Travellers of the world

Business travel can often be more of a curse than a blessing, but it shouldn’t always be that way, Richard Quest reveals.
Travellers of the world
By Richard Quest
Sun 25 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

There is no doubt about it, when it comes to business travel, there are a number of topics that always seem to emerge as top the list of complaints.

Crowded airports, weather delays, crying children, and, of course, those other pesky passengers who always manage to get in the way when you are running for your train or plane. These are most definitely among some of my most frequent annoyances as I travel the globe.

It’s not that I am particularly fussy or demanding, please don't get me wrong — it’s just that travel is part of my working life and I want it to be as painless as possible as do the thousands of executives across the region.

Anything that gets in the way is guaranteed to raise my blood pressure and those of busy CEOs frantically eager to open up their spreadsheets when settled into their seats.

And I’m sure you feel the same way. I know many of you do.

So perhaps it is time to re-think the travelling life you have. After all, we are the lucky ones. We get to see many parts of the world others don’t and we should be very thankful.

We should, however re-learn the sheer joy and delight at the thought of “being on the road again”. It's a pleasure to see some of the sights and meet some of the people I do on my travels.

Whether I am renewing a friendship with a city I have been to before such as Paris, New York or Rome, or anticipating seeing somewhere new and exciting, there is something wonderful to relish during the moment the plane takes off and when you are safe in the knowledge that you are “on your way”.

The key to this experience is learning something about the place you are visiting. And this doesn’t have to be a major research operation. Let me explain.

I find the best way is to start with the local newspaper. You will quickly get an instant insight into the current concerns and worries of the local people, as well as to what people are talking about in the cafes and restaurants you visit.

It makes for marvellous fodder for dinner conversations, and you will always sound well briefed if you can refer to a local scandal and ask your hosts what this is really all about (best not to do this if the scandal involves your hosts of course).

Another tip is to get yourself a detailed guidebook and to then promptly ignore the big tourist attractions — if you are an experienced traveller, it’s a fair bet that you will have seen most of them before.

Be as adventurous as you can and just open the book at any page. Make sure that you determined to visit whatever is in front of you and at any time.

I have tried this in new cities and found it to be a wonderful way of seeing something new — trust me it always works.

In one city I saw a brilliant maritime museum. In another I found myself among the avant-garde buying clothes that I would never wear again and then there was the time in Argentina when I ended up doing a Tango. Fun? You bet.

Shun taxis and hotel limos and take public transport like everyone else — this gives you a great sense of how people get around as well as the conversations they are having.

From Tokyo to New York, I have always had memorable experiences just sitting on the bus or the subway watching people go by wondering what they are doing and where they are going. People watching while on holiday can be a fascinating way to while away the hours.

Even when I am lost I don't panic as there is something magic about asking a local people for help — not least because it brings out the ‘Good Samaritan’ in everyone, as they offer to get you on your way and find out wherever it is you are going. Great fun again.

In Riga, the capital of Latvia, one couple went so far out of their way to help me that I ended up having endless cups of coffee with them both and learned so much about their way of life and their country. Seize the opportunity to do this as often as possible.

The biggest danger we face on our travels is being boring. Sticking to what we know and understand can make the journey a chore.

So make a promise to yourself, say that on every trip you will definitely try something new and get the most out of the lucky lives that we lead.

And please, write to me about those experiences you've had. Let’s start a discussion where you tell me what you have found useful in your travels and the experiences we have enjoyed around the world. That way we can truly say we are “travellers of the world” and not just passengers on a plane.

Email me at:
quest@cnn.com

Richard Quest presents Business Traveller for CNN.

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