Every trip you take can be an opportunity to see something new, even a business trip. Arriving early for a meeting, don’t sit in your hotel room idle, stretch your legs and take a walk in your new destination. Perhaps you only have a few hours to settle in before meeting up with your colleagues? Maybe you have a little time before flying out? With a little planning, you can plot a short walk to take in some of the main sights in the city or town you are visiting.
On longer business trips (i.e. 7-10 days), it is quite possible you will be afforded an afternoon or even a day off. I was lucky enough to have a day off on a trip to Japan and was able to gain a deeper understanding of their culture. Not every work meeting can be held in Paris or Prague, but here are a few tips to getting out, seeing something new, and getting the blood flowing before stagnating in a meeting or releasing the tension afterwards.
First things first, take care of what you need for your meeting. Nothing looks worse than the employee who shows up, unprepared, carrying on about the sights they just witnessed or the detailed map of what they will see. So be discreet. Remember, on a business trip, you are there to work. Completing the preparatory work takes the burden off and allows you to enjoy at least an hour of decompression around your meeting location.
Make sure you have enough time and a little extra. Subways can be late, rental bikes break, taxis can get caught in traffic, and you can get lost. When things go awry, you may need that extra time to get back to the meeting location.
Plan a route that puts you heading in the direction of the meeting. Perhaps you take the subway an extra couple of stops past your meeting location, and walk back. Consider leaving your things at the meeting (or checked in the hotel) and walk a loop through the area. I plan about 4km for 90mins. I walk fast, but I stop to take pictures. Sometimes I will stay in an area for 10-20 minutes, or simply sit on a bench or in a café to enjoy a coffee. Google Maps allows you to use the “directions” function for walking from point A to point B, but more importantly, you can add locations and change the order in which you visit them to optimize your route and provide you with an estimated walking time.
Stick to your map or planned route. You can easily deviate from your plan and you may think that you have more time to visit something else. Remember, it is not about seeing as much as you can, it is about seeing what you can while still making it to your meeting on time.
Not sure what to see? Google Images helps, but I found the map feature in Flickr to be even better, as it highlights random sites from various people with a star indicating where a photo was taken, and gives you some ideas for the best perspective.
Bring a camera. Business trips cannot only incorporate seeing new sights in remarkable cities, but if you enjoy taking photos, they can also provide you with opportunities to sharpen your photography skills. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. I like to travel and enjoy sharing my experiences with others, so I always make sure I travel with a camera, or have my iPhone on me. Either way, sometimes the best souvenir is the walk you took, the espresso on the piazza, the mom & pop bakery with amazing cookies, or the photo you took while everyone else was sleeping, just make sure you have enough space on your phone or memory card.
Check the weather! This is not something you always get to choose, but being prepared may save you. Rain can ruin the day and can look embarrassing when you show up to a meeting looking like a wet dog. But passing showers can make for dramatic clouds that enhance your photo opportunities. Bright sun can create high contrasts, but playing with the position of objects to block the light can alter the contrast enough to balance it better. Bring a jacket, hat, gloves, an umbrella, etc. depending on the weather.
What time is it? If you are like me, and like to take pictures, or like to challenge yourself to try to take better pictures, then it may help to check the time of day. The best times to take the best photos are usually sunrise or sunset, and the earlier usually means waking up at a painful hour, but sometimes the results are worth it. I did this in Prague on a cold October morning and witnessed one of the most impressive sunrises I have ever witnessed. Unfortunately, weather doesn’t always cooperate, and this is where the challenge comes in; use what you are given, experiment with different camera settings, and positions.
Make the most of the journey…business or pleasure, for there is always something incredible to see!