The person who travels for business is often envied by outsiders. It's imagined they're seeing lots of exotic destinations, experiencing new cultures, trying new foods and having far more vacations than the average person. Sounds glamorous, right?
But let's face it. Business travel isn't all it's cracked up to be. Often, trips are so packed with agenda items, the only exotic destinations seen are from the airplane window. The only culture and new foods experienced are from the hotel's generic menu offerings and the only relaxation happening is on the flights, which often take off immediately before and after whatever the business obligation was. There is barely any interaction with the local community beyond the pre-arranged business activities. So, how can you make your business trip a little more authentic, offering you new experiences while bettering the local community? Below are tips on how to make the most out of your business travel and potentially putting your spending dollars into the local economy as opposed to the large conglomerate businesses in the area.
1) Instead of using a private driver, try a taxi. No matter what country, the taxi's arranged from inside the airport are from a reliable company with no risk of being ripped off. The prices are often standard and listed on a sheet of paper.
2) For the truly daring, try a motorbike taxi, if they're offered in that country.
3) Fly Coach instead of Business Class: If sitting in coach sounds completely unappealing, think of it as an opportunity to potentially connect with locals. If you're going on public policy or service sector work, it's a great way to connect with someone and potentially here anecdotal stories about once person's experience and relate it to the potential impact of your project. It will definitely be a different perspective than those traveling in business class, whom will likely be the main type of person you'll be interacting with during all of your business meetings.
4) Let your stomach go off the beaten path. Ask your hotel workers where their favorite lunch spot is. I'm sure it isn't the hotel's restaurant.
5) Befriend your language translator. Just as the hotel workers will have unique perspectives, so will your host language translator. Use their perspective to get the most authentic experience.
6) Live like a Local: Sites that offer individual's homes for rent are a great way for a business traveler to act and feel like a local. Last year, Airbnb housed over 6 million bookings in 175 countries. Competitors are beginning to sprout up such as as OneFineStay, Wimdu, and Romarama ensuring any level of comfort, style and amenities can be matched.
7) Drive like a Local: The sharing economy has also seeped into the car rental market. Next time you travel to a large city and find yourself in need of a car, try renting a local's car. Not only is it often a cheaper option, but again, your spending dollars are going into a local's pocket instead of one of the big-box car rental companies.
While there are no magic ways to reduce the amount of meetings, conference calls and sleep deprivation that often accompanies the often not-so-glamorous business travel, changing small behaviors can make your personal experience so much more authentic and allow your dollars to be funneled directly into the local economy. It's a win-win situation.