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When travel isn’t for fun

I have a confession this week: I went to Barbados for a month and I never swam in the ocean. Yes, I was in a country that others flock to for sun and swimming, but I never took the plunge. Am I crazy?

Don't answer that question; instead, hear what I have to say. I promise, I have a valid (ok, semi-valid) reason.

My reason? Well that brings me to my Rock Fever column this week: business travel vs holiday travel and my views (this IS a column).

As anyone who follows this column knows in June I had been accepted onto a month-long course, the Caribbean Institute in Gender and Development, in my previous role as Amnesty International Bermuda's director. I was thrilled when I actually got on the course, but daunted by the task of planning. Why? Because the professional course was in Barbados for one month! Oh, and might I add that I only had five days to organise it?

“But Robyn, it's Barbados! I would love to spend a month in Barbados! How can you complain?''

I heard what my friends said and yet I knew, deep down, that this trip was going to be very different from any casual trip I had taken in the past.

The first difference I noticed between travelling for a vacation and travelling for the professional course (business) came at the planning stage. Planning is fun for my personal travels. For the business trip to Barbados as I booked apartments, looked at hotels and confirmed my space on the course, I knew I was simply signing myself up for a lot of work. Sure it was work I wanted to do, but nonetheless work! And sure it was in a foreign place, but I knew it was not all going to be fun and games.

Difference two came as I booked my housing in Barbados. If I had been in Barbados for a vacation I certainly would not have booked the apartment where I ended up. It was not a terrible location, but I was booking for how close it was to the University of West Indies Campus rather than for beauty.

My third change in travel mojo thanks to the business nature of my trip? Renting a car. Sure in the US you might need a car to get around, but had I been in Barbados just for fun and without the time constraints, I think I would have saved money and suffered the buses. Instead my month abroad for business I needed to maximise my time after the course day to get groceries and return to the rented apartment to set into work for the course as well as any Amnesty work that needed to be done.

The fourth difference happened before I even got to Barbados: a cancelled flight. If you've been reading my column you know all about it ('Know your Travel Rights', which you can find on www.robynswanderings.com). The story? Basically, I was stranded in Miami for a night. Now had my trip been for fun or my vacation then I would have taken the time to go into Miami, enjoy the city or the beach and not been bothered nearly as much as I was.

Now I come to the crux of this column and the fifth difference: when travelling for business the time is yours, and it's not yours.

Which brings me to six: when you miss a family dinner because a flight got cancelled on your business trip leaving you stranded, you resent the airlines. When it is cancelled and you are on vacation, well.....you enjoy yourself.

Case in point brings me to seven: a few years ago, I missed my flight from New York to Bermuda thanks to traffic for days to JFK. Thanks to missing my flight I returned to New York and I bought some shoes! What else was I to do? When my flight was cancelled in Miami on my way to Barbados? Well, point eight: I was not happy; I had missed a family gathering, I had rushed to get the flight and I had work to do (because I was not on vacation). So instead of enjoying Miami, I begrudgingly stayed in the airport and worked. “Robyn quit complaining. At least you got a month in Barbados! I would love a month in a different country, especially a tropical one!”

I would have loved a month in Barbados too, but my number nine is that I finally understood my father. Huh? I remember when he would travel for work and I always asked how Tokyo was or San Paulo and he would say: “Robyn, I saw the hotel and the office so I really don't know.”

I never understood how he could spend a week in these new places and NOT see anything. I swore I would never miss seeing a country if I were there, but then I went to Barbados. If my friend had not come to visit me the second weekend I was there, I don't think I would have seen much more than Crop Over concerts. I understand my father a bit more now: I never went for a swim in Barbados. So my final comment on business versus casual travel is simply a comment to those who send others on business for their company: understand they are not travelling for fun. Luckily I had a very forgiving sponsor who helped me along the way and was supportive when I returned, but I can understand others may not be. So for bosses out there: give your employees a day off (or two) for their business travels. A day travelling is work and a day travelling for work is, well....double work. Be nice.

So here ends my views on travel for business versus vacations and next week I'm sending you on vacation. Where? To Holland of course.

Until next week: Goodbye.

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Published August 24, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 24, 2011 at 8:49 am)

When travel isn’t for fun

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