Wednesday, November 18, 2015

International Business Travel And You

I was in my mid-20s when my boss asked me to go to India to do some work with our office in Bangalore. I was stoked. I was so excited that I was going to travel to India and a) meet my colleagues there and b) to experience another, radically different, culture from mine here in the U.S.

I booked the trip; economy class, two-nights. In and out, on the cheap to be respectful of the companies' resources.

When my boss saw the itinerary, he called me into his office. He reviewed the itinerary with me, and asked if I could be effective on the trip. "Yes sir! I'm going to crush it, and I've minimized the financial impact on the company." "Great!" he replied. He then asked me if I'd ever been to India before; I hadn't. He then proceeded to tell me that it is a special place unlike anything I'd ever experience again in my life. He then asked me if there was more work I could do while I was over there; there was. He then asked me if I really thought I could be effective flying overnight into 12+ hour timezone shifts, with only a two-night stay, in economy class (sleepless); I couldn't. He pointed out that I would need *some* semblance of sleep in order to be effective, and that I should make the most of my time on the ground "over there" by extending the trip a couple of extra nights. He then asked if I wanted to burn vacation days and spend my own money on hotel nights beyond what work needed, in order to truly absorb the experience; I did.

He then suggested that if you're flying on 8+ hour legs, you should be in business class where you can get some shut-eye. He pointed out that for business purposes it's prudent to amortize a long international business trip by elongating things rather than cutting them short. Business-class seats are expensive, so amortize them by staying longer (assuming there's work to be done... don't make shit up). He pointed out that it's probably prudent to take personal advantage of being overseas on the company's dime, and to take personal/vacation days and your own money to make the trip even longer to soak up the experience and culture.

Traveling long distances to different cultures isn't something you're likely going to get a lot of opportunities to do over the course of your life, so take advantage of these opportunities when they arise in business. Stay longer on your own dime; the company has already sunk the cost of at least one of the expensive bits (the airline ticket).

Experience this life. Experience this world.

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