As I sprinted through the airport, I could feel a demoralizing trickle of sweat cascading down my spine. I had just lost the battle to look composed. Now my armpits, and likely chest, were already tinted a much darker shade of blue than Ermeneglido Zegna had originally wanted my shirt to be. So if I actually ended up being on time, when I gave my presentation, I’d look like a nervous wreck. I was a nine hour flight from home and about to change my life.
That’s how I remember my first navigation through the Geneva Airport on my way to the International Airport Transportation Association (IATA) to help them with a new standard for tracking luggage using radio frequency identification (RFID). It was a Friday. On Monday I had a meeting in Milan with the executives who ran Malpensa Airport to talk about tracking luggage using RFID. The three-hour drive between Geneva and Milan was dissected by the world’s most extreme ski region – Chamonix. I was "playing over" there until Monday. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
Combining work travel with an adventure is one of the best ways to maintain work-life balance, not get burnt out by travel, and see places you might normally not be able to afford.
As a CEO, I encourage people to book their travel around a weekend for just those reasons: to make travel fun. Face it, you see your friends, family and loved ones all the time – do them a favor and make yourself more interesting by coming back from a work trip with the tale of a great adventure, rather than bitching about a rubbery chicken dinner and the inside of a hotel conference room.
In my case after that weekend in Chamonix, I came back convinced I found the location of my dreams and a goal to spend as much time there as possible. Within ten years, I had a chalet there with the most beautiful view imaginable and an amazing adventure lifestyle. If I can do it so can you!
Here are the five best tips for combining business travel with an adventure and justifying it to your boss:
1. Book your meeting for Monday or Friday so you can easily add the weekend and a day on either side of the trip; if you’ve got some time off then book the meetings Tuesday or Thursday but get at least a couple of days in your adventure destination.
2. Make it clear that you are paying for the extra expense – You can do it on a budget or you can spend your savings, but make it absolutely clear to your boss and your CFO that you are paying for your fun by not expensing the extra days. Find an AirBnB spot, a cheap hotel or hostel and make the most of your time by checking out TripAdvisor. Get a train pass or go on the region’s Facebook page and look for shared rides. Negotiation tip: compare flight prices coming back right after your meetings vs. staying the weekend and if the prices are cheaper use that to get your company to pick up the cost of a car or hotel by telling your boss you are saving money.
3. Pack smartly – your carry on should be a back-pack and your shoes should be hiking boots or running shoes. Many airports have a place you can leave luggage if you want to just travel with your adventure clothes and leave a dress and high heels behind. I am a big believer in not looking like a hungover fraternity boy or sorority girl in sweatpants and flip-flops when you fly, but you don’t need a D&G suit to go rock climbing in Greece or diving in Oman; so leave the business attire behind at the airport. Packing tip: unless it's highly customized sports gear (like fitted ski boots) you can rent very high quality equipemnt at your destination so leave skis, climbing harnesses, kites, and other bulky gear at home.
4. Ask the people you’re meeting (for work) for advice – Once I told the IATA guys I was a skier going to Cham for the weekend, I got an enthusiastic exchange of ideas that led me to the best restaurants, local guides and inside information I couldn’t have easily found on Trip Advisor or Yelp.
5. Suck it up – unless you’re my 70 year old mom, you don’t need a day to recover from travelling, or have to get home to your own pillow, or need to arrange your sock drawer before you start the work week. Life moves fast, Ferris, don’t miss out on something that comes once in a lifetime or even once in a year for some nonsense you do every day or every week. Live big!
What’s your best suggestion for getting the most out of a work trip? Check out my adventure blog for other tips, tricks and lessons.
Patrick Sweeney is one of the Top Keynote Speaker of 2017 as rated by Young President's Organization, and Google Talks in the EU. He only works with a handful of companies each year to make sure the events are engaging and customized, not a cookie-cutter speech for every event.