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Business: the reality of international travel.

In the past 365 days, I have:

  • Flown 67,996 miles
  • Been on 34 flights
  • Entered 11 countries

The majority of my travel posts have been biased towards the perks of travel. Seems great, right, being able to see the world? Yes and no.

In this post, I’d like to provide more transparency and reveal the everyday reality of being an international businessperson.

Past all the glamour, traveling is a lot of:

  • Airports
  • Hotels
  • Cars
  • Conference Rooms

1) Airports

It’s lovely seeing diverse airport layouts and architecture. However, in the end it’s comes down to designer shopping, bars, and restaurants.

There is also a constant worry about delayed flights or missing luggage. I’ve experienced both. Delayed flights means landing later, which often means less sleep and feeling less well-rested the next day. Waiting in baggage claim for checked bags always carries a hint of nervousness. The feeling persists until the baggage is in your hands.

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2) Hotels

There is definitely a draw for the aesthetics and ambiance of grandeur four- and five-star hotels. Looking past the high ceilings, incandescent lighting, and well-dressed hotel service-people with big smiles, it’s the same generic feel. I’ve grown to appreciate the local hotels with ceilings less than 20 feet high, and hosts that speak limited English.

In the end, hotels are meant for business and R&R. I sleep equally well in a king size bed versus a twin in a hostel. When not visiting clients or traveling, I spend the day in the lobbies, restaurants, or in my room doing work: different DNS, different country, but the same laptop and work.

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3) Cars

Whether it’s getting picked up by clients, hailing public transportation, or driving a rental, a significant amount of time abroad is spent in cars en route to business.

In the first two days of entering a new country, my eyes are glued out the window. What types of vehicles are people driving? How different are these vehicles between countries (e.g. Tuk Tuks are very different in India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand). Infrastructure and layout of the city? Weather and overall feel?

After that, it’s simply mind on the meeting.

And the traffic. How accurate are traffic projections? Can I make it on time leaving the hotel one, two hours beforehand? I’ve been historically late to one meeting from underestimating traffic. Being 25 minutes late, sitting helpless in gridlock, and receiving a call from the inquiring client is a very haunting feeling.

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4) Conference Rooms

Conference rooms share many similarities to airports. Each has a unique look but is fundamentally the same when stripped bare-bone. Look past the technology and suits, the purpose is to meet, discuss, and close the day.

What’s the best way to begin? What’s the agenda today? Who are the stakeholders, contents of the presentation, and names and roles of all the participants?

Constant splinters in the back of my mind include avoiding or bypassing potential technical difficulties, adjusting prose based on different cultures, and being able to complement all personalities while remaining patient and avoiding clashes.

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Lastly…

Let’s not forget the flights. That’s a lot of time spent up in the air.

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Sometimes the views are nice doe, dem clouds doe.

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