Can Travelling For Business Be For Pleasure Too?

These FREQUENT FLYERS seem to think so …

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Do you remember a time before your mental hard drive filled up with well, life, where time was your own, where thoughts flowed through your head uninterrupted? No, neither do we. We all bemoan the disappearance of that time and drive ourselves mad trying to get it back. Do you download meditation apps and forget to use them or book a detoxifying spa trip with a girlfriend who too wants a “total switch-off”, only to stay up late drinking wine and talking about work and family until your head spins? Or are you like the woman who took herself on a silent hiking retreat, but said it did “more damage than good”. Feeling panic-stricken with disconnection, she hiked further than the fittest – searching like a dervish for a mountain with a phone signal. She returned fit as a fiddle but mentally exhausted. Cutting yourself off completely to recharge doesn’t work for everyone. Which is why, while some groan at the thought of travelling for work, others see it as an opportunity for downtime – or a reboot.

“After 20 years of business travel,” says a veteran of the advertising industry, “it never ceases to amaze me how much I learn on every trip. About the world, about myself. No matter how brutal the schedule is, I end up coming back more fired up than when I left. Business travel is a gift. It’s time to think and not just react for once. It’s purposeful. Inspiration is everywhere if you open your eyes.” An architect colleague says travelling is the best part of her job. “Every trip ends up bringing it’s own surprise. What I love most about travel is the distance it offers you. You rarely return the same as when you left. Something has always shifted somewhere. Your style, your ethos or even just your mood.”

The MD of a specialist management consultant firm who spends a week out of the country every month, mostly travelling to Paris and London, says “The best possible scenario is when I’m travelling for work so I’m in touch with the office but far enough away that most of the work, apart from work relating to my own clients, can go on without me – that’s when I can carve out some time, even an hour here and there, or an entire evening, if I’m not having dinner with my clients.” She uses this time to have a massage in the hotel’s spa before a room service supper. On other days, she has breakfast at a café, rather than the hotel, “so I can soak up the atmosphere of the city and feel connected to it, as I would have done when I was a student. The buzz of city life gives me energy I don’t feel at home.” For her, the change is as good as a rest but for others, the switch-off happens on the flight out, particularly if it’s long-haul.  

A marketing director for a luxury brand travels long-haul once a month. “I love it. I feel really lucky to have this time for myself, to reflect and reconnect. There’s a feeling of being back on top of the list for a short period, with no else but me to please, once work is over for the day. The best part for her is the flight: “No connection, no interruption, for twelve hours – when does that ever happen now? I feel totally relaxed putting my feet up in my pyjamas (yes, I always change on the flight) and having a glass of champagne.” 

“I too cherish the long-haul flight,” says a London-based corporate psychologist and executive coach. “After a day of hurtling through back-to-back meetings, the plane’s the place where I feel can switch off, feel totally removed, and actually concentrate on a movie.”

Joan Rolls, PR for high-end jewellers Van Cleef & Arpels, loves the train for the same reason. “Ah, the Eurostar! Same routine every time – outbound, quick switch from mother to businesswoman, prepping for the meeting in Paris and reading the FT. The return journey is about leaving it all behind and relaxing”.

Creative consultant and former fashion editor of Grazia magazine, Paula Reed zig-zags the world’s fashion capitals for work: “I find travelling alone creates great headspace. I’m usually going to places I have been many times before and can make my way there on autopilot. I get so much sorted out in my head and in my notebook!” She also believes in the balm of a hotel bed and bath. “The first time I went to a hotel alone after having my kids, I deliberately left all the towels on the bathroom floor. The buzz I got knowing someone else was clearing up after me was better than wine. I now look at young families in airport security with a rueful smile before skipping off to the executive lounge.”

And while hanging around in airports can seem like a drag to some, others take the opportunity to shop. It’s rare to have the time to browse in nice boutiques but you’re practically forced to when you find yourself airside with time on your hands. It’s no mystery why frequent fliers have Longchamp Pliage bags in several colours. Others love to pick up local coffee, charcuterie or a bottle of birthday bubbles. Handbag designer Rebecca Minkoff has even turned a flight delay into a chance to shop for supper. “I love the airports in Italy because you can pick up fresh cheese and pastas to take home.” Coming back refreshed by the cities you’ve visited and the things you have seen can bring benefits for those who stay at home. An interesting gift never hurts. Katie Stanton, vice president of global media at Twitter, has a ritual for including her family. “While I’m away, I Skype or Facetime with my family every evening and show them what the city I’m in looks like. And I never come home empty-handed.” 

This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this don’t miss our next issue, out Thursday May 4.

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