Advice for travelling or always being on the road…
As part of Fistral’s 21st anniversary year, we’ve asked the Directors to share their thoughts and experiences on a variety of business-related issues. In the fourth of the series, they give their advice for travelling (preparing and when on the road). Given all the travel that Fistral undertakes in the UK and abroad (training in 17 UK and European cities during 2012), who better to ask for advice on maintaining personal sanity and wellbeing when faced with days on planes, trains and automobiles; or hours waiting at the airport or railway station.
And it seems like they’ve got a lot to say on the subject…
“What advice can you give for travelling or always being on the road?”
Some recommendations based on experience and key things to be aware of are:
- Don’t create a very tight schedule
- Missing a connection can negate the whole point of the trip. Remember airports like Heathrow and Schiphol have long walk-ways, so make sure you wear clothes and carry a bag that you can run with if needs be. Never book the last flight of the day unless absolutely necessary (if it’s cancelled, then it means an overnight at the airport).
- Use technology for flights
- Download the airline app to your phone (especially if uses electronic boarding passes – genius idea), and always give your mobile number as airlines use this to make first contact if flights are cancelled.
- Have a checklist
- Write down what you regularly need in your work and personal bags when you travel: especially if it seems obvious or never changes. Include basics like passport, phone, wallet, usb, mobile, chargers, laptop, glasses, earphones, earplugs, lemsip, ibuprofen, imodium, antacid, throat lozenges, decongestants, antihistamines etc. Documents can be downloaded, but shops might be closed.
- Recognise it’s not glamorous
- Jet-setting, hotels and travel abroad sounds great, but you only see the insides of a hotel room or office – and one is much the same as the other. It’s very rarely that you will get time for sightseeing by the time you finish work; or have the energy. All-in-all you’d much rather be at home.
- Prepare for sleep when onsite
- Go to bed at a reasonable time, because it normally take longer to drop off – and you can be wakened during the night by other guests. Setup a sleep routine and practice this at home so that you can use it when away. There is nothing like your own bed and pillow, but you can give yourself ‘sleep triggers’ to help you drift off more quickly. E.g. Spray your pillow with a particular scent; listen to a relaxation track; chillout album, or radio station; use earplugs/eyemasks.
- Eat and drink well when onsite
- And that doesn’t mean steak and red wine… Undoubtedly you will put on weight during long spells of working away, as even with healthier options you can’t control the chef’s salad dressing or cooking method. But you do need to try, as apart from health and image, ‘good foods’ help keep you alert and mentally focused. Be careful about eating spicy foods the night before training or travelling…
- Exercise when onsite as well as at home
- This helps to keep you energised. Often you get physically and mentally lethargic during travelling, which is strange as technically you don’t ‘do’ much. Always pack your trainers (no not Fraser or Paul) so that you can get some exercise – in the gym, walking, running – before or after work when you reach your destination. It’s a good alternative to sitting all evening in the hotel room/lounge/bar/restaurant. Exercise apps can give you routes and track how you’re doing and let you share online where you’ve been: good for motivation.
- Remember – and remind yourself – why you are doing this
- Enjoy your work! If you are not enjoying it, why are you doing it? And if it’s your decision to travel (especially if it’s your business) then take some comfort from this. Look around you and guess how many others are that independent or are they travelling because someone else has ‘encouraged’ them to? There is always an alternative choice, and you can get another job or go back to a normal 9-5 if you don’t like it.
- Accept there are some things you just cannot control
- Often this is the most frustrating thing about travel: you need to rely on the weather, airlines, staff, connections, traffic, other drivers etc and there is lots of ‘wasted’ time. The only thing to do is try to relax or distract yourself (c.f. ‘Play Football Manager’).
- Be prepared for awkward communication with those back home
- Skype or Facetime is great way to keep in touch with family, despite time differences. They are especially good for little ones. And sometimes partners don’t want to hear about that great steak when they’ve been stuck in their normal routine back home: even if it’s the only thing you have to talk about. Equally, families, should try to remember that travellers never get into a routine, or sleep in their own bed, or get to make themselves a cup of tea or beans on toast: which would be more preferable to sitting in a hotel restaurant by yourself (c.f. ‘Recognise it’s not glamorous’).
- Use social media to meet with people you know
- Checking-in to facebook let’s you see if you are in the same place as people you know – some you haven’t seen for years. What’s the worst that could happen – an awkward cup of coffee followed by a ‘I must get back to prep for work tomorrow’. However don’t do this if you live alone or your home will be left empty…
- Play Football Manager…
- … or any equivalent … Download music, videos, podcasts, iPlayer, TVCatchup and e-books to your phone or laptop; especially good if you don’t need the internet to access them. A Kindle is great but doesn’t need to be separate from your phone as most smartphones have apps to read e-books now. Facebook and social media save boredom, but can also be addictive and hard to switch-off from when at home.
- Don’t get upset with others when travelling
- It does no good for you or those around you. OK, you may travel so often that you have a specific routine with regard to packing, checking-in, eating in airports, security, queueing. However some people are actually going on holiday or may not travel more than twice a year (nevermind a week) and so are genuinely excited/nervous/unsure what to do or where to go. If there are delays, try to thank goodness your are not at risk or involved in the accident that caused the problem; and remember it’s not the poor admin staff’s fault that a train is delayed or flight cancelled. And you can share positive and negative experiences using social media: often companies will respond if it’s via Twitter etc.
- Treat yourself once in a while
- But c.f. ‘Eat and Drink Well’. This includes treating yourself/making the best of being at home when you’re there. Even though you will be drained from travelling, you are working to live and not the other way round.
- And finally, don’t groan when someone suggests going away for the weekend or staying in a hotel as a treat
- c.f. ‘Recognise it’s not glamorous’. It might not be fun or a novelty for you, but it probably is for them. However do explain why it isn’t something you enjoy doing as much, or give them a link to this article, so that family start to understand: they won’t know otherwise.