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Travel Outside Your Comfort Zone

by Cynthia Kay

I recently had to travel internationally for a client. While I travel extensively in North America to work this was a new experience, not to mention that I left the U.S. on the day of the Brussels bombing. It was a tense time travel. I thought I might share a few thoughts about the experience. To begin, if you have the opportunity to work outside your typical geographic area you need to be prepared that it is not “business as usual” and there are a number of things to consider before and during the trip.

Do You Really Need to Travel?

Travel can be expensive and time consuming so it is important to understand the value of the trip. Ask your client some important questions. “Do you have someone within that country that can do this job? Do they have the skills and knowledge, Is this something that can be accomplished by using available conferencing technology? What can we accomplish by being onsite that is going to deliver a better business outcome?” You also will want to check for any travel alerts. In my case we determined that I needed to be onsite because I had product knowledge and this was a critical part of a project.

Get Prepared

Do your homework. Get to know as much as you can about the business location you are visiting and the people that you will be working with. Do a phone conference in advance if you are joining a team of people and be sure that everyone has a clear understanding of their role. Develop a solid agenda. This seems basic but you would be amazed at how some things simply take more time. For example, I might walk into a location in the US and chat for a few minutes before beginning the work. That was not the case in Germany. The meet and greet was longer so I needed more time onsite. If you don’t speak the language consider putting an app like Google Translate on your phone. This will help with signage and also can be used to translate voices. Of course, you need to have detailed travel plans and rely on local contacts to help you make good choices of where to stay and transportation.

Technology

We take technology for granted that is a big mistake when traveling. It’s important to make plans in advance to be sure that you have the proper converters for devices and get an international data plan. This one surprised me because I blew through the data on the second day of a four day trip. So be prepared to spend some extra money and build that into travel costs. One additional way to save some is to sign up for Skype and use that when you have Wi-Fi Work is hard enough when you are in a familiar place. It is even harder when you are in unfamiliar surroundings. My trip to Munich was a business success because I had a lot of coaching in advance and I did my homework. Be sure that you do as much as you can to be productive and safe when you travel out of your comfort zone. Here are a couple of sites to review for more information and travel checklists.

www.travelzoo.com

https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/checklist.html

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