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International Business Travel

For many, international travel is exhilarating. You’re heading somewhere new. Taking some much needed R&R. Anticipating enlightened adventures that just might inspire your inner Kerouac to write the next great vagabond novel.

For the international business traveler, on the other hand, the romanticized wonderment of travel is beleaguered by 14 hour flights, irregular sleep schedules, back to back meetings, and being away from friends and family for days on end – not to mention the near-impossible task of maintaining any semblance of a healthy diet and exercise.

And in a world where fate can deal you a bad hand – and bad shellfish – exercising some prudence in your planning will minimize the chances something goes awry and maximize your sanity (which you’ll certainly need to power through the jet lag).

We followed Mr. Matt McKenzie, President of CUI Inc and international traveler, on a weeklong trip from New York to Tokyo. Along the way, he offered some first hand advice on how to travel well while on the road.

What do you take on a typical trip?

My philosophy on packing depends on context. For a Monday to Friday business trip, I usually carry three outfits that can be changed into about six or more combinations. I stick with mostly neutrals, which pair easily together so I don’t have to overthink it. If I’m traveling six or more days, I like to have options, so I’ll bring a second bag as a carry on.

For my carry on, it’s always good to have a change of clothes in case your checked bag gets delayed or lost. Aside from that, I pack my iPad for reading, my compact headphones for music, and I always travel everywhere with a small, moleskin journal. It’s great to take notes when something comes to mind, which happens a lot with the changing scenery and new experiences that are native to being on the road.

What do you wear on a travel day?

It depends. Oftentimes, I have to be ready to go straight into a meeting after checking into my hotel, so I can’t risk having the hoodie on my back be my only option if my luggage gets lost or delayed. So if I’ve checked my bag, I’m wearing comfortable wingtips, an oxford, a deconstructed blazer, and dark denim with a hint of stretch (12 hour flights are no place for a fresh pair of raw denim). They’re comfortable enough for the flight and appropriate enough to get through the next 24 hours, should anything happen. But if I have a carry on only, I can fly more casually, without the fear of a luggage delay hampering my evening. I’ll still wear jeans and an oxford but will layer up with a sweatshirt instead of a blazer. I’ll also wear classic lowtop sneakers, which are casual and comfortable – the best kind for a long flight.

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I like to find a place in every city that can be “my place”. I’m looking for a place that can become familiar, because that’s one of the things we all crave about home when we aren’t at home.

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Do you have a regular routine?

I like to find a place in every city that can be “my place”. I’m looking for a place that can become familiar, because that’s one of the things we all crave about home when we aren’t at home. A place with familiar faces and tastes and sounds. In the midlands in the UK, it’s my friends’ Nic and Lizzie’s house. In Tokyo, it’s the Oak Door bar. In Toronto, it’s the Park Hyatt in Yorkville. I always try to schedule my business meetings and dinners in a way that allows me to see the great friends I’ve made all over the world.

Do you exercise on the road?

As much as I can, especially when traveling internationally. When I’m in Tokyo, I’m usually awake at three or four in the morning from the jet lag. I love getting up that early and going for a run through the neighborhoods of Daikanyama or Azabujuban. The city is incredibly dense with people during the day but pretty barren in the early morning, so I love to run without headphones and just listen to the city. It’s pretty ethereal. Not only does it help me adjust back into a rhythm, it’s also a great way to get rid of the travel calories from the previous night.

Remember that you travel to enrich your life, not to avoid it.

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You’re talking to young Matt, who is just about to start traveling for work. What would you tell him?

Make sure you take it in. Do nothing in the way of the tourist, but in the way of the local. That way you can learn to appreciate the patchwork beauty of the human endeavor through travel.  Travel only during the week, if possible, so you can be home and present with your family and community. Remember that you travel to enrich your life, not to avoid it.

 

Beyond clothes, if you could only take five items on a weeklong trip, what would they be?

My iPad, headphones, business cards, my wife, and my wine collection.

In that order?

No. But I probably shouldn’t say…