With the topic of travel, in general, bouncing around our offices at the moment at Emocto, we threw some paper airplanes with questions on in the general direction of one of our directors and here are some thoughts they had to share.
Are you interested in International Travel or International Work & Travel? If so: Look no further… It’s a meaty response, you’re in for the long haul!
Have you ever travelled for work?
Yes. I work in London and have been in Australia and America while being based in London.
Off the top of your head, which has been your favourite travel destination?
Generally, too many to mention! For work and travel, I would say Australia but this is probably also one of the most challenging regarding time zones when you’re dealing with the London office.
Is combining work and travel something you’d recommend/would like to do? Or is it better to keep business and travel separate?
I think it’s always nice to travel but in the case of Australia, a 30-hour trip door to door (if you get a quick connection in Singapore) is still a stretch, even to the most seasoned traveller. If you’re travelling within the EU and you’re based in London, that can be quite a nice way to break up the week.
Is there much room for leisure on business trips? What sort of things do you like to do when you’re not working?
I think it depends on what type of business trip you’re on. If you have to meet a lot of clients while away then you may have a more social time while away. However if it’s meetings in the overseas office then the hours can be just as long as the working day at home and you may find yourself itching to get outside if it’s a hot country and instead be stuck indoors with the air conditioning!
When I’m not working I like to get out and see as much of the country I’m in as possible and make the most of it. Joining tours (even a day tour) is the best way to meet people, hands down. This applies, whether you’re away “travelling” for fun and in a hostel or for work alone and staying in a hotel.
Does travelling around a lot take its toll or do you enjoy being away from home so frequently and mixing it up?
I think it depends how long you’re away for.
I have developed a strategy to avoid jetlag when travelling to Australia for example and most other places as well. I try to get onto that time zone before I leave the UK. This can be difficult if you’re travelling mid-week and have to work up to that point.
Is there a relaxing element? E.g. Time away to think and no housework!!
I love to be in the water, so when I am away I try to do as much of this as possible. When I can schedule my meetings; I’ll get up early to get the best of the beach or hotel pool and have some ‘luxury time’ and then work through lunch or whatever the schedule allows in order to make time for this early morning time.
I feel relaxed and happy in the water and my favourite meal of the day is breakfast so knowing this, I like to have that time in the mornings to myself and then feel refreshed and replenished to start the day. Some people are night owls, others are early birds. It really depends. I like to really sit with a tea or coffee and just have that and myself and think, ponder the day ahead and have quiet time before the hustle and bustle begins. If it’s a city break I’ll find that perfect café and set up a morning routine there! That becomes a little ritual and creates a home-away-from-home feel. When I have my time doing what I like, I feel relaxed.
Do you have a ‘home from home’? If so, where is it?
I am a Londoner but my home-away-from-home is Zurich, Switzerland.
However, you can make home anywhere, even a hotel room. You have to be kind to yourself, I would say and spend time to think: what do I like at home? -replicate that wherever you are. If it’s a blanket – take it. Some might say: I’m not a child! But who cares! It’s For You. Do it, I say.
How do you create downtime Or home space when away?
I have my routines and rituals as I said and I like to find things that are new to the place but also resonate with me.
Once I was staying in a hostel and there was the tiniest gym across the street in Sydeny and I just went in and explained that I saw they offered yoga, that I didn’t want to sign up but that I was in town for three days and could I do the 6am class. (I’d like to point out at this point that I am not a gym-bunny, I just felt like doing yoga!) They agreed and created a special rate for me. I went to the class alone, knew no one and had a great time. I love yoga but this was honestly one of the best classes I’d been to. I expected everyone to be way more advanced but I was average for the class (my yoga is Not good!) I had some good mornings there and rewarded myself for being so outgoing, with breakfast at a nice café afterwards. The exercise, rising early and actually getting out there, does wonders for both the soul and confidence levels. I didn’t even have proper yoga gear with me…I just went for it!
Are there any places that you haven’t been that you’d like to go to?
Too many to mention…Bora Bora, The Seychelles, Costa Rica…
How do you cope with time difference? Any tips?
I try to get onto that time zone before I leave, gradually over a few days – pushing back a bedtime by an hour or so…staying up later. Sometimes eventually until I am getting up at lunchtime on a weekend. This way I am ready for the red eye and the 30 hour stretch to Australia! Jet lag can be avoided, however, after that journey, everyone is tired. I think the trick is even if you take the night flight out, and sleep on the plane and have a ‘normal day’ awake, then sleep again a bit, when you arrive it’s often the afternoon so my advice would be stay awake until it gets dark at least and then sleep.
Any plane tips?
Plane tips are: comfort, comfort, comfort. I would always fly with a reputable airline even if you’re in the cheap seats. 24 hours in, your self will thank yourself. I used to dread long haul until a friend once said to me: I like the long haul. When asked why they said because they could catch up on all of their favourite movies and not feel bad about relaxing for hours on end! This really made me rethink what I was being so moody about!
I also now look for the positives and always think how blessed I am to be able to see the world and fly over it. Many don’t have that opportunity. It should be cherished. I honestly don’t know why I was so reserved regarding this because I am fascinated by aviation anyway!
If you’re on a flight for the whole day and most of the night before a stop-over and then getting on the next plane, I would say this list is essential.
How do you stay in touch while away?
I stay in touch with friends and family by as many means possible. Some of my family don’t use Skype so I’ll Facetime them and all they need to do then is answer their phone, and we’ll video call. Whats App I think is universal for everyone these days anyway. It’s an all day, everyday kind of a thing. With one friend, we Skype because that works best for us. Not so close friends – Facebook messaging is always there to get back to people when you can. I think most people have friends all over the world these days or in a different country to them at least, so it’s not a big thing anymore about how to keep in touch.
Google hangouts is good for business and video conference calls.
Conversely, are there any places you’d never go back to, even if you were paid?
I don’t think I would go back to Jordan in the Middle East because areas close to there are more volatile now. Petra is beautiful though and the Dead Sea a real delight. Likewise, Egypt. The pyramids are magnificent and the Sahara really stunning. I think if anyone can. they should try to see those. Wonders of the world are on most traveller’s checklist.
I also don’t think I would go back to Invercargill in New Zealand. NZ is beautiful but I found this town, in particular, to be quite different from the rest of the country and the people were unfriendly. I know Mick Jagger had some choice words about the place years back too! However, I really enjoyed the rest of the country and travelled both islands extensively. Waitomo and the black water rafting was definitely a highlight.
Many places can be hard cities, New York is one but it offers that Big Apple vibe, so you feel you get something in return. It’s all about weighing it up. If you’re going to go out of your way to get somewhere, it should be worth it!
Most places I would or already have returned to. I find the people of Singapore some of the most well-mannered and kind in the world. My favourite airline is Singapore Airlines. Of the ‘top customer service’ generally, that I have received, I would say Sing’ Airlines beats all I’ve ever experienced, the world over.
I’d imagine managing your time important when it comes to working a hectic life and traveling around a lot. How do you manage yours?
There are many methods. If it’s late at night and something pops into my mind – I’ll quickly send myself an email from my phone so I can sleep knowing I won’t forget that. Otherwise I make lists, use my phone and have an app for this. I have a calendar which links from phone to desktop. If it’s short term – it can be as simple as setting an alarm on my phone. Different circumstances are applicable. If you’re on a flight you may not be able to get onto a network to use a software that you might in the office. Notes apps on phones are great for this. Managing events helps you to manage time. If you’re organised then time is allotted for what needs to be done when it needs to be done. If it’s chaos in different aspects or even in one area of your life, you won’t be able to manage your time. I would also say: be realistic about what you can get done in a day. It’s 24 little hours, as they say. Do what you can and don’t feel bad about the rest.
“Eat The Frog” is a great one. When starting in the morning, do the task you least want to do for the day. Once this is out of the way, you’ll feel lighter and more able to tackle any other tasks. I think time slips away from a person when there’s a dark cloud hanging over them.
Do you have any essentials that are a must for any business trip?
My mini laptop is fab. It fits into any bag, is lightweight and super handy for where ever I go. I would say a remote charger so you can charge up your phone if you need to. A classic black business jacket is always a good idea. Transform any outfit to formal by throwing the suit jacket on over the top. Even if at worst, you’re caught in jeans and a t-shirt, a jacket will sharpen that casual edge instantly.
Any tips packing wise?
Keep everything that’s “packed” clean. Sounds obvious but when moving from one location to another, the basics can be left to one side and cause chaos later. If you have nothing to wear, you’re going to be stuck. This links to time management again. If you’re on top of things then you won’t feel flustered. When travelling I like to ‘wash-after-wear’. Most small items can be hand washed with travel detergent that morning and dry while you’re out during the day or overnight and are therefore ready for the next day. Pack clean, even if you’re there for a few weeks. Keep the essentials fresh. They don’t need t be hung up in the wardrobe, smaller things can stay packed, clean, inside the suitcase.
I also always pack in dry sack camping bags. These go inside my backpack or suitcase. This applies, whether I’m on business or backpacking. They’re waterproof for one, lightweight and keep everything condensed and orderly. One for tops, once for smalls, one for ‘waiting to be washed’…etc and this also helps keep your clothes clean. No matter how good a packer you are when you pull everything out, no one then knows what is where. In a shared room there won’t be much space eg a hostel.
With the dry sacks, they’re also different colours so easy to know: trousers in the green one and so on. If something does spill in your luggage, your clothes are then protected.
I like to pack a toiletries bag with handles. If you’re in a nice hotel it’s fine but hostels or some motels may not offer the kind of bathroom you want to set your bag down in. The zip up, two half, with a handle variety can be hooked onto the back of a bathroom door. You can then unzip and see both sides, with everything inside that you need.
A quick dry towel is a great emergency must have. It folds up small and always acts as a backup towel. I also like to pack a small piece of cord to use as a laundry line to dry those small items on if hand washing. This can be tied to bunk beds in hostels or from a shower to shower rail in a bathroom. (Not all hotels have those pull out cord washing lines!)
All of this is not necessary for a weekend but if you’re away for months at a time and moving from place to place, you want small items that are practical and work for your everyday needs.
Any tips for devices and keeping things charged up…laptops or longer charge cables – any tips at all you have around this area?
A long-cable-phone charger is a must. Sometimes power points are on the other side of the room to your bed, annoying if that’s the only piece of furniture to sit on at the end of the day.
I would also take several adapters and an extension lead with multiple plug options. It doesn’t have to be huge but when you arrive and need to quickly charge more than one item it will be a god-send. Imagine needing to charge your phone, maybe your GoPro, your old phone with music on, plugging in a hairdryer or straightening iron…(and the list goes on). An extension lead will be your best friend. Take this over an extra top…tops you can wash. If you can’t charge all devices it’s going to be super annoying.
How do you relax when you work and travel?
Organise little treats for yourself. Even if you’re going back to your hotel room alone, find a good TV channel, save a snack for later or look forward to speaking to a loved one when you get ‘home’ that evening. Try to find the small things that you know make you happy and replicate what would bring you joy back home. You won’t have access to everything you usually do but substitutes often work just as well. I think feeling content, helps you to feel relaxed. Relaxing music, seeking out the hotel pool (if there is one), allotting time in the evening; if you have been out all day to unwind.
Is it the journey or the destination?
In life, I think it’s the journey but it could be both!
Getting what you want or being where you are going to is great but the journey that takes you there is sometimes more valuable. I talk about this in Plane Tips for Travel, in a fragment about the night sky over India. It’s all just life really. I don’t think one over the other is ever more precious. Trying to be present in the moment and enjoy every second of life generally I think is a goal for a lot of people. There isn’t much point in being on a long haul flight and being miserable for hours and hours only to then expect to be happy when you arrive. You may not. Being happy is deciding to be happy in that moment and if you’re not, change how you’re thinking about the situation, I would say!
Any advice for those with the travel bug who are struggling to balance their desire with their working life?
This could be a little bit like the above answer! You might be in a 9-5 that isn’t right for you. The only reason it’s not ‘right’ is because it’s not right for you. We’ve all had jobs we didn’t like and jobs we have. I think it’s about making good choices. Don’t take a job you hate. Why do that to yourself, you won’t be able to sustain it and will let yourself and the company down eventually. It’s not realistic. Be true to you.
They say just planning a trip can be as enjoyable for the psyche as actually taking one. So start planning!
Travelling and working is very different to travelling (backpacking) or working. Going away for the weekend is completely different to going on holiday. When you’re out of your home country for a year, everything changes, including your perspective. There will be great times to be had but also lows as well. You will always miss what you leave behind at some point.
If it’s a fast fix you’re after and you are London based then go away for a weekend! There are cheap flights every week. Europe is a short hop. There are more than 50 countries on your doorstep. Why stay in one place and feel glum, you’re not a tree, you do not have roots! There is no need to struggle to have balance, I would say, just design the life that you want and live it!