Nov 19 2009
Penelope Trunk recently wrote about how to travel for business, with lots of really concrete practical tips. Her overarching theme is an important one: when traveling for business, you are doing your job. You are not having fun. You are working – usually on one big, important thing that is meaningful both for the company and for your career.
When I travel for work, I make a point to live my regular life and maintain order, routine and normalcy. You should be as routine as possible, too. In some ways, it’s even easier to be disciplined when you are traveling about making time for things that you know you should be doing. Like working out. It’s much easier to work out when you’re traveling than you can at home. The gym is closer. The equipment is newer and nicer.
And, since working out helps you focus, improves your mood, and calms you, you will be able to do better at the thing you are traveling to do: that big presentation, big pitch, or big job interview.
However, when you travel for leisure, you want to make sure that you break your routines, do something new, try out new activities, and generally throw caution to the wind. Vacations are your chance to shake things up because breaking routines is what causes us to see things in a new way, be inspired, and recharge.
The worst thing you can do with that opportunity is follow your same routine. Imagine if you were in Aruba, and you got up early, putzed around on the computer, had lunch, did a little reading, watched some TV, had dinner and went to bed. You would be either really lame or 70 years old.
Breaking out of your routine is what makes a vacation memorable. It allows serendipity to give you a sense of wonder; it shows you how small and how big the world is; it gives you the chance for chance to play a part in your life. These are good things.
As an aide, there is one exception to leisure travel and routines – when you’re doing a big climb/hike/walkabout/safari in a new part of the world. In this case, routine is critical. But, in this case, the reason for the trip is more similar to work than leisure anyway because you are going to accomplish something, not just ‘get away’.
The problem is when the business and leisure travel worlds collide. And that always happens on the airplane. You are on a work trip, and end up sitting next to someone who is on a vacation. They are excited to engage with complete strangers (they are breaking your routine!). You have to finish the Powerpoint deck that you’re presenting when you land (working regular hours – even on planes – is a good way to maintain routine).
There is only one way to handle this, and you Midwesterners are not going to like it. You have to be rude to the vacationer. You have to let them know once and quickly that you’re not traveling for the same reasons they are, and you have other, more important priorities. Like ripping off a bandaid. Look at them with a tightly pulled smile, a furrowed brow, and use this script: “I’m sure that you’re very interesting, but if my work isn’t perfect by the time we land, i may lose my job, so I can’t really talk to you.”