Having a job where you get to travel around the world on a regular basis may sound glamourous, but the reality is often quite different. We both work for an international conservation charity, and find ourselves jetting to places across the globe to meet with colleagues old and new. We love the change of scenery, it’s a great the opportunity to meet our partners face-to-face and see the impact of our work on the ground. But there can be another side to the busy travel schedule of a successful Wonder Woman.
An uncomfortable, lonely and sometimes even downright frustrating side. We believe that minimising our travel schedule is a must. Not only for our personal health and well-being, but also to save the planet in terms of reducing our carbon footprint. But there are times when travel is unavoidable, and nothing but face-to-face work will do.
We’ve both developed our own systems when flying long haul to far flung destinations. These are our own tried and tested rituals that help the trip go that little bit more smoothly. Here’s our top five tips for flying long haul.
1. Plan ahead and rest up before you go
I guess this goes without saying but, always plan ahead as far in advance as possible. Try to think through exactly what you will need and what you will do when you are away. This is not only in terms of logistics, but also in preparing for the purpose of the trip. Have you prepared (and practiced) any presentations you will be making? Do you have a participant list for the meeting or conference so you can plan who to target during the drinks reception? Do you know how to get to the drinks reception? Having all these details well in advance will help you to relax and rest up ahead of your trip. If you’re like me, you’ll want to have your favourite aircraft seat selected well ahead of time too.
2. Healthy meal at the airport
Get to the airport in plenty of time so you don’t have to rush. Airplane food can be pretty awful, and your body is not in the optimum state for digestion while hurtling above the planet at 30,000 feet. Find out which terminal you are flying from and check out the restaurant options before you arrive at the airport. Eating a healthy meal before you board will help you to relax, and will make you feel much better than the non-identifiable dish that they will be serving an hour into the flight. This also means you can get on with any work you had been planning without being disturbed (see also point 4).
3. Pack a small bag with all the essentials
I like to keep all my ‘airplane bits and bobs’ in one small bag which can fit in the seat pocket in front of me. This includes my own comfortable sleep mask, earphones, tissues, hand wipes and/or gel, lip balm, pen, and emergency medication (pain relief, travel sickness tablets etc.) just in case I need something quickly and I can’t access my bag in the overhead locker.
4. Plan things to do on the flight
When do we ever get 8 hours or more to ourselves (when we are not asleep that is, and maybe not even then!)? Set yourself some offline tasks, but plan for working only half the time of the flight. Spend the rest of the flight relaxing, watching a film, reading a book, or sleeping. Don’t try to pack in a day’s worth of work on the flight to ‘catch up’. Unless you have an uncompromised attention span, or have business class tickets, concentrating on work will be difficult after a few hours. Lay back and unplug for a while – the work will still be there when you land. :)
5. Connect with the experience
I have never been a big fan of airports and flying. It’s not the turbulence or the small seats, it’s the waiting and queueing which make the whole experience rather unpleasant. Check-in, security, boarding, passport control, baggage reclaim. There’s a general feeling of discontent in an airport as people are herded from one place to another. However, don’t think of yourself as just another face in the crowd. And don’t just stare at your smartphone while trying to block out what’s going on around you. This is an amazing opportunity to connect with the world, and the people, around you. Remember the only thing you can control is your own reactions to external situations. If you’re feeling frustrated, or bored, or fed-up, take a deep breath and have a look around you. You can change those feelings any time you want. Try to imagine other people’s stories and then find something in your life to be grateful for. Appreciate your gifts, and appreciate that everyone around you is in the same position that you are. Connect to them as fellow human beings on a journey (both literally and metaphorically) and you’ll find those frustrations disappearing.
These tips have been developed over thousands of miles of flights, both long and short haul. We hope they help you on your next trip. If you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share, head over to our Facebook or LinkedIn page, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you!
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We Are All Wonder Women is an international movement for female conservation professionals to be inspired, connected, and empowered to create an authentic, fulfilling and happy career.