How To Survive a Business Trip

Grethel hates flying. Still, we keep sending her on work trips to faraway lands – to help her. And it seems to be working. Here are a few of the lessons she’s learned on dealing with difficulties during business trips.

I’m (pretty much) a normal person with my own fears, flaws and insecurities. I do love my job, my family, my life at home, but sometimes I feel that I need to get away. I know that a lot of you feel the same way, but it isn’t that easy with me. Because once I’m away, I want to be back.

And once I’m back, I want to go away.

One part of my job includes meeting clients from all over the world. We travel from Estonia (yes, Estonia) and meet our clients in Australia, America and India. We love traveling, we love our users, and most of all, we love meeting them to see what they are up to – how they are using Toggl and what we can learn from them.

There are a lot of positive things about these trips, but in this post I’m mostly concentrating on the difficulties. Because you’ll learn more from them.

I love traveling. I hate flying.

Flying is one of my biggest fears. Before going to America, I couldn’t sleep properly for 2,5 months. I didn’t think about it all the time, but once I got to bed, that was all I could think of: getting in that scary, big, unreal seeming plane that will most likely fall out of the sky when I’m on it, and even if it doesn’t, the engine will break, a bird will fly into it or the wings will fall off. Maybe I could travel to America by car? Or by bus? I’m sure that some people do that. No?

No – I had to fly. No way out of it.

And here’s how to prepare yourself:

  • stop overthinking and accept the fact that you are not always in control
  • work out, especially right before the trip – this helps you to become mentally stronger
  • learn more about how planes work – did you know that flying is the safest way to travel?
  • find different things to do on the plane – reading, watching movies, crosswords, etc
  • ask your doctor for remedies (as a last resort), and you’ll finally see how it feels to fly like a normal person. This also helps you to realize how it’s all in your head.

I like the change of environment. I hate the jet lag.

I really like being somewhere else for a change. Different people, different streets, shops, houses and everything. It’s refreshing.

Until the jet lag hits you, hard. In your face… and body. But I overcome.

  • if the time change is more than 6-7 hours, try changing your sleeping schedule well before the trip. This makes it much easier and the change seems a lot smaller.
  • drink much more than you usually do. And no – not wine, or vodka. Drink plenty of plain, boring, clear water – that’s the only good fluid.
  • if the time change requires, don’t sleep on the plane. If opposite way, then do your best to fall asleep, even if it requires a glass of wine (not more).
  • try eating at the normal hours in a new time zone – this helps your body to get used to the change

At home I’m dying for a change. Being away makes me homesick.

I do hate this ugly, grey, windy, cold, rainy weather at home. I don’t like these grumpy, angry people who never stop… well, being angry. And I’m not really into the polar regions – I wake up when it’s dark and I go to sleep when it’s still dark. Standing in long queues after an even longer workday at the neighbourhood grocery store is also annoying.

But when the time comes and I finally go somewhere else, where the sky is blue, the grass is green and people are happy – guess what, I get homesick. I start to miss these beautiful rainy days – these cold raindrops fondling my cheeks. I miss my mom’s food, those very people that most of the time look angry, but actually are really warm in their hearts.

I just miss everything. But I had to deal with it. Like so:

  • first thing – I started keeping a journal. It’s a lot of fun reading it afterwards
  • keep in touch with your loved ones, but be careful – not too much
  • walk around, see some cool, new places and if possible, try something that you have never tried before
  • make your hotel look like home – take some photos, candles, watch tv and don’t keep your stuff in the luggage – put everything as it is at home (on table, desk and in a closet)

I Love walking around different places. I Hate getting lost.

I have never thought of myself as a good pathfinder. In a foreign country, I found out I was even worse. If I have to choose between two streets, I always choose the wrong one. If I have to choose the right way, I choose the other one. Looking for a specific house? No, let’s take the one on the other side of the street, or even better – let’s go to the house 3km away from the right one.

Luckily, I have allies:

  • Maps, maps, maps. Not just maps, but Google maps help you out with anything – finding the right street and finding out if you should get there by train, car or foot.
  • Ask people for help. I don’t have any experience with people who are not willing to help. Mostly, they are even willing to walk along with you even for a kilometer.
  • I always try to remember some particular houses by their particular features (weird windows, uncommon colours). This helps you recognise the place once you are back there.

Have an occasionally annoying 4-year old?

Go alone on a business trip, and you’ll (almost) never want to be away from your child.

I have a son. He’s the coolest kid in the world (and yes I know that every parent says that about their children). They also say that all parents say that, but theirs is still the coolest..anyway. At times, we also see and know that they don’t act as nice as we need/expect/want. These are the times, when we simply want to run away – as far as we could. From all the screaming, demanding, bad moods, and/or early puberty (at the age of 4). Once I’m at the plane and starting to take off, I feel that I should run off like in a romantic drama where a woman realizes that a man she has always loved will stay behind, and she’s not ready to leave him. Please, leave me out! I need to get back, I need to hug my son!

But no. No need to turn it into a drama. Because:

  • Separation is an important part of attachment – don’t forget that! To become closer, you need to get away at times.
  • Every day I ate one meal at the same time with my family. I used Skype for that and it was a lot of fun!
  • Stop feeling guilty. It’s your job, and it’s completely fine if you need to leave for that for few weeks. Sometimes you have to put yourself first, it’s completely okay.

At the end of the day, having the possibility to travel around the world is major perk. It’s a possibility that not many people have, and if you don’t use it just because of your fears, you’re missing out on life.

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”

As Dorothy Thompson put it.

If you have any other fears related to work or/and business trips, share them in the comments. Or even better – share your solutions!

By On February 20, 2015