Work and Travel
Funny story – about 8 weeks into my new position as Head of Network Marketing at Nutrihealth, I had to travel to Argentina for our Annual Conference with the heads of the other countries. I hardly knew my colleagues as I’d just met them.
I travelled with the American Owner of the company and the CFO and CEO of South Africa and was sitting next to the CEO on the flight.
I don’t mind flying but I do get motion sick during the descent. As we were nearing Buenos Aires I started throwing up. I’m sorry to say this wasn’t the last time I threw up on a flight next to him. I don’t know who was more mortified, him or me.
It was a really long flight. When we got to Buenos Aires, I was sooo tired that I was freezing cold. All I wanted to do was get into a bath and then climb into bed for a nap before we all met for dinner. But when I got up to the room, I couldn’t work out where the light switch was and had to go down and try to explain this to someone who couldn’t speak English. I didn’t know that I had to place the card that opened the door into the light switch.
Eventually, we got that sorted and I discovered there was no bath, only a shower in the room. It was one of those uber complicated modern showers with water coming out in all directions. I couldn’t work out how to make it spray properly so the shower felt cold and uncomfortable.
I stepped back into the bedroom and it was freezing. I also couldn’t work out how to set the temperature on the Air conditioner. So I threw on as many clothes as I could find and crawled into bed to try sleep for a couple of hours.
It wasn’t fun. I also felt like a complete idiot. And the next day I had to be on top form to deliver the presentation on my plans for my division for the year.
People think travelling for work is glamorous (and I guess it can be) but my first day in beautiful Buenos Aires was a comedy of errors.
A Work-Travel Survival Guide
Now that the internet has not only made it far easier for companies to connect and do business globally but also for more of us to work remotely whether we are employed or self-employed, there has been a huge rise in people who are either being asked to or choosing to travel while they work.
This can be a very positive thing because it opens us up to new cultures and experiences and enables us to live our dreams while we make a living. However, there are often downsides to combining work with pleasure, namely the long flights, time differences, less than optimum accommodations and stresses that can often crop up.
If you plan to combine work with travel and you want to avoid the pitfalls and maximize the pluses, check out my quick work-travel survival guide for some handy hints and tricks that will ensure you have the best of both worlds:
Book an Apartment
Yes, there are lots of fantastic hotels around the world, but renting your own apartment when you’re on a working vacation is going to suit you a lot better most of the time. Why? Because you can guarantee that you’ll have peace and quiet when you need it.
When you’re staying in a hotel, you can’t control how much noise the other guests will make and if they’re busy having a good time while you’re trying to knuckle down and get some work done, it can be really annoying to say the least.
If you must stay in a hotel, try to choose one that has conference rooms or a place where business travellers can retreat to, to make calls or get work done in a more peaceful environment and you should be fine too.
When you’re constantly on the go and you’re working while you’re away, you want to do anything that will make the experience as comfortable and non-fatigue inducing as you possibly can.
That’s why you should fight the urge to pack as much stuff as you can and ensure that you leave some space in your backpack or suitcase. The less stuff you have to lug around, the easier it will be for you and the less tired you’ll be when the time comes to knuckle down and get some hard work done.
Take Your Devices Onboard
If you’re travelling for work, chances are that you will be bringing along a laptop and maybe a camera or other expensive digital devices. If that is the case, you should, where possible, bring them onto the plane with you in your hand luggage.
Why? Because in lots of places, airport security isn’t as tight as it should be and it is not unusual for unscrupulous individuals to cut open suitcases and remove valuable electronics.
Also, if you have your laptop onboard, you can kill those boring flights by doing any work you can that does not require an internet connection.
Take Lots of Photos
When you’re travelling, not only should you take lots of photos to remember the locations you have visited, or so that you can post them up on your blog to get some more views, but also because if you take lots of photos on-location, you can use them as a reference to orientate you when you feel lost.
That means, as well as taking pictures of the view from your window, you should take pics of your door’s number and things like that, so if you’re getting home late at night and you aren’t really sure which rental apartments yours, you’ll be able to work it out with a quick look at your phone.
Don’t Bother Unpacking
You might think this is strange but making your hotel room feel like home can be a bit of a mistake. Why? Because if you’re travelling to a lot of different locations and you unpack your stuff at each and every one of them, there is more chance that you will lose your things.
This is even more likely to happen if you’re in an apartment where your stuff is allowed to spread. So, unless you’re going to be staying there for months at a time, it’s far easier to leave everything in your suitcase and only remove it as and when you need it.
Whether you want to keep in touch with family back home or you need to keep in touch with clients for work purposes, having the Skype app on your smartphone will really come in handy because it is a free and efficient way of communicating by phone video or text. You’ll be glad you have it on so many occasions.
Set a Schedule
When you’re in Singapore one day and Tokyo the next, it’s pretty easy to get mixed up and carried away with the amazing new sights that are all around you. That’s why it’s so important that you create a schedule that balances work and travel effectively.
If you know exactly what you should be doing and when you’re far more likely to do it and not end up having to cancel the rest of the week’s fun in favour of working day and night on that project you’ve been neglecting.
Choose a Time Zone and Stick to It
This might seem stupid to some of you but choosing which time zone you will be working in when you travel and sticking to it really will help. It will help you to avoid jet lag and it will ensure that your bosses or clients know exactly when you’ll be available so that they don’t end up calling you at all hours of the day and night.
You’ll still be able to do lots of exploring at whatever time is your waking time, in most places at least, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the most part.
Manage Your Expectations
Lots of people who plant to travel as they work think that they will be heading off into some utopia where their daily cares fade away and they get to spend endless hours on the beach sunning themselves.
However, this is rarely the reality. For one thing, unless you go broke, you are going to be working a lot of the time.
Then, there’s the fact that you may get sick somewhere along the way, you could be targeted by street thieves, you may get lost and…well you get the picture.
Hopefully, you’ll avoid this stuff completely, but if you know that it’s a possibility and you plan for every potential scenario, it will be far less stressful for you when it does happen.
Find Others Like You
It’s always good to have the support of people who are going through the same stuff as you, especially when you’re doing something a little out of the ordinary, so wherever you happen to be travelling, see if you can find any groups of digital nomads or individuals who are in the same business as you who you can meet up with. You might also want to look at local co-working space where you will be able to meet other remote workers and hopefully have a few good times. It’s so much easier to get into the swing of things when you aren’t completely alone with your experiences.
Keep Your Guard
That being said, you should always be on your guard when you come across new people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there who are looking to exploit anyone who they think they can and people who are looking for work opportunities are often prime targets for this kind of behaviour.
If people are offering you opportunities and asking for nothing in return, they may well just be very nice people, but they might not, so don’t commit to anything without thinking it through, and if possible doing a little research first. Basically, keep your wits about you and use your common sense.
Take Some Time Off
Just because it’s a working trip doesn’t mean that you should constantly be handcuffed to your laptop working, not unless you have a looming deadline or you’re running out of money, at least.
Everyone needs a little downtime and there is absolutely no point in travelling if you are not going to experience at least some of what your chosen destination has to offer. So, whatever else you do, try to find that work-life balance wherever you go.
No matter what you do, there is always going to be some stress caused by your chosen path, but this isn’t a totally bad thing because it gives you the opportunity to explore what each destination you visit has to offer in the way of wellness. Spas, Buddhist retreats, geothermal spas – give them all a go and see what works for you. It’ll relieve your stress and give you lots of great new experiences.
Juggling work with travel isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, but it can be very rewarding and it does offer up a unique challenge – it seriously has to be better than spending your days at the same old desk in the same old office – and as long as you plan well and prepare for everything that could happen, there is no reason why you should not have an amazing experience.
Have you had to travel overseas for work? Do you have any funny stories to relate from your business trips?