I assume most of you don’t find it too stressful to travel for leisure? (well unless you suffer from severe flight fear) Nah, neither do I. Travelling for business however can be a different thing. Especially when travelling weekly.
Somehow the classic 9 to 5 work schedule doesn’t quite apply then. I’ve briefly touched on this during one of my very first blog posts ‘The glamour of travelling for a living’ and more recently in my ‘Diary of a one day trip’, documenting just how endless said travels can sometimes be. But this is not to say I don’t love it, because I do. But you have to be careful and look after yourself; otherwise this can grind you down quite quickly.
So if you find yourself stressing about frequent (or not so frequent) business trips, here my top tips on how to avoid stress when travelling on business.
How to deal with stress when travelling: Be organized
This might not be the same for everyone, but worst stress factor for me is uncertainty. So in order for me to be at ease when travelling, I need to get the basics sorted.
I ensure I have prepared best I can for my meeting and have printed all the plans and documents I need.
If I travel on my own, I make a list of all the addresses I need, i.e. dealerships, hotels, airports. If I am being picked up and chauffeured around, I ensure I send my itinerary to the relevant people in time, so they know when and where to collect me (and make sure I have their phone number with me, in case my flight is delayed or I can’t spot them at the airport).
I make sure I book my trains, flights, hotels well in advance, not only so I can get the best price, but also so I don’t have to stress about these details last minute. Nothing worse than realizing the evening before that you haven’t got a clue where to go once you land (or that you haven’t actually booked that cab yet to pick you up at 4am the next morning – been there, done that, believe me).
And lastly, I ensure I arrive at the airport early enough, so that I won’t miss my plane. Nothing worse than being rushed at the airport.
How to deal with stress when travelling: Switch off that laptop and have a coffee / glass of wine
When travelling on my own, it is easy to get completely consumed by work. With no one around to talk to at dinner or have a drink afterwards, going for a quick meal at the hotel restaurant and back to the hotel room seems very tempting and I do it all too often. And since there’s not much to do in a hotel room on your own, it’s a mix of watching telly with one eye whilst checking emails and writing memos for the rest of the evening. In a false sense of ‘making the most of my time’. But only because you are travelling for work doesn’t mean you owe your company your time 24/7 (and they don’t really expect you to). You are still entitled to some free time and leisure. So take a breather, switch off that laptop, leave your work phone in the room and sit in a nice café, watch people walk past (or heaven forbid, talk to some random strangers around you), have a glass of wine on a terrace with a view. I know I know… easier said than done. And sitting on your own can feel very awkward. But isn’t it better than being stuck in your hotel room on your own? And you’ll get used to it.
And whilst you are out there, also try this next tip:
How to deal with stress when travelling: Explore your surroundings
Nothing worse than visiting a town and not actually seeing anything. I’ve been to Salzburg several times for work, yet I have never actually seen Salzburg. I’ve seen the airport and the train station, I’ve driven through it several times, I even had meetings at a dealership in Salzburg. But actually seeing Salzburg town center? Walking the streets? Nope, not a single time. And Salzburg is just one example, this has happened several times.
If I can pick my own hotel, I try to find one that is reasonably central, so that I can go out for a walk and a quick sightseeing tour in the evening (and/or the next morning, depending on the further travel plans). And with a bit of thoughtful planning, you can make a work trip a memorable evening, like that one time we managed to visit the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.
If the hotel is too remote for sightseeing, just go for a walk. If you were stuck in meetings, cars and trains all day, stretching those legs is absolutely essential.
How to deal with stress when travelling: Go for a swim or a run
OK, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t run…ever. But I absolutely love swimming. So if there is the chance of a quick dip I’ll go for it. I often pack my swimsuit on the off chance of one of the hotels having a pool (I don’t always book my own hotels, so I don’t always know 100% where I will end up). But occasionally I might be in for a treat, like when I was booked into a really nice Spa hotel with pool, sauna and gym.
Doing some light exercise at the end of the day helps clear the head and keeps you balanced. It also helps even out all those snacks you had throughout the day (or is it just me that finds it very hard to eat a balanced diet when travelling?) and allows for that large glass of red wine afterwards.
Update: since first writing this article, I have actually started running. And have learned that going for an early morning run, is a perfect way to not only deal with stress, but also to see a city before all the tourists awake. Like Paris for example.
How to deal with stress when travelling: Avoid excessive alcohol
Especially when travelling in company, it is tempting to hit the hotel bar after a long day and have a couple of drinks. And don’t get me wrong; I don’t condemn that one bit. We’ve all been there… Happy hour on cocktails, too many G&Ts to count or hotel staff offering us to sell us the red wine by the bottle, so that we can relocate to the hotel lobby and they can finally close the restaurant for the night (whoops… only happened once, I promise. And we did refuse the offer and went to our rooms instead).
But whilst it is good fun that evening, it often ends in a restless night with tossing and turning and a rather rough morning after. Which isn’t ideal if the next day is as jam-packed with meetings as the previous.
So share a laugh and a giggle with the colleagues, but be a responsible adult at the same time, you’ll thank yourself the next morning.
How to deal with stress when travelling: Get enough sleep
Sounds obvious. If only it really was that easy. During travels my usual routine is out of the window. If I am working in the office, I more or less go to bed the same time and get up the same time every day. But travelling usually involves getting up really early the first day (like 4am early), making that first day rather long. Pair that with a late evening or ‘quickly checking my emails’ until midnight, and you will pay the price fairly soon.
Not all of this might work for you, but these tips work for me. And with almost weekly travels for the best part of six years now, I’d say I’ve done enough research on the topic to give you my two pennies worth.
Anything to add? What are your top tips to avoid stress?