I typically think two things when my employers advise me that I’m being sent on a business trip abroad, each in rapid succession.
My first thought: “Yes! I’m going travelling!”
My second: “Wait. I have to work.”
Over time, I’ve discovered some ways to balance the work side of a work trip while still enjoying the travel side.
Do Plenty of (Work) Prep. Prior to Leaving
There’s nothing worse than finishing a long day of meetings in a foreign country only to return to your hotel room, order room service for a rushed dinner and start prepping for the next day’s meetings.
Wherever possible, do whatever work or meeting prep you can before you leave. This will free up your evenings, allowing you to enjoy the country as much as possible.
Do Some Research on Your Destination
Preparing for a work trip can be time consuming, but it’s worth taking a couple of hours to read up on your destination city or country before you leave, too.
Check Google Maps for any sights, museums, galleries or good restaurants close to your hotel. Read a couple of blogs on the top tourist attractions. Chat with any work colleagues that may have visited your destination in the past.
If you’ve got limited time, it’s helpful to have a handful of ideas for things to visit or places to eat. That way, you can make the most of your precious time in the evenings.
Be Open to Meeting New People – Not Just in a Professional Context
Sightseeing is just one part of the story. Often, the most rewarding and unique part of a trip comes from interacting with locals.
Business is business, and though you’ll get a taste of the local culture through your business meetings, you can learn a lot more through interactions with other people you meet throughout the day.
Try to make the most of taxi journeys between meetings by engaging with the taxi driver, upgrade a coffee break by chatting to the barista or waiter, or ask locals for directions to the next office instead of solely relying on Google maps.
Add on a Few Days’ Holiday at the End
Perhaps the most obvious piece of advice here. If you can afford a few extra days once your work is wrapped up, do it.
If you’ve been sent to far-flung lands this is even more relevant. Don’t waste a free trip to another continent; tack on at least a few extra days to enjoy your current city, or take a coach/train/flight to another part of the country or continent.
Even if your work trip has taken you somewhere closer to home, it’s always good to reward yourself with a few free days at the end. Depending on the nature of your work, getting to know the local culture may prove beneficial for you work project too. (Just in case you needed further justification!)
Arrive a Day Early
If you can’t take a short holiday after the meeting, it is at least worth arriving a day (or more!) early. If nothing else, you need some time to acclimatise to the time zone and weather, especially if you’re travelling to another continent.
This also gives you some time to familiarise yourself with the town or city you’ve arrived in, making you feel less nervous about the meetings the next day.
Depending on the length of your flight and your arrival time, you should be able to take a stroll around the neighbourhood and grab a coffee or some food at a local establishment.
If you’ve done plenty of work prep and research on your destination, you may also have time for a spot of sightseeing. Give yourself a couple of hours to check out a highly recommended museum or gallery, for example.
If you’ve got time, joining a free walking tour is a great opportunity to acquaint yourself with the place, take in some sights and – potentially – meet some new people.
This is the final piece of advice I will leave you with. Shit goes wrong when you’re travelling sometimes, either for business or leisure. When it happens during a business trip, it can be even more stressful: you get sick, you get lost, you arrive late for a meeting because the traffic’s horrible.
Business trips are a great opportunity to discover a new place, but they can also be stressful experiences. Try to think positively, smile and be open to new experiences.
Travelling abroad is always an experience; whether that’s a good, bad or amazing experience is determined by a number of factors beyond your influence. Taking the time to do some prep, some research, adding in some extra time for yourself, and – above all – staying positive, can make the experience an unforgettable one for all the right reasons.