Business is business and leisure, leisure and the twain shall never meet. Right? Wrong! Learn from Anuraag the art of Bleisure!
A chance comment by a cousin, who I suspect envied my frequent business traveler status, set me thinking. “So brother you travel so much for business, how many countries have you seen?,” he asked. The question set of a train of thoughts that made me reflect. Are my travels really about the places I have visited or places I have seen and experienced?
Over the last 20 years I have traveled both for business and leisure. The leisure travels, till recently, were typically 5 Night-6 Day trips (or some such variation) that crammed sightseeing, eating, museums and all my family and I could pack of a country in that one visit. The travel drill included coming back, with a camera full of pictures that you uploaded on facebook to tell the world how much fun you had. (Hang on to this thought, I will come back with another post on this!)
Business Travel =Breakfast-Meeting-Lunch-Meeting-Dinner-Sleep
Traveling for business, in contrast pans out like this. Take a red eye flight to the destination, travel to a hotel, check-in, shower, dash to the local office. Spend eight straight hours in meetings, customer visits and discussions. Come back to the hotel for dinner and sleep. Over the next few days it is the same drill- breakfast, office, hotel, dinner, sleep….. repeat…. Sometimes a few dinners at some known restaurants get thrown in. By Friday one wants to get home to their own bed. While you do get a stamp on your passport saying you visited an exotic country, but what did you see or experience?
My business travel life had been pretty much this till my cousin’s question made me reflect and change the way I traveled for work.
Here I share some of the tips that transformed my travels from a Business travel to a “Bleisure” travel. Bleisure is the latest travel lexicon I came across and it fits perfectly in this context.
Let me begin with the biggest hurdle that stops us from mixing leisure with business, specially in our travels. Most of us wear the skin of ‘Go-getter’ ambitious executive. Telling the boss that you want time-out for leisure can be difficult. You can already imagine that raised eye brow! Well the good news is that it may not be as bad as you think. More often than not it will be encouraged. Any boss understands how important it is that the star player in his team does not burn himself out. When you ask your local team for tips to places, cuisine and cultures, you get them on your side. They will respect you for wanting to explore and experience their country. Next time you gel with them better.
Trip Tip: Be ethical. Separate business expenses from leisure.
Where is the time?
Arghh! The time crunch! Try my mantra. Surprisingly it works! Work first. Leisure later is the simple thumb rule I follow. Build up a slack in your agenda at the later part of your travel week. Front load the agenda so that you can get most business off the charts early in the week. This will leave you guilt free time for a more relaxed agenda in the later part of the week. Add a weekend to the travel. The cost of the flight tickets is more expensive than an additional day stay in a country. Tickets have already been paid for so go ahead and make that small additional investment. For some exotic countries it may be worth taking the following week off. I still regret not visiting Samarkand and Bukhara during my Uzbekistan trip.
Most times we end up staying in a standard business hotel during our travel with the same cookie cutter services across the world. Opt for a local stay. I find Airbnb homestays to be the most fascinating way to connect with the locals.
Trip tip: Talk to your hosts and you will see a place like no one has. I have been lucky to get great tips on exotic local attractions from some of my Airbnb hosts.
Connect with your friends & Family
In today’s global world we have our friends and family spread across the globe. Why not connect with them? Invite them over or go over if it suits you both. But make that effort. In worst case it may not work out, but at least you would have made that connect and caught up on the phone.
Drive, ride or use public transport
There is no better way to understand a city or a country than using a slow transport.
Sitting on a backseat of a taxi is the worst way to understand a city. In these days of google maps and Indian driving licence getting acceptance in most countries for short stay, it is a great and cheap way to see the city.
Trip Tip: City on a cycle is an absolutely wonderful way to mix exercise and sight-seeing and exploring the quaint by-lanes.
Build a curio collection at your home
It is a fine way of remembrance. My sister asks of me a fridge magnet from every destination I visit. Her refrigerator door says a story of my travel. Thanks sis!
Finally and most importantly be safe. Understand from your local hosts which parts of the city should not be visited after dark and what local precautions needed. Every night district is not as user friendly as in Amsterdam. Having said that, I know I would have missed the Shilin Night Market in Taipei if I were afraid of dark. Exercise your good sense and judgement.
Trip Tip: Not all dark places are bad and not all bad places are dark.
Some people are lucky to travel far and wide for work. Others crave for it. In the days of virtual meetings, video conferencing and cost cutting, who knows when this privilege may come to an end. So make the most of your travels. Seal a multi-million deal with you customers and handshake your local host and celebrate a new friend in a distant country. Start enjoying that business travel and add experience to the passport not just visa stamps.
Travel for pleasure is another story for another day…..
Anuraag mentors the GoMissing team on growth, strategy and success. Anuraag’s experience includes decades in corporate world spanning services, operations, strategy. Having held significant global roles, he has unique insights, a worldview and decades of international experience behind him. A widely travelled senior industry leader, Anuraag combines his corporate ambitions with his passion for running, cycling, skiing and love for outdoors.
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