The 5P’s of International Travel

I would consider myself an above average traveller in terms of air miles, flight hours or days on the road.  Statistically speaking, a normal year of travel would comprise of 440,000kms in air travel or 11 times around the equator.  Over a year, 30 of those days would be in the air travelling between destinations.

People often ask me if I enjoy it, if it’s glamorous and whether I enjoy airline food, but mostly, what would be my best travel tips?

Here are my 5P’s of International Travel.


Every time and without exception, be polite. You go further, get more assistance and are always warmly welcomed back when you are polite. I have seen so many people get into trouble in their travels because they have failed to recognise their manners and their deportment has created an issue. For instance, did you know that airlines keep electronic diaries on travellers? These diaries include “favourite passengers” and flagged travellers. So even before you set foot on a plane they have a brief on who will be in their cabin. Hotels you frequently visit also keep dossiers on your requests and your behaviour.


You will always get where you need to be! Stay calm about the timings. If things start going pear-shaped, becoming being stressed or angry WILL NOT get you to your destination any quicker. Often, the people you feel like venting at have no control on the cause of the issue, nor can they really fix the outcome.  The best- case scenario would be; you are re-accommodated, rebooked, rescheduled. The relaxing part is up to you. If you are standing in queue, waiting for your pick up, expecting a meeting to start or just waiting for the phone to ring to tell you the deal is signed, you stressing on it will not make it happen sooner.


Be aware just how much impact your physical presence, your culture and body language has on the outcomes of your travel. This is not just a rule of thumb for travel but it is heightened when abroad. Your accent can be a great draw card for you and people like to talk to experience it. Your skin colour, your height and your hair colour can draw people as well. BE aware that it can also make you stand out in situations where you really don’t want to. Being a male or female can present safety concerns and even people guessing your nationality can be a blessing or a curse. Know how you change a room when you enter it and know how much personal space you should give to others.


Learn well form those you meet in other countries, practice their language and their customs. Know that when you practice with them, even if at first you do it poorly, their level of respect for you increases inordinately and is greatly appreciated. Often, routine global travel can be monotonous and energy draining.  Practising a new culture can be fun, engaging and rewarding when you finally get that phrase right, or can order your own dinner or even answer a phone call.


We live in a beautifully rich and diverse world.  Products sell, businesses grow, deals get made and many get to share in the knowledge. Knowing how to do business will get the deal done, once. Knowing the person will get the deal done, time and time again. People can be the difference between a trip, a great trip, an excellent trip or a traumatic trip. This may sound like a motherhood statement, but it’s surprising when I would talk to frequent travellers and ask them how they were enjoying their trip and they will say, “it’s just another trip”.  I believe I had the greatest success in my business travels when I spent more time on the person than on the deal. I would like to think that if I chose to get up and get on a plane to almost any country, I would be able to call on someone, have a meal, get a bed for the night, be invited to a family function or get assistance when really needed.

Business travel is often anything but glamorous.  Despite the fatigue and the struggle to adjust to many different time zones, it can feel like just another job perk, or a mindless, tiresome chore.  It is definitely exhausting, mentally, physically and emotionally, but it can also be stimulating, so much so that some people return from business trips energised, with an expansion of skills and a different perspective on their work.   I can honestly say, I’ve never returned energised, but always with increased knowledge and a fresh set of ideas for my business.

Personally, I have found working abroad has had many potential benefits.  As a global traveller, I am pleased to say that this has built resilience, harnessed my inner creativity and deepened my awareness and understanding of the way people do business.