In 2017 100 days of my year included long distance traveling for work. In 2018 that number of days on the road filming, in countries as distant as the Philippines and Egypt amounted to 120 days. A 9-to-5 office shift is not ubiquitous; if you work in media, finance, or as a freelancer it is very likely that the standard eight-hour shifts don’t apply to you. On top of this, you may also be required to travel to attend meetings with clients and suppliers, trade events and other forms of face-to-face business that is just incompatible with desk-based work. Welcome to the world of those paid to travel for work. However, before you presume the glamour of it, think twice. You may have to drive to an airport at 3 AM or sit on the floor of a train station for hours because the staff has gone on strike. Add to it the time zone and weather differences and you start to picture the other side of an ‘adventurous’ life on the road.
On the other hand, there are many ways you can make any challenging situation much easier through preparation. Here are the top things I’ve learned while traveling for work in Europe and America for the past 10 years.
That’s right. Never underestimate what a difference having your favorite snack in hand will make when it comes to dealing with unexpected airport delays, terrestrial transportation hassles or other unplanned hindrances. In 2017 I was on a plane flying from Mexico to film in Honduras when it was diverted to a completely different city due to a massive earthquake. On top of having to endure several extra hours flying until the decision to divert was made, we also landed late at night, in a city with no shops or restaurants open. Luckily, I never go anywhere without my favorite chocolate bars and crisps.
Stay in a hotel, not Airbnb
I use accommodation sites such as Airbnb and VRBO a lot. I like to see how local people live; I like to stay in places that have a more informal vibe. Despite this, when it comes to traveling for work you really don’t want to be dealing with landlords or trying to figure out how to use the Wifi at 10 pm, right in the middle of preparing an important presentation for the early hours of the next day. Once, while filming in San Francisco, I stayed with my crew in a beautiful townhouse near downtown for a week. The house had spacious rooms and was conveniently located just around the corner from Whole Foods. However, when the internet stopped working, and the owner of the property was out of town, we didn’t have internet for most of our stay company providing the service wouldn’t deal with third parties reporting the issue.
A hotel would have handled it in a more professional, stress-free way because you are dealing with a business, not a family trying to make a bit of extra cash by putting their property online for short-term rental.
Arrive at the airport early
I used to work at home or at my office until the very last minute before jumping into a Uber to go to the airport, aiming to spend as little time as possible there. In my mind, I would work more productively in an environment that I am used to. However, doing so gives you an extra level of anxiety that you really don’t need. Nowadays I take my work to the airport with me and work from there. It is really no different from working from a café shop and it is a relief knowing that you won’t have to face traffic delays to get to the airport and risk missing a flight.
Keep it packed
Having a separate set of toiletries on hand just for trips isn’t a luxury or sign of laziness. It helps you avoid having to worry too much while backing for your next business trip. In fact, I have a carry-on piece of luggage ready at all times, with clothes, shoes, chargers, and toiletries just for work-related travels. It is an old habit from when I was working in TV and had to always be ready in case I had to travel to cover an important news story. News travels fast, and so do those ones working to make it.
Invest in a comfortable pair of shoes
Your feet hold all the weight of your body. And traveling for work is no catwalk. So, instead of using that beautiful pair of shoes which are extremely uncomfortable, favor something that will help you move freely and feel at ease. These shoes should also be simple to slip on and take off (keep airport security in mind) and be made of materials that won’t cause blisters if you have to wear them for long periods of time.
No matter where in the world you travel for work, at some point you will have a break.
Don’t waste this time ordering expensive tasteless room services or lurking in front of the TV watching bad shows. Go around the block, stretch your legs, visit a place reasonably close to where you are staying that can provide a change of scenery. Doing so will help you clear your thoughts and recharge for the next batch of meetings ahead. Remember the tip about bringing comfortable shoes? It will be helpful here, too, while exploring the city.
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