I’ve been a backpacker for a long time, and at heart, I am still that free spirited, messy haired, baggy pants wearing, public transport riding, dorm room and bathroom sharing person that I once was (as I discovered that I still enjoyed the hostel experience last year in Yogyakarta).
However, circumstances has it that I have now also turned into that neatly dressed, wheelie case dragging, laptop lapping, taxi hailing and up-market hotel staying corporate traveller.
From having very limited budget to being able to wave my credit card about without considering how much that caviar meal is going to cost me, it has been a drastic change to my travelling style. It’s been wonderful to finally have a job that travels, but it would have been better if my job wasn’t so office based.
The differences goes beyond appearance and budget: the way I see a place, the people I meet as well as the experiences I encounter have all changed, giving me a broader perspective on the place.
I Am Learning About Different Lives
It is no longer comparing our own lives to the poorer or richer anymore. Very often we go to places like rural Cambodia or Siberia and we think wow, they have to walk five miles just to get to school, and there’s no electricity let alone internet connection, you have this false sense of ‘novelty’, thinking that’s the real wherever you are.
As a corporate traveller, you do realise that in fact, in the cities, people also have corporate jobs, their office just as modern as mine in Sydney or London, decorated with the same boring grey desk dividers, equipped with the same electronic devices.
I wasn’t going to tell these people they are not real ‘Ukrainians’ or ‘Russians’!
Then I get to know them, learn about their family life and to find out how life generally works for them, to come to the realisation just how lucky I am. It is exactly the same lesson I learnt as a backpacker visiting rural areas, that I shouldn’t take what I have for granted.
In fact, what I learn on my work trips probably hit it harder on the nail because these people are doing the same job, living a similar city lifestyle and yet on average, they earn about tenth of my salary per month. There are things we consider basic that they’ll never be able to afford, even though things cost much less than they do at home.
We have a habit of comparing living costs as travellers, often making comments on how cheap other places are, but sometimes we forget that it’s all relative, so my experiences have taught me to stopped saying “Wow that’s so cheap”, because I know I’d just be rubbing salt on a sore wound.
I Get to Eat, A Lot
One of the best things about business travel is that I get to eat well, and a lot. I got to try a lot of restaurants and cafes that I probably wouldn’t have considered on a backpacking budget, and have local colleagues to order some good quality traditional cuisines to try.
If you’ve missed the previous posts, you can find out what I have been eating from the following entries:
But… My Sightseeing Opportunities are Limited
Another big difference between my backpacking days and now, is that I no longer have a choice of where I want to go. Not that I am complaining!
It’s just that… I don’t get to sight-see as much.
In the beginning it was hard to acknowledge that being a corporate traveller I am not actually in a place to ‘see it’. I was there for work and all I’ll get to see is the hotel, the conference room and the roads in between.
And to be honest, a corporate conference room look the same wherever you are in the world!
However, I have managed to fulfill my need to explore by taking different routes to the office, and to make an effort to go out and explore after work. The downside to this is, that I am always seeing the place in the dark, missing out on the exciting colours and atmosphere you might get in daylight.
So, for both Moscow and Kiev, I already have plans to come back again when I am able to explore in leisure. I suppose one of the biggest advantage of corporate travel is that I have already experienced the ‘non-touristy’ side of the city, I already know what side streets are short cuts from the Metro stations to their nearby attractions. I know where to get cheap eats and I know how much locals pay for things, so that when I eventually return as a tourist, I’m able to concentrate on sightseeing, without the stress of learning all the navigation at the same time.
Happy travels :)