The Road Involuntarily Travelled…(how to survive travelling for work)

Long security queues, overpriced food and resentfully buying a bottle of water because you can’t bring your own onto a plane. Airports truly are magical places.

Honestly I’ve always enjoyed flying. There are few things better to me than experiencing the anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve as Rach and I wait for a gate to be announced for our next adventure. It makes the inconveniences of airports minor, and forces fun to be had in trying on sunglasses, and talking too much to the guy giving out whiskey tasters (while you pretend that you will definitely be buying a bottle).

But, what if adventure didn’t lie ahead? What if the only thing to look forward to at the end of the various airport annoyances was a day in the office?

As we’ve mentioned, we don’t/can’t travel full-time. We work hard, save our pennies and look forward to any and every trip that we can take.

For me, Daniel, this has recently changed. I’ve always had to travel for my work. Usually this is just a few hours in the car each morning and evening, and the occasional overnight stay in a hotel that reminds me so strongly of Alan Partridge that I can’t help but spend the next couple of days having the last laugh.

Now, however, I am working with a customer based in Limerick and this means approximately 2 days a week on site, in Ireland, flying without adventure, only a laptop.

So here’s a quite run down of what is crap about travelling for work, and what you can do to make it a bit better.

I had always thought that travelling for work would be somewhat glamorous and fun. I’d meet new people, possibly fly business class and eat decadently on the company account. This isn’t the case.

Shannon is a very quiet airport so, even with all the trying on sunglasses and looking at whiskey that I can muster; there is not much to do in the airport aside from look at locally produced knitwear and answer emails.

“Surely you must get to see the city, soak up the culture and get to see the non-touristic side of the local culture?” I hear you say.

No. I see industrial office blocks, taxis and all too much of my colleagues faces.

Those more astute readers will be starting to see that, I don’t particularly like travelling for work. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my work and it can be fun to be in an office in a new place. You really do get to spot the nuanced differences between cultures and eating out on the company account can be fun. However, often you eat in the hotel restaurant as you’re tired from a long day and don’t fancy going out or are too far away from the town to explore different eateries. And, as a vegetarian, the menu becomes instantly more limited.

It isn’t all bad though. Like I said, it is interesting to see into another culture, even when it isn’t a million miles away from what you’re used to.

Eating out for work is annoying, without a car to make it into the local town/city to explore, you are fairly limited in terms of where you can go. However, start talking to the people you’re working with. Subtly drop in how bored you are of the hotel food and before you know it you’ll find someone willing to take you out after work, keen to show you their favourite curry house. Failing that, just be less lazy, find out what there is to do locally and, even if you can’t claim the taxi costs back from work, take a ride into the city and spend a short evening exploring a bit.

Exploration is the one thing that you miss out on when you travel with work. You’re often too busy, tired, or remotely located to really explore. But this doesn’t have to be the case!

When booking your flights, see if you can finish on a Friday but get a flight back on Saturday. I recently did this for a work trip to Holland and, although I had to pay my accommodation for the extra time I was there, it was worth it to see a bit more of Amsterdam.

If you’re doing this and time is short; prioritise. Pick the things that you really want to do in advance and make sure that you can fit it all in. With only a little extra time in Amsterdam I was able to see the Rijks Museum and the Van Gogh Museum, eat some stoop waffles and enjoy plenty of beer with colleagues.

Sign up to points schemes and live for your points. I regularly stay away for a night here and there in the UK so I have a preferred hotel chain that I use. I signed up with the points scheme and now, each work trip gets me a little closer to free nights away for our own adventures. It isn’t just saving money that can help fuel your wanderlust!

Points, points, points. Frequent flyer miles are also a fantastic thing to save up. Pick a points scheme that works for multiple airlines (in my case Avios), and always remember to collect the points when you fly. It may take a long time to get enough to take a free flight anywhere. However, I’m not going to complain if I get a few pounds off a short weekend away.

All these minor changes to the way that you view a work trip can help feed your end goal. Travel more, spend less. If you’re smart about the way that you travel with work you can make sure that you aren’t wasting a night away from your comfortable home and loved ones. Force yourself to get out, you may be tired but you’ll be so happy that you made yourself explore. Save those points and don’t resign yourself to routine. Make sure that you mix it up. Don’t waste an evening in a hotel room watching TV or answering emails, get to know your colleagues, head out, find somewhere great to eat. Get to know your destination off the beaten track.

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