All of us travel. And for most us travel is something joyous, something fulfilling, something to look forward to. But can we say the same thing when we travel for work ? If you are not sure then read on..
I for one, used to hate traveling for work. I used to balk at every opportunity that demanded me to pack my bags and be off to a foreign land. Then slowly I realized that it was not really the journey that tired or irritated me but it was my attitude. I had this notion that I must feel uncomfortable – long flights in coach class, stale airport food, no “Indian Vegetarian” meals, jet lag for days on end and so on.
As time elapsed, it became clear that there was no escaping this reality of my corporate existence so I decided to make peace with the situation. It did not come in a day and I had to train my mind to focus more on the positive aspects of travel than the ones that bothered me. I now enjoy my business day out and travel for me is a chore no more but a great friend, philosopher and guide. I have learnt that what travel can teach us in few days and sometimes in a few hours, it may take a whole lifetime to learn, to imbibe. Let me list few of the lessons I have learnt from my journeys. I will start from the physical and move towards the meta physical.
1. Fear of the unknown – This is one of the most common impediments for anyone who wants to enjoy discovering new places and meeting new people. We are so used to our comfort zones that to step out is a challenge. Somehow our minds have been trained to the concept of “aliens” who are to be feared no matter how good or friendly they may turn out to be. We assume a lot of stuff and keep asking questions to which there can be no answers unless they actually happen. These are questions like – what will happen at the immigration? will I get a cab at the airport? will my baggage arrive safely? hope the hotel is good, I don’t even know the language and so on. I have figured out that the probability of everything working out just fine is quite high as things have been structured not to fail and even if they do there are mechanisms to take care of the eventuality. And just by the way, I am not the first traveler who arrived in a country. What ever happened to everyone else would happen to me as well as long as its not North Korea ! The joy comes when we decide to turn our anxiety into an adventure. That is what it makes it all so exciting. Isn’t it ?
2. Your body can endure much more than you can ever imagine – While this may be true for the mind it’s absolutely misleading for the body. One thing that all of us who are on the wrong side of 40 believe is that we are old now and our bodies are no more fit enough for 30 hour journeys. Not true at all. It’s all in the mind. Once you put your body to the endurance test you will realize that it has an amazing capacity to come back to its normal form in a short time. In fact if you practice Yoga or Meditation, Travel can be a very good time to relax. While on the plane you can perfect the Art of stillness, watch your breadth for hours, sit straight or practice Yoga postures while no one is looking. Once your meetings are done, you can go for long walks to explore the new environs, a different culture and even shop (something I never do willingly in India). I have walked for 15-20 Kms in a day on weekends and not felt tired at all ! No road is long enough if you can stop by to smell the flowers.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking newlandscapes,
but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust, French novelist
3. People everywhere are all the same – Trust me on this one. Folks in Japan & Saudi Arabia are the same as those in Europe and America. They have their quirks but apart from looking different they feel, think, communicate from the same level of human intellect and understanding. Once you start getting the hang of it you will actually start enjoying the differences. Through years of experience for example I can tell from just the way a person is speaking English from which part of the world she belongs to. I may be wrong sometimes but then it’s like a quiz in which my chances of winning far outweigh my chance of losing. When I meet someone from another part of the world I try to guess their origin and if I am wrong I promptly offer an apology in their native language and they are so pleased to know that I tried. As long as you know how to say “I cant speak xyz. English please”, you will be able to make friends. Cab drivers can be your best buddies in case you are looking for unobtrusive company. My phone has numbers of cab drivers from all parts of the world 😉
4.At the end of it there are rich rewards – No matter which airport you transit from the duty free stores have the best collection of Whiskey, Wines and Chocolates. I usually transit through either Dubai or Doha and both airports have a great selection to offer. And the price they are available when compared to India, you really don’t have to think much before you swipe your credit card. Now, some may argue if these qualify for the meta physical as promised earlier in the article but for me they do. Single Malts, Wines and Chocolates represent the finest that the world has to offer to the human mind and palate. All the culture that you soak in on your trips to foreign lands can be distilled and made part of your eternal being once you are back home as you sit quietly nursing your drink and nibbling on the coco from Ivory Coast that traveled to Belgium or Switzerland just for you.
After all, ours are not the only journeys that there are and some business traveler like me would have made it possible through his own share of exploration, discovery and adventure…