If you’ve read my blog before you’d know that I put in a lot of flight hours. In the last year I have been in 5 continents and countless cities both for work and leisure. It’s a lifestyle that would leave most people exhausted and yearning for a quite…oh entire month on the couch to catch up on much-needed sleep and relaxation. But for people like me que tiene un culo inquieto and do not want let a lack of work-life balance get in the way of living, there are some great ways to manage to have it all, with a little bit of sacrifice. So this post is for all the international business travelers out there who need a bit of motivation.
One of the mistake I have seen many consultants on my teams make is checking their luggage. Just recently a co-worker lost his bag on a connecting flight in Istanbul and has little hope of recovering them anytime in the near future. Learning to live out of a carry on suitcase for 3 weeks does put a strain on your fashion choices, but packing the right things and a good use of the hotel laundry service will leave you less stressed and allow for freer movement. One hotel in Doha even mended a hole in a sweater I sent to the wash! You’ll learn to be a business backpacker in no time!
Use the amenities to the fullest
If you have the choice of selecting which hotel you will stay in try to focus on the amenities outside of the hotel room. Is there a pool? A good gym? How are the restaurants? Is there a business center? When the project begins we tend to get short on time and the importance we place on our health takes a backseat to the workload piling up. Having good facilities, that are open early and late in the hotel can make it easier to stick with a routine. If you don’t have great facilities take advantage of the empty space in your hotel room to go a short in room HIIT routine from a fitness app. I prefer Mammoth Hunters, but I am biased as they are good friends of mine. 🙂
Find local spots to do what you love
I’m an avid rock climber and the first thing that I do when getting assigned to a new project is to research the local climbing gym so that I can stay in shape. There are often interesting routes I would not see in my gym. You’ll be surprise what you can find in a new city and the friendly people you will meet. So on your free days make time for the things you would normally do at home. Whether it’s going to a movie, joining a running club for a few hours, or hitting the mall. If you miss it from home and you’re away for long make the most of your time to make it feel more like your normal routine. You won’t regret using your time off for something you love. Don’t feel pressured to be a tourist.
Learn to love your coworkers
One of my coworkers once remarked, “Aayesha, I have spent more time with you in the last 7 months that I have with my girlfriend.” And he wasn’t being facetious. You’re going to spend a lot of time with them over the month so getting along with your coworkers is key. Hey you never know, you might a real friend out of it!
Take advantage of the perks of the job
One thing that is always covered by the company is our meals. Taking advantage of the city you are in to spend on night a week trying a great fine dining restaurant. Most of the week you’re in a rush eating on the go, if you even get to eat at all. Nothing bring people together like a great meal. And it get’s you away from the tiring room service menu and hotel restaurants.
Ask the hotel for what you want to eat
For those who don’t live in hotels for long periods, the food options presented fit your needs without much alteration. For those of us who do, and who are picky, you may be surprise to know hotels are more than willing to accommodate special requests. You can ask for take away meals when you’re going to be on the field all day or even bring them something particular that you like to eat and ask them to prepare it for you (e.g. a special oatmeal, soy milk if they don’t carry it, etc.). Don’t be afraid to ask.
Pick-up something local
My personal favorite part of each travel is getting something to bring back to decorate my apartment. A souvenir from my journey to remind me of all of the wonderous places I have been to and invest something in supporting local artisans. To me it’s more personal than a photograph and adds something interesting to my apartment in Barcelona. I just picked up these two lanterns from a Souk Waqif in Doha. I’m excited by the purchase and I can’t wait to bring them home. This gives the trip special meaning for me, outside of work.
Enjoy the unnusual things you will do
I spend a lot of time meeting people I will never see again and watching them do their jobs. Spending 10 hours in the car with a soft drink salesman is often entertaining and enlightening. You learn about someone else situation and realize that you are far more fortunate. You realize that your lifestyle is extremely posh compared to the Kerala man who lives abroad in a labor camp and send money home to his family whom he sees once a year for a month.
Make the most of your time at home
You’ll be exhausted. You’ll want to stay in. But knowing you only have a short period of time at home requires using that time as meaningfully as you do when you are trying to fit in your normal routine while abroad. Plan ahead and get together with friends and family. You won’t regret this time spent together. And it will leave you with fond memories when you are far way. You won’t feel like you are missing out if you make sure to make time and plan events when you know you will be in town.
Use your idle time to stay in touch
When I’m waiting for breakfast in the morning, traveling in a taxi or waiting for a meeting I use my idle time to send at least one message to catch-up with friends and family. We are now a hyper-connected society and there is no limit to our ability to communicate while on the go. Even if you can’t find the time for a call a text can go a long way to keeping relationship intact and helping friendships flourish.
Constant travel isn’t for everyone and for most of us it isn’t for ever. I hope I have given you some ideas on how to manage this life style without compromising yours.