Making consulting life work

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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.

Travel Light

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!

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A year in review: Aug 2016 – present

It’s been quite some time since I made a full blog post. Life has been pretty exciting and there haven’t been too many free moments to actually recount everything. My wonderful friend and new mommy Liz sent me a message yesterday that inspired me to write this catch-up post which I’d do through pictures. So this ones for you Mrs Peek!!

August 2015: Vacations in Lyon and Paris with MBA friends
& London with my best friend and my cousin

September 2015: Enjoying Catalunya with a trip to Waikiki Beach (real name: Platja de la Mora), an almost girls weekend in Cadaques, and the Bunkers of Carmel

October 2015: Fist time bouldering outdoor in Albaracin (and solidifying the most amazing friendships) and a weekend in Lisbon before starting a project in the US

November 2015: Enjoying some weekend fun while working in New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Miami and LA.

And on the trip home my first time lead climbing outdoors in Mediona! (though I don’t have a picture of me!)

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December 2015: Weekend trip to Mexico City and my first (and last) ever NBA basketball game

January 2015: A magical disney wedding from which I had lost all picture. 😦

February 2016: A 4 day trip to Brazil ruined by work and phone being stole in a parade (notice no picts) and a much better weekend bouldering in San Joan de Vilatorada

March 2016: A work trip to Lugo where no one showed up for interviews and celebrating 1 year climbing at Sala de Escalada Magnesi!

April 2016: Bouldering competition in Targassone, France

May 2016: Climbing in Vallirana, kayaking in Mont Rebei, climbing in Tenerife

And  a work trip to Dubai to kick off a 4,5 month long project in the Gulf Region. Getting to see my best friend while she was also on a business trip to Dubai was the best part!

June 2016: Celebrating 31 as many times and in as many ways as possible in Barcelona and Lisbon!

As you can see it has been a jam packed year. Here’s to another amazing one with lots of adventure!

 

The next project…back to the USA

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I’m very excited to note that my next assignment is going to be to the US. I haven’t been home (New York City) since last December and this project will take me right up to Christmas. This is great news as I will be going to NY, LA, Miami and Dallas. All places that I have good friends and family. And all great cities to visit. I’ll get to be in warm weather for longer than usual, which will more than make up for the two months of summer missed in South Africa. And I won’t have to pay for a last-minute flight home for the holidays!

I’m going to plan out our trip and the field research well to get an opportunity to also travel in the weekends to see friends in San Fran, Austin & Houston (the majority of my time will be in Dallas). I really am pretty blessed to live in an amazing city (Barcelona) plus have the opportunity to travel all over the whole, getting paid well, learning a lot and being able to experience life in many new places. Though the US is not new to me, I haven’t been to Texas before, so it will be a new enriching experience and give me the much-needed time back home to reconnect with my old life. I’m stoked!

 

Petting Lion Cubs and Cheetahs in Jobug / Acariciando Leoncitos y Cheetahs en Joburg

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After my last projects in Serbia and Tanzania, where I had a very little time to enjoy the countries despite being there for long periods of time, I was expecting to not really get to see South Africa in the last three months. But, my project manager was a pleasant surprise and I have seen and done more than I could ever imagine! So I have a lot to share in the next few posts. And these are the reasons I love me job, no matter how demanding it can get.

Después de mis últimos proyectos en Serbia y Tanzania donde no tenía el tiempo para disfrutar los países a pesar de estado allí por mucho tiempo, mis expectativas estaban para no tiene tiempo para ver nada de Sudáfrica en las ultimas tres meses.  Pero, mí manager era una sorpresa muy agradable y he visto más que no me podría imaginar! Pues, tengo mucho de compartir contigo en los próximos posts. Y estas son las razones qué me encanta mi trabajo, a pesar de lo exigente que puede ser. 

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Our very first weekend, we went to the Lion & Rhino Park (not the dreaded Lion Park that’s been in the news of late) that was just 45 minutes outside of Sandton. After a bit of hijinks from right hand drive manual car we finally made it to our first adventure.  From the minute we entered the park there was a lot to see, from ostriches to kudus to zebras to the tiny meerkat. I was brought back to memories of my safari in Tanzania last October. The beautiful part of this park is that there are many paths through the winding dirt road where you can encounter animals roaming free, but also the opportunity to see more rare finds in the animal enclosures.

Nuestro primero finde fuimos al Parque de Liones y Rhinos (no el Parque de Liones que estaba en las noticias recientemente) que está justamente 45 minutos afuera de Sandton. Después de un poco de dificultades con el coche con volante a la derecha finalmente empezamos nuestro primera aventura. Desde el primer minuto que entramos en el parque hay mucho que ver, avestruces y kudus y zebra y el pequeñito suricata. Me recordó a las memorias de la safari en Tanzania el octubre pasado. La parte más bonita de este parque fue que hay caminos de tierra donde puedes encontrar animales andando liberado pero también hay la oportunidad de ver algunos más raros en los recintos.  

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Further in there was an area more like a petting zoo for children. But it was just as captivating for adults. My five person team (all 27 and over) can attest to this! The above pair was quite funny: the sheep and rhino who were completely inseparable. An unlikely paid, but not for one second did we see them further apart than this. It was nice to touch the rough leathery skin of the rhino. Something you can’t quite imagine for just seeing them from afar.

Un poco más adelante había un área más parecido que un zoológico de mascotas para niños. Pero estaba súper fascinador para adultos también. Mi equipo de 5 personas (en  todos tienen más de 27 años) puede confirmar este! La pareja arriba estaba muy divertido: una oveja y un rhino completamente inseparable! Una pareja inexplicable que no hemos visto más separados que en la foto. Era interesante a tocar el piel curtida del rhino. Algo que no podrías imaginar viéndolo de lejos. 

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By far our favorite part of the park was the animals we could pet. We were more excited than the children to get our turn in the pen of this 14-year-old cheetah. (Who we learned died a few weeks later. He was pretty old.) Hearing the soft purr get stronger as we pet him was not very different from a domestic cat. Though his fur was a bit more corse.

Nuestro parte favorita del parque fue los animales que podíamos acariciar. Nosotros estábamos más emocionados que los niños para nuestro turno en el recinto de un cheetah que tenía 14 años. (Enseñamos un par de semanas luego que se murió. El tenía muchos años para un cheetah.) Oyendo el suave ronroneo que se hacen más fuerte cuando acariciarlo no fue más diferente que acariciarlo un gato domestico. Aunque con pelaje más tosco. 

IMG_8203The lion cubs were absolutely amazing! Three little white babies with bright wide eyes. They were so soft, cuddly and playful, I could not imagine them growing into the ferocious beast they will become. It was hard to get us out of this pen. Such an amazing experience. In a few more months they would be too big to pet. Although we only had one free day that weekend this visit made for a fantastic first weekend in South Africa!

Los leoncito fueran absolutamente impresionante! Tres ñino blancos con ojos muy abiertos. Fueran súper suaves, cariñosos y juguetones. No me podría imaginar ellos creciendo entre bestias feroces. No queríamos salir del recinto. Una experiencia inolvidable. En un par de mese más serían demasiado grande y no podrías acariciarlos. Aunque teníamos solo un día libre, nosotros hemos disfrutado a tope! El primer finde fantástica en Sudáfrica! 

Becoming a Maruja

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Over the past 4 week I have slowly accepted that I am becoming a maruja, the castellano word for housewife (the non-rich kind) that has become oddly relevant vocabulary, albeit with no husband or children. Being unassigned after a jam back 2,5 months in Africa has been a bit to cope with, but I’m starting to get the sensation that I would enjoy this for a year or two when having children and a very established life. I have been using my free time to re-decorate my apartment (to the extent that I can in a fully furnished place), cleaning absolutely everything, and that Singer sewing machine above…I used that to make my very first pillow. Maruja. It does help that I have a good friend/intercambio buddy who is in the process of looking for a new job and free during the day like me. But she’s a real maruja with a family.

There's my pillow! Africa themed. Tanzi really rubbed off on me.

There’s my pillow! Africa themed. Tanzi really rubbed off on me.

It has become a great opportunity to focus on developing my life in Barcelona more (meeting new people, working on my language skills, learning new skills, taking classes, getting more fit, really refine my Spotify playlists), but also given me time to do some close travel to visit friends from the MBA who became very near and dear to me. Here are some shots of London where I went to visit Marilyn. I absolutely love the Christmas decorations everywhere! Covert Garden was particularly beautiful. I think Barcelona does Christmas lite (apart from the funny traditions), so it’s great to visit a place where you feel consumed by Christmas. It really gets you in the spirit.

IMG_6943These are Ben’s cookies. So fluffy and almost cake like. If you have never had these please stop by the next time you are in London. They were amazing. We had a hard time deciding between the buy 5 get 2 free or by 10 get 5 free. In the end we settled on less excess. The mulled wine made up for that though. 

IMG_6942 IMG_6944And Paris wasn’t half bad either. We had a very French time, over paying for coffee, getting rude waiters, eating lots of cheese, baguettes and pate by the Eiffel Tour, duck confit, amazing wine, loads of rain, Laduree…But the best part was getting to see these crazies. I miss having them around so much. Unfortunately, I’ll be in NY when they come back to visit Barna! Post-MBA real life responsibilities come before vacations. ::sigh:: Oh how life has changed in the last 7 months.

IMG_7033I’m getting in the holiday spirits now. My apartment decorating has extended to Christmas decorating. (Look at this little pink tree I got in London! Ridiculous! I love it!) I’m preparing for hosting a small holiday party next weekend.

IMG_7055Tomorrow morning I’m off early for an IKEA visit. Time to cozy up into my bed and crack open Neruda’s Cien Sonetos de Amor.

JD I miss you loads! This post is for you!!

Selous Game Reserve Safari

Now we couldn’t leave Tanzania without going on a safari. But I didn’t realize when the client booked it for us just how pijo it was going to be. It would have been great to do a more adventurous safari with camping and a bit more danger, but few times in my life would I have this opportunity. I did take a bunch of pictures (…ahem over 300) but I think video makes it easier to experience it with me.

We arrived on a Friday evening spent the rest of the day in a short game ride and went back to our fabulous hotel. Here are a few pics. I felt like I should be on my honeymoon in a place like this. Which made me think about coming back, but sad that I was there by myself.

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Each one of us had our own cabin with an amazing view of the river where at night we hear the hippos grunting. It was so serene with no cell service and so much breathtaking nature around I felt the weight of 36 days of straight working just melt away. The perks definitely make me forget the extent of the work that we had to do in a short period of time.

The next day was spent in a full day safari with a picnic lunch while some giraffes watched us from afar. Of course the most important part of the trip was the animals! So here are just a few of my favorite shots that are not captured in the video.

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Our last morning was spent in a river boat safari, mostly viewing hippos, crocs, and baboons. Not as exciting as the game ride, but definitely a great way to see more wildlife.

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Everyone needs to go on a safari once in their life!! I had such a good time in Tanzania! Let’s see what the next adventure brings.

Zanzibar

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I would love to tell you that Zanibar is an amazingly beautiful place, but truth is, I spent the whole time I was there (less meals and 2,5 hours) starting at a computer screen while sitting in front of the ocean. We decided to mix up our location one weekend and take the 20 minute flight to paradise, hoping to be finished early enough to enjoy one full day. As I have now learned, in consulting, no weekend day that starts with working ever ends early.

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Nonetheless, we did go to the number one (based on Trip Advisor) restaurant in Stone Town, Cafe at Emerson Spice. And it was well worth it. Sitting atop an old building, there no more than 10 small tables and extremely gorgeous views of the city (it’s a pity we didn’t arrive to see the sunset). The meal was exquisite, a tasting menu – which I really like because we got to taste many different things. Unfortunately my pictures did come out to well because it was a bit dark. The decor reminded me of being in Morocco, which made the meal even more memorable.

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The only other thing we had time for was a quick walk around Stone Town during the day, where we saw some arabic architecture, bought some souvenirs, had a quick lunch (which is very hard to do in Tanzi, 1 hour at minimum every time because it is all made fresh), and avoided a few hippies trying to tell us some maria (which I would have welcomed had I not been with coworkers!).

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Then it was back to Dar to continue working our asses off until the first presentation. Oh and I was pretty stoked I got to sit next to the pilot on the way back! Not a restful weekend, but still great to see Zanzibar.