By Rita Anya Nara
Traveling alone for business is a regular requirement of many jobs. But traveling alone can be especially scary for a woman. Lurking fears about safety can be multiplied when you don’t have anyone to back you up. Not to mention normal travel worries. Here are some tips to help you through your next solo business trip:
- Choose Your Hotel Wisely. Just because you’re traveling on business doesn’t mean you have to stay at a business hotel. While there’s no denying that business hotels are conveniently located and put most people in the right mindset for a day of meetings or networking, keep in mind that the lobby, bar, and restaurant downstairs are often lined with businessmen traveling alone – many of whom may want to chat or flirt with you. Be honest with yourself – will this help you relax, or be a source of aggravation? Also, if you’re traveling with male colleagues, you may find it unnerving if they come to your hotel room to go over a presentation or ask questions – to the point that you wish you’d stayed at that smaller hotel down the street with the garden café.
- Understand the Physical Challenges of Traveling. Traveling for business often means going somewhere you normally wouldn’t choose, or may not be familiar with. You could be assigned to go to a city where you’re affected by high altitude, hay fever, poor air quality, or a significantly different climate. All of these can have an impact on your well-being and energy level. If you’re sensitive to environmental factors, find out more about where you’re going, before you go – or have your company do it for you.
If you’re flying, and know that you’re affected by dehumidified air, use a saline nasal spray before your flight to lubricate your sinuses and reduce the chance of a nosebleed.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes. Simply put, traveling requires you to stand a lot – in lines at the airport or car rental company, at reception desks, in lobbies making small talk, and often, for your presentation itself. If you’re carrying around a lot of video equipment or aren’t used to being on your feet, you can feel exhausted after a few hours – even if you feel like you haven’t been doing much of anything.
The bottom line is, no one will care how attractive your shoes are if you look miserable because your back or feet ache. Wear the most supportive shoes you can find that match your suit, and other women will probably wish they’d done the same thing.
- Try to Avoid Parking Garages. Yes, parking garages are convenient, ubiquitous, and better for your car than parking on the street. They’re also a potential safety hazard: you can be watched, followed, or cornered far more easily than on the street, particularly if you’re distracted as you try to find your car, or are hauling luggage.
If you have to use a parking garage, park as close as you can to a security call button – or try to follow someone you know into the garage and exit with him or her. The chances of you being regarded as dependent or paranoid are about as slim as your chances of finding free parking.
- Don’t Overwhelm Yourself with Evening Social Obligations. Women, more than men, agree to after-hours social commitments that they don’t really want to be a part of. Why? It might be that lurking old fear that our male counterparts will make important business decisions without us when they’re supposed to be “just kicking back.” To avoid being left behind or in the dark, we could find ourselves out after dark more than we really want to.
If you’re tired and are quite frankly sick of seeing your colleagues or clients after five p.m., and are worried about how you’re perceived by your male colleagues, don’t decline a social invitation without a business-related excuse, or colleagues may assume you need the evening for “family issues” – i.e., something that’s not going to move your career (or theirs) forward. Instead, cite an evening teleconference or time needed to prepare for tomorrow’s engagement, and simply excuse yourself. Then go out and do something you enjoy – or simply enjoy doing nothing at all.
There’s no reason to put a damper on your travels just because you’re traveling alone. Taking the correct measures can ensure a successful business trip without the stress. Safe travels!
Rita Anya Nara suffered from panic disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and social anxiety disorder when she started traveling. She has since traveled to 40 countries and wrote her book, The Anxious Traveler, from her own experiences. You can find additional tips and tricks on her personal blog: www.thebravetraveler.com.