This week, I traveled to New York and Dubai. It was a whirlwind trip with most of my time spent in the air.
As I was waiting for a taxi outside the Movenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, I saw someone I had worked with in England who I hadn’t seen in six years.
It was one of those times when you know a person’s face but you don’t instantly make the connection because he or she is out of context. Keith was standing in front of a massive marble entryway that was 5,500 kilometres away from where we had worked together. Definitely out of context.
Seconds later we both made the connection and said hello. We laughed at the coincidence of seeing each other in Dubai after so long. What were the chances? We caught up on work and family and agreed to catch up when we got back to our respective homes.
This isn’t the first time I have seen a former colleague or friend in a different location. When I tried to recall other examples I realized it has happens more often than I would have thought.
They have all been good experiences that have gone by too quickly. Invariably, memories of the time I knew the person flood my mind. These scenes become distractions to our conversation and before I know it we have said good-bye. Typically, I think of a question I would have liked to ask if I had been prepared for the our meeting.
I have decided that I will be prepared for the next time this happens. I will:
- Ask them how they are doing – both personally and professionally
- Share how I am doing
- Update them on mutual acquaintances
- Ask if there is anything I can do to help them
- Ensure we are connected through LinkedIn
- Honour what I say I will do quickly
I have been thinking of my conversation with Keith since it happened. I am definitely sending him a note this weekend.
On Sunday, I am beginning a “world tour” to help launch a big global change. Over the next two months, I will visit New York, Dubai, Buenos Aires, Dubai again, Miami, New Jersey and Singapore.
I will be on planes a lot. One of my small pleasures will be reading Air Canada’s monthly En Route Magazine. It’s a lifestyle magazine that is both interesting and and educational.
My favourite article is called In My Bag where frequent flyers are asked what they carry in their luggage. I thought it would be fun to share what I carry. Here is what I am packing in my carry-on luggage.
I am ready for adventure!
My flight from Zurich to Munich was on time, which was a good start to journey home to Toronto. It has been a year since I have traveled outside of North America and a few since I did so almost weekly.
The rituals of business travel came back to me faster than I thought, from packing efficiently to researching local transit and store schedules. I even remembered to take melatonin pills on the overnight flight to regulate my sleep cycle and minimize jet lag. I was back in the business traveler zone.
What I had forgotten were the many benefits of international travel, which help counterbalance the losses of leaving your family. They are often unexpected, exciting and inspiring. Here are the ones that I noticed this week:
- Experience a new culture — day-to-day differences in culture are fascinating. I feel like pinching myself every time I am abroad
- Increase your knowledge — reading local magazines and newspapers provide glimpses of what is important
- Broaden your perspectives — talking with people about their lives expands your frame of reference and makes you more tolerant of different realities
- See old friends — this trip I saw great people who I had worked with many years ago The highlight was being invited out to dinner by an old friend and his wife (a new friend)
- Practice your manners — a test of character, especially when things go wrong and you don’t speak the local language
- Take time for reflection — the best time to reflect is when you are in a new environment, without distraction of your regular commitments and schedule
My second flight of the day, from Munich to Toronto, is also posted as being on time. It looks like I will return home without incident, tired and motivated. I don’t want to forget my new experiences so I can make the most of my business travel.
Yesterday, I boarded my first business flight in fourteen months as I started an exciting consulting assignment in the U.S.
It took seconds for me to click into travel mode–packing efficiently, setting multiple alarms for 4 a.m., navigating airport security–and feel confidence gained through years of experience. It was like watching a movie you had seen before: there is comfort in knowing the actors, scenes, and ending.
I had forgotten about the perks that come with travel loyalty programs — free breakfast, free magazines (Art News, Cottage Life – the next best thing to owning one, Flying – for may dad), boarding first, and the occasional upgrade. I know these trinkets are momentary amusements that come with the price of being away from home, but they are fun.
The business travel industry works hard to make customers feel special. This is how I felt when the driver who drove me to the airport said, “I picked you up a couple of times last year and guessed you had stopped travelling.” I told him about my book and he seemed genuinely interested. This was the best perk of all.