How Making the Most of Work Trips can be Good for Your Health and Career

If you are going to travel the world then you should take the time to see the world.

At first the idea of being able to travel abroad for work sounds exciting, like a paid holiday, but then reality hits - early mornings, long days travelling, time zone changes and maybe even jet lag. In and out of airports and offices. Not seeing the place you've visited.

By the time you get home you’re too tired to speak, eat, and sometimes even too tired to sleep. For the next day or so you are definitely not at your most efficient best. Your work suffers, you get less done, you catch up a bit and then the cycle starts again. You don’t have time to shop for food, or do the simple things around the house. Weekends are filled with washing piles and grocery shopping.

So, why not give yourself a bit of a break? Stay an extra night, take a chance to explore, it might just be a 30 minute walk around the neighbourhood but it could be enough to make you feel you are living your own experiences.

What are laptops for? Portable working. Make the most of it. Take the chance to see a place, learn something new and give your brain a chance to recuperate. You might even want to add on a weekend break while you’re at it!

Recently I traveled to Amsterdam, I was there this time to give a talk at Foam Photography Museum and could have easily flown in and out again, but the lure of the beautiful city was too much, and three nights were not enough!

I ignored the rowdy boys on the low cost airline who wanted to ‘Henry Hoover’ a cigarette because the 45 minutes in the air was too much for their adolescent nicotine addiction. Amsterdam has so much more on offer than a cheap lads weekend - for me it’s about culture, people, canals, house boats, beautiful architecture, heritage, bicycles, poffertjies, stroopwaffles and croquettes, so many wonderful things, and of course, the cat boat.

I used to be the person who would sleep anywhere, but as I’ve got older I’ve become more dependant on a good nights sleep, so where in the past a sofa would have been fine, now I look for comfort and calmness (and a proper bed) for a good nights rest. I was lucky enough to stay in two top hotels, which I couldn’t recommend more highly for a bit of restful decadence. Sleep well, work well, function like a real human-being.

My first stay was at the stunning Conservatorium in the heart of the museum district, dubbed as the city’s leading luxury lifestyle palace, the hotel is a beautiful pairing of neo-gothic and modern buildings. A large glass and steel structure ties the wings together over the original courtyard, connecting the communal spaces; a mixture of arts and crafts tile-clad hallways, stained glass windows and stone and iron railed staircases, with airy, structured steel and glass, and open areas full of angles and interest.

The rooms are subtle and calm with small flashes of colour, taking influence from Japanese styling and designed in full by Piero Lissoni – the screen like walls and simple lines, the hidden wardrobes, safe, and well stocked mini bar behind the glossy doors. Big baths too, and lovely bathrooms with huge mirrored doors (only slightly confusing for people like me!)

My second stay was at the Waldorf Astoria, Amsterdam, a hotel of absolute perfection in my eyes. The hotel is made up of six individual canal houses neatly stitched together with personality and charm. Behind the beautiful buildings is a large private garden (the largest in the city) which, in the spring, bursts into colour with thousands of tulips. Looking up to the rooftops, along the undulating roofline, there’s an interruption of houses so small they look to be only good for Borrowers, or bees. When the Waldorf Astoria brought the bees to the city they made every effort to welcome them. The Queen bee arrived by Rolls Royce and was walked up a red carpet to a welcoming reception and ceremony fit for royalty.

The room was light and bright with beautiful white embroidered bed linens. Classical music whispered gently in the background. From the large windows I had full view of the city’s grandest canal, Herengracht (Gentlemen’s Canal), which was built in the Golden Age and is now a UNESCO heritage site.

I had the most peaceful and comfortable nights sleep I have ever had away from home. Eight solid hours, undisturbed. Now, thats’s what I look for in a hotel!

For a quick fix of fresh air and the feeling of stepping into another world, my personal recommendation would be a visit to the botanic gardens. Amsterdam’s De Hortus Botanicus was founded in 1638 and is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world. What a magnificent place. Green parakeets flew from tree to tree, as two large herons sat watching. In the butterfly house were hands of green bananas, small golden pineapples and some things that looked like deflated balloons.

I’d highly recommend taking a canal cruise, during the winter you can take the Water Colors tour and see the Amsterdam Lights Festival from the water. From a boat is one of the best ways to see Amsterdam and understand the history and heritage of the city.

But, just meandering through the streets and zig zagging along the canals is a great way to see Amsterdam if you’ve only got a short time but want to get a quick dose of fresh air and culture.

I also really recommend searching out a truly Dutch restaurant (no, I don’t mean a ‘cafe’) and eating regional cuisine. Whilst I really couldn’t enjoy the food at De Culinaire Werkplaats, I found the most wonderfully warm welcome at Restaurant LT Cornelis, and a modern take on the traditional Dutch flavours. Everything was most delicious, although the dessert was a surprise (a bit too much of a surprise for me!) with it’s sharp and tangy flavours - but a true experience and one not to be missed. I remember being in the Czech Republic some years ago with a friend, when I ordered the local speciality she ordered spaghetti because she didn’t want to eat ‘their’ food. It was a slap in the face to me, and always serves as a reminder to just try stuff, try it, even if you don’t like it (as long as you aren’t allergic to it!) just give it a go and learn a little!

(Read the full review of LT Cornelis here)

If I could give just one top tip for a successful visit to Amsterdam it would be to get a City Card from iamsterdam. Amsterdam is a very safe place, so you can happily wander the streets at night (well, I did!) but if you want to see things in a short time you can use this little card for public transport, and then free entry in pretty much all the best museums and attractions, there’s even a free canal cruise included!

A 72hr City Card will cost you €77. It’s definitely the best way to ensure you’ll get good value and also push yourself to visit as many lovely things as possible.

If you still need a little bit of persuading that you need to extend your work trip and make the most of your visit for your own health and for your career, why not consider the positives from a business perspective. You can learn more about the culture and habits of those you are working with, and therefore work better, more cohesively and respectfully. It could be the deal maker!

What are you waiting for? Give it a go, humour me, try it once - you’ll see!

If you are going to travel the world then you should take the time to see the world. 

Foam Photography Museum Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS

Conservatorium Van Baerlestraat 27, 1071 AN

Restaurant Lt. Cornelis Voetboogstraat 13, 1012 XK

De Hortus Botanicus Plantage Middenlaan 2a, 1018 DD

Water Colors Cruise Departs from Prins Hendrikkade 33a (opposite Central Station)

De Culinaire Werkplaats Fannius Scholtenstraat 10, 1051 EX

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam Herengracht 542 – 556, 1017 CG

Find out more at I Don’t Like Peas.

With the greatest thanks to the wonderful people of iamsterdam for hosting me in their beautiful city.

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