Tag Archives: Business travel

Nonstop You. In the Friendly Skies.

Seven flights in seven days. Without a hitch. The effective travel machine of “right-place-right-time-friendly” United and “nonstop-you” Lufthansa took me around North America, Middle East and Europe to all my 26 meetings. On time. What is the likelihood of that?

the intern ud51I traveled with celebrities like Meryl Streep (Get Ready for Ricki) and Robert de Niro (The Intern) among many others. And my feather-light laptop of course. I ate all kinds of meals at odd hours. Lured my body to believe it was dinner time when it was anticipating brunch. And slept a few hours here and there. You know, the kind of sleep where you are aware of most things around you. And wake up instantly when a whiff of coffee reaches your nose.

I have to say coffee was my faithful buddy on this trip. And I have many iPhone pictures (didn’t carry my camera gear) to prove it. Like this one in Frankfurt, where my friend kept me and my luggage company for hours. Four cappuccinos went down before it was time to board my flight to Amman, Jordan.

coffee in Frankfurt Germany UD51My arrival was greeted by a gorgeous sunset. And after our descent through the cloud cover, the ancient city revealed itself, sparkling like a diamond.

Arriving to Amman ud51My modern business hotel was situated in the newer part of Amman. From my window I could see a hillside condo building of beautiful limestone, typical for this area.

view from my window Amman ud51The highlight of this short visit came on my second night in Amman. A friend of mine, with whom I had worked in Egypt three years ago, invited me to her beautiful home for dinner. What an evening that was! Sumptuous dinner with delicious Jordanian dishes and wonderful company of my “Jordanian family” – an experience I will always treasure.

Jordanian Dinner ud51When I left her home late at night, I snapped a picture of this hilly neighborhood, very typical for Amman.

Amman at night ud51After two days full of meetings, I left Amman on a flight just after midnight. The rich history of this fascinating country made me want to return with proper time to explore all its famous sites, including visiting the ruins in Petra and floating in the Dead Sea. Just like the man in this photo by Pete.

1024px-Dead_sea_newspaperUpon landing for the second time the next morning, I found myself in West Indies. In the heart of Geneva, Switzerland. A charming small hotel with its Indies-inspired rooms decorated in warm saffron and pepper colors, offered an exotic interlude for this weary traveler.

hotel room in Geneva ud51By this time my body clock was very confused. It would put me to sleep or wake me up to do some work at any time I wasn’t with my clients. And it kept me updated on the primaries in Florida. Whether I liked it or not.

hotel TV ud51But it was nice to me too. Unlike at home, it allowed me to eat whatever my heart desired. Like rich croissants for breakfast. Two cups of coffee for lunch. And a huge pizza for dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. Life was good.

pizza ud51The days and nights melded into one long string of working, sleeping and eating. Until it was time to carry my luggage once again up the 16 steps to the aircraft.

alps ud51I learned (again) that traveling light, while it ensures your stuff goes where you go, is actually quite heavy.  I also discovered that with a dose of divine protection “killer trips” are indeed survivable.

I’m happy to be back home again. Hoping for a gorgeous sunset tonight. Just like this one the day before I left on my trip.

sunset ud50I wish you all a wonderful week ahead. Peace.

Sleep Frighten Dance.

Last weekend I was writing yet another review for Trip Advisor. While pinning down the cities I had visited on a world map in the reviewer profile, something hit me. I realized that my visits to some of these cities had been so hurried that I really only saw the airports, the hotels and a variety of boring meeting rooms and conference venues. That was a bit sad, I thought.

But then, slowly, my little head started churning out some details. I could recall a few incidents from those whirlwind travels. And to speak the truth, they were … a bit bizarre.

I particularly remembered a work trip to three countries in Europe that I executed in less than six days. Far from flawlessly. But I survived, contrary to firm predictions of my travel agent. And now I’m hoping that trip will make some light-hearted weekend reading in the what-not-to-do department.

It all started with a one day visit to Finland. I arrived in Helsinki after an overnight flight from New York around 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. The rest of our team had arrived the day before, but since my son’s birthday was that Sunday, I had opted to leave on Monday. So now I had to jump right into the team’s meeting schedule. Fresh from the plane. Red-eyed and jet-lagged.

At some point in the afternoon we were in our third meeting for the day in a client’s beautiful meeting room.  I participated in the discussion. But then, gradually, the voices of people talking started to fade away. Until all I heard was distant monotone mumble. I was about to fall asleep. I remember pressing my fingers as hard as I could around the thick edge of the wooden conference table, hoping the pain in my fingers would keep me awake. That trick didn’t work. I drifted further and further away. Suddenly I heard my name being called. I was invited to answer… a question? But what question? All eyes were on me, expectantly.

I glanced at my boss hoping he would help me out. Nothing. Then my sleepy brain came up with a brilliant emergency strategy. Looking around the room I asked: In what context do you want me to explain that?  Addressed to no one in particular. Successful gamble! My boss understood I had not really been there and helped me by expanding on the question. Phew! That was a close call. I was grateful I had remained upright in my chair and not hit my head to the table, with a resultant bump in my forehead. So far so good. During the coffee break that followed, I had three cups of strong black Finnish coffee.

That night I slept like a baby, waking up every two hours wondering where I was. Bright and early the next morning I was at the airport again. On my way to Warsaw, Poland. Solo.

There I quickly checked into my hotel and then participated in a conference at another venue for the rest of the day. Late in the evening, after a joint dinner, all participants received a gift from the local hosts: a beautiful hand-painted Polish coffee mug. I had only my laptop case and a small purse with me, so I shoved the large mug into the front pocket of my trench coat.  A huge bulge.

polish coffee mug ed (2)

On our way back to the hotel where most of us stayed,  it became obvious to me that the other participants wanted to “see the town”.  I protested.  All I wanted was to hit my head on the pillow. But they didn’t allow me to walk alone to the hotel. Could be dangerous for a lady at that time of the night. Little did they know about my self-defense capabilities. But I didn’t feel like elaborating on that so I found myself among people queuing for entrance to a local night club. Just green tea for me, please.

When our company reached the club’s entrance, the bouncer immediately pulled me aside. What now?  He pointed at the obvious bulge in my coat and shouted something in Polish. Loud. Everyone stared at me. Some fearfully, most curiously. Finally my tired brain caught up and I was about to retrieve the coffee mug from my pocket. He almost hit me. Put your hands up! That was English. I swiftly obeyed. Then he carefully reached into my coat pocket and fished up … the mug. The threat was over. Laughter. Who goes into a night club with a large coffee mug in her pocket? Tiny does. Entertainment for the masses.

After some explanations offered by a Polish colleague, we were eventually allowed inside. Bright neon beams. Loud music. I sat at the back wall with my rolled up trench coat, the mug back in the pocket, for the one hour or so we stayed at the club. Finally back in my hotel room, I carefully packed the mug in my carry-on. I still have it and I use it often. It’s special.

After a couple of meetings in our Warsaw office the next morning, I was at the airport again. And boarded a plane to Budapest, Hungary. Exhausted I threw myself on the bed in my hotel room. I would take a nap and go for dinner in two hours. Then enjoy my only free evening on this trip. But that was not to be. I slept 12 hours straight. Took me several minutes to figure out where I was and why. I was in Hungary and I was hungry. It was almost time for breakfast.

That Friday I led a workshop for staff from our local office. All went well. Until the evening. We were invited to a special dinner with cultural entertainment. During the nice traditional dinner,  a band played Hungarian folk music. Very enjoyable. At the time of the dessert, a small group of young folk dancers performed.  And then the band played again. That’s when a youngish male colleague from the local office decided to ask me to dance. Me? No way. So I politely declined referring to my nonexistent skills in Hungarian folk dance. That strategy fell on its face. Everyone stood up and started clapping, urging me to dance. I was their guest so I decided to be brave and give it a try.

I found myself in the middle of the floor with my colleague. Everyone still clapping. He turned out to be a very good folk dancer so I was able to follow him, to a small degree. Whistles and louder clapping. After a few minutes the tempo changed. We started twirling around faster and faster. One, two, three … this was fun! Until somewhere between the fifth and the sixth spin I lost my footing.  As a kid I had never won a competition where we were supposed to spin around in one direction. My head just doesn’t agree with that kind of motion. So there I was laying on the floor. Dizzy. And without the folk dancers’ usual white cotton underwear or long skirt. Colleagues were rushing to pick me up. Not one of my best moments, but quite memorable.

I remember that a group of colleagues walked with me from the restaurant back to my hotel over the Danube river. That was a beautiful walk, we stopped several times to admire the gorgeous night views of Budapest. The next day was Saturday. I would be catching my plane back home around midday.

As a reward for my bravery at the dinner, my Hungarian colleagues offered to show me a bit more of the city the next morning. They took me to a little village in the outskirts of Budapest. It was a picturesque place with lots of craft shops. To my relief there was no music or folk dance that time in the morning. I ended up buying some beautiful traditional embroideries for gifts and some Hungarian crystal dessert bowls for home. I still have them as a reminder of my Hungarian dance performance.

hungarian crystal 4 edited 2

I’m sipping morning coffee from my Polish mug right now. Then will have some fresh fruit from a Hungarian crystal bowl.  I have the evidence. I didn’t dream it all up. I’m smiling. And if you are so inclined, it would be a good time to smile right about now. It’s on me.

More on my wacky travels in other countries later. I wish you all a wonderful weekend. – Tiny