    Also prefer making traveling as enjoyable as possible.

    There are little things that have made traveling better for me

    * Learned yoga routine by heart . So I can it do anywhere, anytime – also doable for hotel rooms.
    * See if there is a running/walking route around your hotel – take a early morning hike around the area – if safe …
    * Have some small/light meaningful things with you – a tiny dog figure, (for you it would be cats:-), some jewelry made by friends, colorful scarf – take few minutes to decorate your room (clear away all adds etc.)
    * A small knitting project – something personal, crafting, like sewing is so relaxing and rewarding
    * I take a lot of pictures – with my mobile phone, that is always with me. Good camera would be better, but 3.2 seems to be quite ok, and taking picture is more spontaneous. Time allowing I download pictures during the travel for my family & friends to see …

    Have great journeys !

  • Paul

    Having a defined time for a presentation will probably help give you time to get out and see things. Talk to the people you are meeting for recommendations and talk with the hotel staff. Since I can’t follow my normal exercise routine, I just get out and walk. It’s a great way to find new things and still get in some exercise.

  • Nigel

    Depending on the city & hotel, I’ve found running to be a fun way to explore a city. Usually, I run first thing in the morning which feels safer – and is in daylight hours, which helps when I get turned around. It’s interesting how some cities feel ‘runnable’ – along the Charles River in downtown Boston, up the mountain in Montreal, Stanley Park in Vancouver, etc… Of course, it means that I’m really not a fan of Orlando and Dallas…

  • In over 20 years of business travel, I’ve had the experience of dining in the hotel restaurant maybe 2 or 3 times. I’m amazed at how tight some other people schedule their trips so that they never leave the hotel.

    I’ve given up on bulky cameras (except when I’m shooting a project), and travel with a small point-and-shoot camera. (I’m picky about photography, and mobile phone snapshots don’t quite do enough for me). The downside is that I’m nearly a year behind on blogging my photos … although I’m trying to place a slightly higher priority on them these days. (I haven’t gotten to the state like others where I just post photos without text. I’m consciously resisting that).