Guest Post: Millie Walton is travel and arts journalist, and the Digital Editor of LUX Magazine. She was born in the English countryside, but spent much of her childhood in the mountains of Zimbabwe and considers Africa her second home. After 9 months travelling around Africa, India and South East Asia, she is currently based back in the UK while she works on her fiction writing.
As a travel journalist I spend a lot of my time in transit. Typically, it’s a two day round trip or if it’s long haul, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get three. It can be difficult to establish any kind of routine in that time. By the time you arrive, you feel sluggish from the flight, dehydrated and disorientated by a new time zone, the last thing you want to do is open your laptop and crack on with work.
The reality is though that we cannot afford to be unproductive. For me as a freelancer, it’s even more crucial as my salary isn’t an automatic monthly instalment, it’s how many hours I’m productive or how many articles I write. So I’ve had to work hard at mastering the art of business travelling. Here’s what I’ve learnt:
The key is rhythm
When you’re travelling for work, it’s important to try and stick to your daily rhythm or in other words, routine. It can be tricky when you have a long flight or a drastic change in time zone, but a lack of routine tends to pave the way for procrastination as we end up wasting time trying to work out what we should be doing next. The solution here is plan ahead and schedule your time so that if you are feeling confused you have a guideline to follow. I naturally resist rigid planning, but I do find it very helpful to list what I need to achieve that day, which for me, tends to include work, exercise, meditation practise, general life admin and sight-seeing.
It’s okay to ask for help
A few months ago I was on a press trip and was panicking to a colleague about trying to finalise some last minute travel plans for a new job. I was short for time and the travel required a visa and potentially a new passport. She asked me if I’d ever considered working with a virtual assistant. I had come across virtual assistants before, but I’d always thought it was an unnecessary extra expense. I was desperate so I signed up to a free trial with a company called AVirtual. They partnered me with a PA called Kate, who after a brief FaceTime call reassured me that she would have it all sorted by the end of the next day. And she did. I still work with Kate now and it’s made business travel so much easier. She organises my itineraries, books my flights and accommodation, even supplies me with a weather forecast so I know what to pack. She’s my stabilising force. It means that I have lots more time to actually get out and explore a destination too.
You need to exercise your body and mind
As a trained yoga teacher, meditation and yoga are both essential parts of my daily routine. When I’m travelling, I always take my yoga mat and have been known to downward dog in the boarding queue for a flight. For me, it’s an important way of staying balanced when I’m travelling. Whether it’s yoga, running, core exercises or YouTube fitness videos, exercise is crucial to feeling good and functioning at your best. It can be difficult if you’re in a small hotel room or you’re feeling exhausted from the flight, but try to find just a few minutes to stretch your body and centre your mind.
Eating well can be a challenge too when you’re constantly on the move so again it’s best to be prepared and take some snacks with you. I always have a bag of dried fruit and nuts in my bag and a re-fillable water bottle.
Exploration is an important part of grounding
Whilst it is important to keep on top of your work and maintain a routine, it’s also helpful (and fun) to allow your body to physically ground itself in a new destination. As a travel journalist, exploration is in the job description, but whatever you’re travelling for, give yourself time to observe your environment. Go for a wander, a run, a bike ride or even just stand on the balcony of your hotel for the room for ten minutes, breathe in the air, look around, listen. When you feel grounded in space, it’s easier for your mind to focus and think more clearly.
So is consistency
Depending on where you’re travelling to, how long for and who with, it can be quite a daunting and overwhelming experience especially if you’re worrying about your family or pets back home. I always travel with a picture of my partner in my wallet and my own teabags. It is partly because I can never find earl grey that tastes as good abroad, but also because bringing along these reminders of home, helps me to settle into my new environment and feel less far away.
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