Business Trip: Why it is Different with “Jalan-Jalan”

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I was just coming back from a trip to Perth. And also that last May, I was in India.

Now, before you assume that I am soooo rich that I can afford international holidays anytime I want – it was all for work.

So, yes, those are all business trips.

So many people, when knowing that my day job involves quite a lot of travel to different countries – US, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, even almost Mexico – made comments somewhere along this line:

 So lucky! So nice to go to lots of different places!

Since most of them are coming from my Indonesian fellas, the phrase that I heard like 1000x times is:

Enak ya, jalan-jalan terus!

I think if you give me 10,000 IDR every time you say that, it would be enough to buy a new iPhone.

While I am not complaining at all (or yet) about the amount of travel involved at work and quite enjoy it to be honest… it is not, by any means, equal to holiday.

First of all,

Business trip is still work. And a harder one.

Travel for work essentially means that you are working, but somewhere else. So while in normal workday I need to go to company office/client office in Jakarta during business hours, the same applies when I am on travel. The difference is just now we go to the offices in Perth instead.

However, the work is much more intense.

There should be a huge reason why your company pays for flight, hotel, meal, etc. to move your butt to one of the most expensive city in the world in term of living cost. In other words, you shall work harder. If your expertise is available in the local branch, then you will not be requested to come over, won’t you?

More importantly, we should be aware that we are indirectly carrying the flag of “Indonesia”; we might be the first Indonesian they’ll ever work with, and it will give them very, very memorable impression of Indonesian working ethics. Also, due to hijab I choose to wear, I also carry the flag of being a “Muslim”. In the midst of very bad PR of Muslim portrayal by the media, the pressure is real, people. I need to show that not only Muslim women can work professionally, but 99.99%  of us are not psychopaths unlike what you read/watch.

So, for me, the pressure to perform is way, waaaay more accentuated on business trips than working at homebase.

Therefore, don’t assume that once I land to the destination, first thing to do is going to the nearest shopping center and joyfully browse around for exotic stuff.

In fact, let me share my schedule of the recent Perth trip. In this occasion, I was conducting a training of Pore Pressure Prediction for drilling engineers.

Sunday 

On plane (Jakarta – Perth). Reading AAPG/SPE papers of client’s local pore pressure regime on the way (no in-flight movies watched).

This picture was taken when walking towards immigration in the airport.

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After that – poof. I’m gone. Concentrating for work.

Arrived at 4 pm local time – reached hotel at 6. Ate dinner in-room, then continued preparing training until about 11 pm.

Monday

Woke up at 3. Preparing again (revised slides, practiced the exercises, etc). Sahoor at 5.30 am (I am fasting for Ramadan).   Continue preparation. Getting ready to the office at 6.30.

Conducting training at 8.30 am- 4.30 pm. Bear in mind that I am talking, teaching, and presenting in front of the class for THE WHOLE 8 SOLID HOURS, not just sitting in some desk typing things on computer. Lunch of course is skipped.

Headed straight to hotel. Dinner in-room again. Had 2-hour break until 7.30 pm, then preparing for tomorrow and researching unanswered questions in today’s session, until about 10 pm ( I passed out with lamp on). Woke up at 3 am to continue preparation. Went to office at 7.30.

Tuesday

repeat Monday. Yes, just hotel – office – hotel.

Wednesday

morning and afternoon routine is the same with Mon and Tue, however since this is the last day of the training, I am free at night. Initially wants to go to King’s Park or nearest beach for sunset, but the gravity of hotel bed is too intense… end up watching YouTube while eating in and then pass out.

Aaand this day is the Ied Fitri / Raya. Yup. Sadly, this year I had to pass the chance to mass prayer with family and eating delicious Soto Banjar at home 🙁

Thursday

this is the real holiday. I extend for a day to check out the city, and especially a open Australia-native-animal-only zoo that Patricia from Asia Next Top Model Cycle 4 visited during her recent break.

finally... I can see the world.. look at my pancake eye bag. Needless to say I was quite sleepy that day.
finally… I can see the world…. just look at my pancake eye bag. Concealer won’t cover – need a stronger one.

This is the day that result in this Instagram photo:

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In short, I spend 75% of my time there working, and only about 25% holiday-ing.

And that’s solely because I decide to extend. If I am to follow normal trip timetable without extension, I’d go back on Wed evening or Thu morning. Probably will try to sneak time on Wed afterwork to visit whatever place I can visit.

Also, I think you ought to understand that..

Traveling in general is exhausting.

Maybe this is just because I never travel far for fun in my life. Yep, I spit the truth. I am yet to wait the day when I pay a flight ticket to somewhere other than my hometown, for the sole purpose of being a tourist (discounting obligatory school trips/group trips).

Nope. Not yet.

My first “business trip” happened when I  was 14. That was my first trip to the capital, Jakarta, for a research/writing competition finale on sustainable environment. Since then, due to my strange addiction in competition adrenalines (or freebies in general), I was sponsored to Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Bandung, and even Taiwan as part of being the representative of Indonesia in Earth Science Olympiad. After that, I live alone (“merantau”) since 19 y/o until today. In university, I was sent to Lombok, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan for competitions and conferences.

I am not trying to brag here – merely to give you a perspective. In a sense, I was in “business trips” since teenagers. I flew around to get work done and expected to perform in one way or another.  So, isn’t it surprising that I just don’t want another exhausting, full-of-planning-and-expectation trips for holiday.

Most of the time the #1 destination I want to visit whenever having free time is: home.

In the warm house where I grow up, spending time with family, eating homemade dishes.

No expectations, no deadlines. Just truly enjoy the passage of time and press pause for a while.

If we include the school days competition/conferences trips under the umbrella of “business trips”, perhaps 40+ is the number that I have taken. In each and everyone of them, I have to pack my stuff into baggages, carefully select and unselect items to bring, preparing the work to be presented in the same time, going to airports, waiting at the airports, layovers, land transportations, give my best (lack of sleep- induced) performances, coping with unfamiliar food and accomodations, meeting new people and have “the small talk” multiple times. Then, arrive at home to find my body aching thus need to take a rest and catch on sleep, having to unpack stuff (ugh) and do the massive pile of laundry, reorganizing the baggage content into the homeroom.

These take a lot of time. A LOT of time.

So, don’t imagine that I will just roll a few clothes into the luggage, then fly to live the hell out of my life in exotic places.

It is work.

I think, the first “true” holiday trip I will take and fully pay the return tickets and hotels will be for honeymoon. For now, no-no. The work travel schedule is already packed, and all I want to go is home.

Nonetheless, business trip can be fun.

In fact, one of the strong reason why I enjoy my current day job is the amount of business travel involved. I still prefer to be in new places and facing new people. It still excites me to this very day (except, for certain places I’m just not excited about due to the unsafe environment and/or less friendly people).

However, I know a considerable number of professionals who dislike this kind of trips for totally valid reasons. For instance, when you have little kids or newborn baby – you just can’t leave them the second you are needed abroad. You must find nanny, compromise with partner, cancel or move whatever appointment you have with doctors.  Another valid reason is the fact that being on call every time makes it harder to plan forward. You can book the cheap ticket to Japan 2 months in advance only to find out that it intersect with a training in Malaysia. Of course you can always hold on to the pre-approved vacation, but there’s a chance that your mind will not be fully relaxed knowing that you turned down a job for it. It happened to me twice, that I need to cancel plane/train ticket to home due to such trips. Now, I just book tickets near the date whenever I’m 100% sure my schedule is clear for at least a full week.

The point of this post is: bear in mind that a job that involves lots of business trips does not mean a lot of “jalan-jalan”. You can include a bit of vacation in the equation, but in the end of the day. it is still work. It takes much of your precious time and energy.

Nevertheless, it’s (still) totally worth it!

4 thoughts

  1. Sau, I was just scrolling down your IG page& found your writings. Keep on writing pls, I love how you see life in general, and it also led me to watch the Rene Brown TED just now HAHA. Thank you!
    Congratulation for you marriage, akhirnya bisa jalan-jalan without those business trip hassles yaa for honeymoon. Best of luck for everything! <3

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