The further we get into our careers, the more we find ourselves traveling for our jobs. Remember the days when dreaming about work travel sounded glamorous? We pictured being whisked around the world, wining and dining with our clients and just generally feeling important, all on someone else’s dime.
Welp, turns out it’s not quite as we pictured it. Yes, it can be enjoyable and often a nice break between days spent staring at a screen and conference call after conference call. But, it’s also exhausting and can be tough on mental and physical health. Between eating airport food, hotel breakfasts and being “open to eating anywhere” aka kissing a$$ with your clients and coworkers means you can wave goodbye to the healthy week day routine you have been working so hard on.
Plus, work trips mean you usually have way less time for yourself. Little time, if any, to exercise, read, write, go to therapy or any other routines you maintain at home to keep yourself sane. Having a hotel room to yourself sounds awesome, but there certainly won’t be time to properly enjoy it. Think you’ll be working less? HA! Chances are, the expectation is that you keep up with your work and client emails all while partaking in your nonstop itinerary. Talk about stress.
Ok, now that we’ve done ALL of the complaining, here are a few survival tips and ways we have learned how to cope without having full mental breakdowns during work travel.
Accept it for what it is
I tend to have a habit of psyching myself out before work travel and going straight to the negative (why am I like this?!?). Anxiety kicks in before the trip even starts thinking about the lack of me time, exercise and healthy food options that are going to available. My inner voice thinks back to the past week of going to yoga every day and how it was an entire waste of time because I’m about to erase it all, how exhausted I’ll be, and how behind on work I’ll be. Before my most recent work trip, I counteracted the voice in my head by telling myself that it is what it is, it’s only a few days of my life after all, and thinking positively about how I could try and do my best to maintain my health during the trip.
Stick to your routine when possible
Of course, it won’t be possible to live exactly like you do at home, but the little things help. From bringing products like a weekly mask that you typically don’t bring traveling, to hitting the hotel gym even if only for 15 minutes, to going through your normal bedtime routine even if you get in later than usual, small things from your everyday routine will help you feel more grounded and less out of wack. I don’t know about you, but getting out of my routine can make me irritable and not at my best physically or mentally.
Don’t feel (too) peer pressured
It’s easy to feel like you have to do everything everyone else is doing, especially on a work trip where you are trying to be your most professional self. Of course there are many things you will be obligated to do to keep your day job, but if some things are optional like drinks after dinner every night, don’t feel like you have to partake just because your clients or coworkers are. If you really need a break, take the extra night for yourself and don’t guilt yourself!
Hit a grocery store or bring snacks
If you are able to swing by a store when you arrive to stock up on items you would typically have for breakfast or snack on during the week, you can at least cut out eating a crappy (not worth the calories) breakfast at the hotel and hopefully eat less when out at restaurants having snacked in between. I grabbed bananas, apples, protein bars, trail mix fat free green yogurt (kept in the mini fridge) and granola and berries right when I arrived. This was one of the best moves I’ve made during a work trip. If you won’t be able to fit this in, at least bring some snacks along with you.
Make the most of people & the destination
Another common misconception about work travel is that you will have tons of free time to explore the destination and check a new place off the list. Chances are, you will have little time to explore, if even feel like you visited at all, but do what you can to make the most of it. Make your client dinner reservations at restaurants that you would seek out (top of the eater list;)) so you feel like you are seeing some of what you would if you were to visit on your own. Make the most of being with your clients and/or coworkers as well. Chances are you don’t get time like this to get to know each other and connect during meetings or phone calls. You may find out that you have more in common with them than you think, or learn something!