2013 is the year of itchy feet for me! Itchy not because I’ve got some embarrassing disease or hormonal imbalance or, worse, unhygienic practices, NO!!! Itchy because the travel bug has bitten me and since the start of the year I’ve spent more than 80% of my time outside of Manila on holiday or business trips. I was in Sydney for six weeks from January to February for some much needed R&R, and as soon as I got back to Manila I had to catch up on work that sent me from the North to the South end of the country to visit clients.
Now, business trips are not really that glamorous! You either wake up very early to catch the first flight out so you can attend the morning meetings, or catch the last flight the day before to arrive at your destination close to the witching hour! When you get to your destination, you work practically the whole day and by the time you finish you have to head back to the airport to catch your flight back or to another destination.
So, how do you make drably work-related trips to be pleasurable? Here are five tips I’ve learned and follow religiously:
1.) Always bring a camera and be ready to take quick snapshots of interesting objects, sceneries or events. I always take my trusty Canon S100 because its so light and compact, and very easy to use. It offers point and shoot convenience with creative possibilities of manual controls. Aside from my camera, I also have my iPhone for those shots that I want to share quickly over social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I am now contemplating getting the new Samsung WB150F after seeing it from a promo booth in the mall. I love its zooming capability at 21X and of course the ability to immediately post the photos on the Internet through its built-in wifi. The WB150F also has a SIM card allowing access to the Internet via 3G/LTE networks…saving up.
2.) Go for a jog. Running is one of the most effective way to get to know the place and discover interesting locations and facts. Make sure it is safe though, and that you are aware of any cultural taboos you might be offending. My running shoes have, become a main item of things-to-bring to all trips. Through jogging I was able to discover the Bottle Museum in Moalboal; the early morning community fitness program in Santiago, Isabela; the black geese nesting in the pond near my mom’s place in Sydney, and the industrialisation of the coastline of Iligan.
3.) Research on local delicacies, places to hangout, and restaurants with interesting menus. I’ve been fortunate to have gotten clients that took me around to popular local places to eat and hang out. These ranged from sedate coffee shops to peaceful walks by the bay to adventurous local meals to bizarre street food exposures. Places I’ve been in Asia and around the Philippines always have something happening after hours, all you need to do is ask a local. In one of my trips I did a scooter runabout for four hours at night, taking in the cool breeze, being serenaded by the pier to the tune of popular songs but with different lyrics, and seeing the city from a different light.
4.) Visit the local market. I like going to local markets early in the morning to see stocks being unloaded and stalls being prepared. Time permitting, I also like visiting during the day to taste some of the interesting delicacies. In Dumaguete I had “bubdud kabug,” a local delicacy made from millet and the best cup of native cocoa in the market. Bought local pecan nuts in Tiwi, Bicol; tasted and got addicted to authentic pork roll “Banh Mi” in Ho Chi Minh; and had my first Gozleme in Glebe markets in Sydney.
5.) Take a bit of the places home. I normally take food back home to share my discoveries but sometimes also buy the odd key chains and fridge magnets. Anything to remind me of the place and what I would be doing next time I visit the place. My best take home so far: “chicharabao” – chips made from carabao skin; coffee and cashews from Vietnam; spicy tamarind from Bangkok; meat pies and sausage rolls from Sydney; “Lechon” or roast pork and dried mangoes from Cebu; and pomelo and durian from Davao.
I’d love to hear your tips to make business trips pleasurable.