I am sitting in the middle seat of an empty row (great when you need to catch up on some sleep), and we are a few hours away from final destination: Dakar, Senegal.
Since July last year, my world has been turned upside down in ways I never thought possible. I exited two years of post-bachelor unemployment (forcing myself to confront my aggravated social anxiety) to join an agency where I am in the air for what feels like 3 weeks every month.
Though it has been exciting to discover everything business travel has taught me, oh boy has it been tricky and downright scary sometimes. It’s that fear of the unknown I suppose. I cannot tell you if it will ever leave me. But I don’t intend on wasting these travel opportunities by focusing on my fears.
So I have mapped out a way in which I could be better prepared for mission travel, therefore less stressed, and more likely to take in as much as I can from these travels.
If you are interested, and especially if you will be going on your first travel missions soon, I hope you stick around and enjoy the read.
Step 1: The pre-travel prep
In the week preceding your travels, take some time to research not only your final destination but also the countries in which you will be transiting. Make sure you have the travel and transit durations right (those can get so confusing, I mean is it just me?).
Check the weather, the currency used in these countries and the predominant culture/religion for acceptable dress codes. You may want to calculate how much money you will need for the time you are away and take the appropriate amount of money beforehand; carrying dollars is very often the most appropriate. If you are not carrying cash, check for available banks and ATMs where you will be landing.
Let me give you an illustration of what went wrong when I didn’t research my travel destinations. Last month, I embarked on a trip to Abidjan via Addis Ababa. I was so excited because after my mission I would be discovering Abidjan with some friends who have their parents there.
All I could think of was the heat of Côte d’Ivoire and I imagined myself lying on the beach, sunnies on and all. I didn’t bother to check the weather in Addis where I would be spending the night and let’s just say, it was a pretty cold and uncomfortable night.
The same goes with transit durations. I once confused an overnight layover for one that would only last a few hours. I encountered a lot of stress finding a hotel to spend the night in, and I thank the heavens I hadn’t given in to the temptation of spending all my remaining cash.
Step 2: Pack appropriately and as lightly as you can
This is where, till today, I binge watch “how to pack lightly” YouTube videos like they’re going out of style. Yesterday I think I hit the mark when an airport officer remarked: “Your suitcase is so light for a lady, you always feel the need to pack everything.”
Needless to say that as a compulsive over-packer, I felt great. In all seriousness, it is important not to pack too heavily. If you pack light, you lose fewer things and you move faster.
Packing light, however, doesn’t mean you leave the things you do need behind. Other than clothing, make sure you pack all professional material relating to your mission travel, and then you’re good to go!
Learn how to pack like a pro here!
Step 3: Keep your eyes on the prize
So you’ve made it to your destination. Now what? If you are traveling alone, contact your boss or supervisor and make sure they know you’ve arrived safely and are ready to get moving. This serves two purposes,
1. Someone from your organization will know where you are and can assist with any urgent queries.
2. By calling when you get to your destination you can find out as soon as possible what you need to do and how you can get ahead on certain tasks.
Mission travel is often very short and we can use all the time we have.How do you ace travelling for work when you have social anxiety? Read this! Click To Tweet
Step 4: Take care of yourself
Indeed, mission travel can be pretty fast pace. So remember to take care of yourself whenever you have the time. During travel, we often end up in surroundings we are not used to with people that may have completely different cultures than ours.
The change in scenery can be exhausting all on its own. So take some time out for you. Call your friends or a family member -yes, even if you’re only going to be away for 4 days- wake up a little earlier for some prayer or meditation time, or get to bed earlier if you can.
Step 5: Take in the travel and loosen up!
I recently read “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown from which a sentence struck out to me. I turned into an everyday prayer, and I am paraphrasing here, but it goes a little something like this; “let me have the courage to show up and let myself be seen”.
All this to say that you should expect that despite the stress of the travels, your colleagues are going to be a lot more relaxed, and it’s an opportunity to show your personality and get to know on a deeper level those with whom you work.Travelling for work is a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues on a deeper level Click To Tweet
You’re going to get some FOMO too, sometimes you’re going to get an entire afternoon to yourself after work to visit your surroundings and sometimes you’re going to touch down and be on the next available flight in a matter of hours. Embrace it all and do what is possible.
As I finish off this article, I reflect on a week in Dakar, in which I was nervous to mix business and pleasure (I have a bestie in Dakar and I knew it wasn’t going to be just business)! But a lot of the time, the best trips are those that are the most demanding, socially and professionally!
With these words, I will leave you. Until next time.