It’s a near-extinct species, but there are people on this Earth who associate work travel with glamour. Dear friends, few things could be farther from the truth. While champagne on a private jet never gets old, 99% of the time work travel is not glamorous at all. It’s a double-edged sword because hey, who doesn’t want to get around and see interesting places with important people? Yes, there is the occasional free champagne and famous and powerful people around. Sometimes work travel can be considered a privilege – which is quickly forgotten once you are holed up in a conference centre for so long you no longer know whether it’s day or night (Also known as the casino-effect. Symptoms include stuffing one’s face with absolutely everything on offer, which with 100% certainty is biscuits/crisps/bretzels/donuts/muffins/random cocktail food and drinking copious amounts of diet soft drinks “I need the caffeine“, followed by one or two glasses of wine/G&T “to unwind“). Once back at the hotel, another drink or two with colleagues (also called the debriefing) and we are well past midnight.
Fast forward (literally) maximum six hours and we’re up again. Puffy eyes, swollen feet, everything dehydrated and digestion out of whack. 30 minutes to get ready for the first meeting, which kicks off another marathon of meetings until at least midnight. One is expected to be presentable (in my job camera-presentable) all the while actually having to work, be reachable, available and sociable and deliver stellar products, relying on mobile devices and hotels’ conference services. I’m just back from a work trip that immediately made it to the personal Shit Work Trips Hall of Fame, and after some serious self-flagellation on the train on my way back I decided to share my mishaps and swore never to make these rookie mistakes again.
I could have taken a filtered photo of my essentials, artfully arranged on a white marble table top with the compulsory pink peony on the side (actually I couldn’t have, as was packing in a mad rush and did not plan this post early enough). Instead I am presenting all the goodness in its natural habitat during a trip, which is a mess in a nécessaire. If you’re lucky, it’s your perfume that has spilt all over your luggage. If you’re unlucky, it’s your contact lens solution which you really, really actually need and will not have time to go hunt for once you arrive.
Lesson 1: Never, ever assume you will be able to buy things once you arrive at your destination. This is delusional in every way. You will not have time to go shopping. If you were to be so lucky as to have this opportunity, you will not find what you need. There are no exceptions to this. Always pack everything you need.
Lesson 2: Pack eyeshadows. Even if you don’t use eyeshadow, just have some in your make-up bag. You might find it a good idea on a morning when you are trying to locate your eyes amongst all the puffy flesh. Also, have pressed powder if you have to appear in front of tv-cameras during the day (or if you are giving presentations or if you just don’t want to look like a Christmas apple). Put it in your purse and keep it with you at all times (I recommend pressed powder because the container usually fits one’s purse and loose powder on a trip is just a disaster waiting to happen – in my case a disaster no longer waiting to happen).
Lesson 3: Also have some kind of blusher/highlighter. See above. It does wonders when you otherwise look like death warmed up.
Lesson number 4: Flats. If you only ever wear flat shoes, good. If you do wear heels, forget about the flimsy rubbery bits that you’re supposed to place in your shoes to make them more comfortable. Chuck them. They do not work. I have a pedometer on my phone and yesterday’s conference-walking total was 14km. Take a pair of flats and wear them in moderation. This sounds so obvious, but it’s not (for me).
Lesson 5: Even if you will have to pack everything you think you might need, don’t fantasise about doing elaborate beauty rituals in the evenings in your plush hotel bathroom. You will be too knackered to be able to tell all the tiny droppers apart. What you mainly will need is a proper cleanser and very good hydration. Don’t save exotic samples to try on work trips. Your skin will be mental anyway, so work trips are not the time to experiment. With anything, really.
Lesson 6: Pack probiotics and take them. Also don’t eat and drink all kinds of crap that comes your way just because. This includes free chocolate/alcohol. I am not suggesting you pack little bags of seeds, nuts and dried fruit, because we are normal people after all.
Lesson 7: Pack woollen socks. Regardless whether you travel North or South, there will be air-conditioning somewehere that you cannot control. Have socks. There will be a post on how to knit them yourself, but I will not judge if you buy them or have someone else knit them for you. Your feet and soul will thank you for having proper woollen socks with you when you travel. Always pack them in carry-on, you will need them on the airplane.
In all honesty my latest trip was not all that bad. As if by sheer strike of magic a fabulous and glamorous colleague with the vastest cosmetics-arsenal known to womankind, also the authoress of Life in a Cold Climate, happened to be in the same conference and needed a place to crash. She ended up getting my spare bed and I ended up having make-up in my eyes.
Below some of my personal heavy-duty heroes: