Who doesn’t love to see a new country, explore local food, meet new people and befriend a new city? Everyone does. But what if it is not a usual leisure travel but strictly about business meetings and conferences. How does one travel when work is of utmost priority and one is not able to wander around as much as one would like to? Well, if you are short of time, trust me your partner can definitely make the most of it. I always loved extending my work trips and in the pre-pandemic days, I never missed a chance to tag along my spouse on his corporate trips. Here, I have shared some pages from my consultant wife’s dairy where I talk about my trips to Oslo, Dubai, Johannesburg, Sweden and Maldives . I tagged along to all these places on his long and short-term assignments. In the last three years, I got to see a new city Vijayawada as I kept visiting him on and off. I never miss an opportunity to explore a new place.
Are you a Business Traveller or ‘Blesiure Traveller’?
There are some people who live a life out of suitcase as their job requires them to be on-the go, time and again. In the same league, there are others who travel domestic and worldwide to attend events, meetings, client projects, trainings, sessions, etc. These travellers are often required to travel to different places for months, weeks, days and sometimes, for less than twenty-four hours. Travelling for business makes you one ‘business traveller.’ I am married to a business consultant and his travels are so impromptu and all round the year, that they beat my blogging trips as well. (Pre-pandemic days)
Technically, it is tough to ‘follow any kind of itinerary’ during work-related trips but if you have a knack for travel, you can always extend it by a couple of days or fly one weekend before or after the meeting to add to your experiences. If you are really pressed for time, instead of running around the top attractions, just walk around the local market or indulge in an interesting local meal. Such moments help to gather more insights of a place and also save the travellers from the fear of missing out. Next time, if you let your personal leisure converge with your corporate trip, you could join a completely new bandwagon of ‘bleisure travellers.’ Curious about bleisure travel?
The last two years of pandemic have made us reflect on the memories of the past and also inspired us to make the best of what we have. These lessons will come in handy when normalcy will return and business travelling will regain its glorious days. One need not be in the mad rush to fly from one place to another or tick mark the top attractions but rather stay at one place and thrive in its beauty. Also, in future never give up on any opportunity of travelling and seeing the world.
Let us talk about things that one can do during business travels and here are five cities where I landed up unlike a regular traveller. All these trips were related to work but we made the best of whatever time we had in hand. Trust me, business travels can be a great chance to see the world differently and fall in love with new places.
A trip to Norway is every traveller’s dream and I really got lucky when I had a chance to join my husband in the last few weeks of his business trip. I managed ‘work from home’ and flew down to be with him. Our day jobs kept us busy but we never skipped our evening strolls and weekend outings. We literally explored the city on foot. Oslo was the first city where I fell in love with the whole idea of travel and had an urge to see the rest of the world. Due to our work commitments and dull winter season, we were not able to see as much as we would have liked to, but I have some great memories from the little things that we did. Not to forget, we also visited the gorgeous waterfront, Opera House, Royal Palace and the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Irrespective of the time constraints, I ensured to learn one new thing about the city, every day. Did I tell you that the design of the Oslo Opera House is unique and inspired by the Norwegian glaciers? Or, the popular Vikings Museum is one of its kind with three historic ships from the Vikings age? During our stay there, we also learnt that Norwegians love adventure sports and they are very particular of spending their weekends with their families in the mountains or fjords.
Honestly, Norway is jaw dropping gorgeous and Oslo doesn’t even compare with the other parts of the country but it’s a wonderful city and I loved my chance to be there. I also realised that rather than crowding popular spots, it was more fun to discover the not-so-popular facts about the city. I would often stroll around the cobbled streets of the Old Town and the colourful Øvre Holmegate. The city’s street art, Karl Johan Street and the open area around Aker Brygge were my favourite. This was my first trip when I experienced the great public transit systems of Europe and discovered for myself that I could manage it all on my own. Oslo Central Station always buzzed with energy. During other times, I would prefer to walk and take notes. There was so much to observe and write. Opera House used to be my favourite reading place. My short trips to Holmenkollen Ski Jump, Bygdøy, Oslofjord were equally exciting. So, if you ever get a chance to travel to Oslo, never miss that chance. I couldn’t go to see Northern Lights but I do not regret anything. Every moment spent there was beautiful.
It is the most popular emirate in the United Arab Emirates and it has proved to the world that it has a fetish for highest, largest and biggest. The city has seen a massive rise in business travellers in the last decade and today it happens to be the centre of many regional and global conferences. I have visited Dubai on five different occasions, out of which three were business trips. ( 2 my husband’s and 1 mine) While Dubai is usually associated with grandeur and superlative buildings, it has a humble and vulnerable side too. In my view, Old Dubai is the heart and soul of Dubai. During every visit, I would end up unravelling something new in Dubai’s old quarters and over a period of time, I found my peace around Al Shingdha and the Creek area. No trip to Dubai is complete without a ride on the dhow. I have always appreciated the bedazzled and progressive side of Dubai but I love the old and comfortable lanes of Al Bastakiya, the gold & spices souqs and Meena Bazar, more. If Burj Khalifa is unmissable, Dubai Museum and Coffee Museum are a must do too.
During business travels, one may not get a chance to plan a conventional itinerary but one definitely learns more about the local culture, food and people. I may have missed the touristy attractions like Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Garden and the hustle-bustle of Sheikh Zayed Road in the first few trips but I had picked on other experiences. Last but not the least, I would love to recommend the traditional Middle Eastern shopping, especially perfumes and ouds. One who really wishes to find out what Dubai used to be before its make-over, the historic quarter of Al Bastakiya is the place to be. I still miss the traditional souqs, taking a ride on old-style dhows, spending time in museums and strolling around Dubai creek.
When pur friends were winding up a project in Maldives, they sent me an invite to join them in the last leg of it. The gang was extending their corporate trip into personal trip and I had the privilege to be a part of it. I knew it was not going to be the usual run-off-the-mill trip but I was game. The traveller in me worked on my dates and flew down to rejoice in this slice of paradise. The thousand tiny islands and the crystal-clear water makes Maldives more than picture-perfect. While most of the travellers love to indulge in the luxurious resorts of the various private islands, I chose to live in company rented apartment in the upcoming youth island, Hulhumale and explored the capital Male and the nearby public islands on a low budget. I visited not one but six different islands- Hulhumale, Maafushi, Himafushi, Villingi, Gulhi, Male. On some days, I had official work to attend to but on other days, I would head over to one small island and just spend the day doing the local things. My idea was to see the local Maldivian life, eat local food, enjoy the marine ambiance, do fishing with the kids and just enjoy the sea and sun at my own pace. And I did exactly the same. I still remember spending a whole day at Gulhi doing nothing but reading a book, taking a dip and enjoying the vibes of the smallest island. It doesn’t even take fifteen minutes to take a round of the island but I totally loved it for its colourful houses, painted walls and friendly people. Enjoying the sun, indulging in water activities, savouring sea food and staying in luxurious hotels makes a Maldivian holiday but for me it was beyond that. I revelled in the local life and sunny vibes. I visited the fishing market, national museum and the Tsunami monument in Male. I also learned that Islam is the official religion of Maldives and the locals do not wear bikini or skimpy clothes on their local beaches. Choosing a hotel or resort can be overwhelming when each one has so much to offer but you can also choose to stay on the local islands. One need not stay in an overwater villa or travel with seaplanes to make the most of Maldives. I promise this outrageously beautiful country can be explored on a low budget too. And even a ten days trip is not very expensive on the local islands.
South Africa is gorgeous but when work takes you to Johannesburg and you are asked to live there for four months, you might wonder why not some other city? My spouse was there on his work trip and I joined him in the last month. Some of my friends quickly rushed to the conclusion that the city is unsafe. Even my first thoughts were full of doubts because I had read a lot about its notorious and violent reputation. But when I actually lived there for a while, I realized there were only few areas that had to be avoided in the wee hours, else there was little need for concern. Joburg or Jozi, the city of the famous Nelson Mandela, is a very vibrant city. Some of my most memorable road trips happened in Johannesburg. The food and farmers markets were one of the best in there. On three consecutive weekends, I visited the Apartheid Museum, the South African Museum of Military History and Constitution Hill. If you have more time, you must include these in your itinerary as well as also visit Soweto township and Hector Pieterson Museum.
Joburg is not the place where you can walk around and explore on foot but it is best seen with self-driven cars or taxis. The city is exploding with urban neighbourhood with new boutiques, cafes and a slew of skyscrapers. Apart from the popular Sandton area, new Maboneng (meaning “place of light”) district is coming up as an exciting place. And once you are in South Africa, you can never be away from wildlife. Don’t miss the chance to go on a game drive. Before travelling to Joburg, I was very apprehensive about the city but by the time I returned, it had become one valuable experience of my life.
During one summer, I had a chance to fly down to Sweden and I still remember it was hard for my wanderlust self to juggle between work meetings and city explorations. But in my short stint, I did manage to make the most of this lovely European city. The kind of traveller I am, I did not rush into too many things but did just what I loved doing. I read about the history and tried to find more about its architectural style. And here I must share about Stockholm City Hall (Stadshuset), the one which is said to be the last example of Sweden’s National Romantic style of architecture. The blue hall or the main hall inside the building is the one where the annual Nobel Prize distribution ceremony takes place.
The memories of the waterfront, urban delights and the Palace is still fresh in my mind. Vasa museum happens to be my favourite from Stockholm and I still remember the cobbled streets of Gamla Stan, the old town, and the gems of Swedish baroque architecture. “Some business trips can be lots of work but if you are in Stockholm, you really can’t let the trip be all about work. You have to sleep less and explore more.” – said my boss. During my time there, I learned how to make the most of business and personal travel. Stockholm is a very pleasant destination and it was fun to know more about its café culture, history and arts scene. Since summer days in Europe are long, cosy and beautiful, everyday I learned one new thing about the place. On the busy days, even a short stroll around the waterfront was extremely refreshing. Stockholm’s main business and government districts are close to the harbour area, which promises great panoramic views. Another very interesting thing about business trips is that you get to learn a lot from your local colleagues. They are the best people to know about some of the best after work bars and restaurants.
Whenever you start with your business travels, don’t forget to tag in some personal time. You can always reserve the weekend that precedes the business activity and tour the city and surroundings. If one of your partners or spouses is on a business trip, the other one can always join. Also, it is very important for business travellers to take a small break and escape from the pressures and stresses of the work days.