I remember my first business trip clearly, although it has taken place exactly a decade ago. It was late 2005 and we were heading for Singapore to deliver a project to the local Navy, and upon arrival I could not locate my luggage. What an annoying way to start my very first business trip abroad! Not only that I was tired after an excruciating trip ( 10 hours flight from Tel Aviv to Bangkok, a short 2 hours layover and then another 4 hours’ flight to Singapore) I knew I will not get much sleep that night and that the next day I will need cloths and other objects which were now lost. Lucky for me, this was Singapore- my luggage was located in exactly 5 minutes (plus many, many apologies ) and I was on my way. The trip was a great success- we deliver the system quickly and had 2 days off to enjoy shopping and sightseeing.
I did not occur to me until now, but almost all of my travels were like that- some anxiety, somewhat uncomfortable, but in the end successful and rewarding.
I did not stop there of course- over the next 10 years my various jobs took me to Australia, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, India, Greece, Romania, Germany, Czech republic, Poland, Italy, Ukraine, Switzerland, South Africa, France, the UK, US and Brazil. I’ve gone from no-status to Gold-status in multiple airlines and have tasted the sweet taste of business class food. I’ve flown with the worlds’ best and worse airlines, I’ve missed flights due to traffic blocks, storms and strikes, and slept in luxurious hotels as well as on cold concrete floors of the airport after a missed connecting flight (thank you for that, United !).
But what I’ve learnt seems to be universal “truths”, that I’m very glad to share with you here today:
- Preparation is everything- the better you are prepared, the more enjoyable the experience will be. If you know what you are to do professionally and travel –wise you are more likely to relax and enjoy (see https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/10/05/were-on-a-road-to-nowhere-travel-anxiety/)
- But no matter how prepared are you, things will screw up. Bad weather, aircraft malfunctions, customers who decided to bail in the last seconds are all realities of business travel. You can neither anticipate these nor you have any power to fix these. Accept the uncertainty, and enjoy whatever the road has to offer.
- The best travel companion is You- traveling with a group of colleagues can be fun, but also induces stress and tensions. But most times, you will travel alone. Learn how to pass the time and even enjoy it. If you are too bored- this is an excellent time to find new friends (for instance, during a trans-Atlantic flight after you’ve consumed all the books and movies but still can’t sleep
- It’s hard- yet rewarding. Seen to an outsider like a fantasy, business travel is more often than not a pain in the arse. Especially if you travel often to difficult locations, it can be grinding. Yet however difficult, it still has rewards nothing else can offer. Traveling in rural India is grueling, but you will taste nothing but original Indian food.
- And it’s the only real way to experience our magnificent world and get a sense of adventure. Stuck behind a desk, and the world turns into a mixture of Facebook posts and news articles.
- Your annual vacation to some cozy spot in the Mediterranean is fun yet unexciting. You will never see anything unusual going to a mall or sitting in a tourist bus. But traveling for business, even to fairly organized places will always offer some kind of adventure and a chance to try something new, which you probably wouldn’t dare trying if you were to visit the very same place with your significant other or family.
So, was it worth it? It sure was. I got to see and experience things I had never dreamt of (like escaping death by switching trains in India only to find the original train derailed and dozens dead), tasting exotic dishes in southern China and enjoying the chilly Ukrainian winter (minus 20 in February). Today I travel, albeit less often, but I’m always keen to board a plane which will take me to some place new, someplace I’ve never been to.