The Twenty-Something Series: How to make the most out of travelling for work

When you're travelling to exciting and exotic places for work, it sounds great, but in reality... it can be pretty bland. In this post, I talk about how to make the most of it!

It sounds glamorous to say I've been to Brazil for a weekend, had a last-minute holiday to South Africa, that I've been to New York for a conference and panel... And as much as I love that jetsetter lifestyle, sometimes it's not nearly as exciting as it sounds. When you're travelling for work, actually, it can be pretty bland, if you don't get to see much of what's around.

As a lot of you probably already know, I spent the last week in Cape Town visiting the set of The Kissing Booth's movie sequel (which was totally phenomenal and I'll be talking more about it next week).

And granted, I don't really know that I can say that was travelling 'for work' but I've done a fair few solo trips now where the purpose of the trip is to work in some capacity or other.

I've been to Essen, near Dusseldorf in Germany, with my day job. I go to London fairly frequently for meetings or events. I've been to Sao Paulo for a weekend to do panels, interviews and signings. I went to New York for WattCon last October. And this was my second trip to Cape Town to visit the set of a movie adaptation of my book.

Trips like this are usually packed and busy, and don't leave a lot of time for sightseeing. 

For example, in Sao Paulo, I saw very little of the city. I landed early on Saturday morning, was busy all Saturday and Sunday, and flew back on the Monday afternoon. I got out one evening with the publisher for dinner, but even then, didn't see much of Brazil.

But even when the days are packed, there are ways to make the most out of travelling somewhere you'd love to see more of - and in this post, I'm going to share a few ways I've tried to make the most of travelling for work!

Try the local cuisine

Even if you're restricted to grabbing something at the airport or ordering room service, there's usually options that are more of a local specialty. Even if it's a type of beer or a cocktail! This is something I love to do - a slice of New York pizza, a traditional Brazilian cocktail, currywurst in Germany and Afrikaans food on set in Cape Town. It's easy to build in even when you have zero time to explore, and makes you feel like you've experienced a bit more of the country!

If you can, though, getting out to a restaurant is a great way to soak up a little more local culture - and especially if you're not there for long, it's really fun to try something a little different and eat a local dish rather than defaulting to a beef burger or carbonara pasta. My trip to Sao Paulo and a couple of times when I was in Germany, I was able to get out to a restaurant with people I was working with, and it was great to have the company.

Work around your schedule

I was in Germany when they had Christmas markets, which I was, obviously, really keen to go along to. They were near the office, so I figured out how to get there after work one day and organised my taxi back to the hotel for later that evening, so I could fit it in. Similarly, in New York, my parents and I got tickets to a Broadway play on the Saturday night, after I'd be finished at WattCon for the day but were still in the area.

When I was in Cape Town (both the first time around and this time) we did a couple of night shoots. The first time I went, I was with my dad, so we organised to go on a bus tour to see Camps Bay, more of the city, and do Table Mountain in the morning before going to set. 

Just go for it!

Speaking of night shoots in Cape Town - this time, after Friday's filming, I didn't get to bed until 5am. I was up around 8am to head to Boulders Beach and the Cape of Good Hope to see the penguins and the southernmost point in Africa. It was a crazy long day - and definitely caught up with me on Monday, where I passed out on the sofa when I was back home, exhausted - but I really had to make the most of it while I was there. I wanted to get out and explore while I could! Sleep could wait till I got home.

Find some friends to tag along with

I'm a confident, independent person - but even I'm pretty wary of going off wildly exploring in a different country totally by myself. If you don't fancy the idea of getting out and about by yourself, find someone to go with.

The trip to the Cape of Good Hope and Boulders Beach was really all down to a few friends from set - Carson White (who plays Elle's younger brother, Brad, in the movies) and his family invited me to go with them. In the evening, I got a few of the cast together to go to dinner. When I was in New York, I hung out with some of the Wattpad gang, getting pizza from some hole-in-the-wall place (which was honestly on my little NYC bucket list). 

If you've got colleagues or friends in the city you can meet up with, sightsee with, or do a little exploring with, then rope them into it and invite them along!

Extend your trip if you can

New York is my best example of this - I only really needed to be there for the weekend, as I'd done with Sao Paulo. But New York was somewhere I've always really wanted to go on holidays, and my parents were also keen to tag along - so we added a couple of days to the trip to build in some time for sightseeing! And when my trip to Cape Town was being organised and I was asked which week would suit me, I built in the weekends for travel so I'd have a full week there and it wouldn't feel cut short by any travelling.

And touching back on the point above - maybe you can extend your trip to meet up with some friends! One of my friends went to Paris for a work conference earlier this year, so she and a few girls tagged on a weekend in Poland beforehand, giving themselves an extra little holiday with the work trip.

Download plenty of entertainment for the travelling part!

That movie you've been wanting to watch on Netflix? That podcast you've been meaning to start listening to? The book you've been trying to read for the last few weeks but never seem to find the time? If you're going to be standing in a queue at the boarding gate, stuck on a plane for a few hours, in a taxi or on a bus transfer... Make the most of it! 

And build yourself a kickass playlist

I centred all of yesterday's Writing Wednesdays post on building a playlist for my trip to Cape Town for The Kissing Booth's sequel. Listening to the playlist from my first trip takes me right back to 2017, and I'll now forever associate The Nutcracker Ballet with my flights to Dusseldorf. (Honestly - it always seemed to end just as we landed, so turned into a great way to measure the flight!) Plus, you never want to be stuck without a playlist if you're stuck in a queue at the airport or in traffic - so you might as well make it something incredible and memorable!

What are some ways you make the most of travelling when you don't get chance to sightsee or explore the local culture much? Let me know in the comments!

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