As a CEO of a growth stage company I find myself on an airplane more often than in my office. This frequent travel is exciting, as it represents meetings with our customers and speaking engagements at events where we talk about how critical cognition is to overall health. Unfortunately, it also represents a disruption to the routine of diet, socialization, sleep and exercise – all of which I wrote about recently in relationship to cognitive health – that I use to keep sane and healthy in a high demand job with ever increasing cortisol levels (aka stress).
Over the past two years of increasing travel demands combined with increasing family demands I have found there are a few key lessons and travel behaviors that have helped me stay healthy and sane as Savonix grows and demands on my time and attention exceed realistic and move into the realm of impossible.
Number one: Do something active every day on the road.
If I have time to get in a lap swim on the road it is a great day. Too often the days are long and all I can manage is a 30-minute walk on a treadmill at 5:30 AM. To stay active and fit I take the stairs at the hotel or in office buildings. Even when a meeting is far away from my hotel I will look at a map and walk part of it and check out interesting sights in whatever city I happen to be in that day. It takes a little effort but that effort pays off in lower stress feelings, maintaining my fitness and bringing some balance to a busy travel schedule. Recently, in London I had a meeting at one end of Hyde Park – I had the taxi drop me off at the other end and enjoyed a walk along the Serpentine to my meeting. I arrived feeling energetic and the customer commented on how “flush with sunshine and energy” I looked – not a bad impression!
Number two: You are what you eat
Often travel can seem like an excuse to throw good nutrition to the wind and eat on the fly. Having Celiac Disease helps me avoid vending machine food as it’s usually packed with gluten but trust me the pull of fast easy food is never stronger than when I am away from home and a routine of healthy foods and cooking. To that end I have “fail stops” of things I grab that are easy and healthy. One of my favorites is the Starbucks cheese and apple box – it’s almost always easy to find (there is a Starbucks on every corner in every city it seems – thank you Howard Schultz!) and it’s healthy and filling. Another fail-safe is a package of edamame and an apple in my bag at all times. I also travel with dark chocolate covered almonds for a mid day pick me up that feels guilty but is actually very good for me. Finally, I avoid alcohol on all my flights – I know, I know – no fun but the point here is that it dehydrates and air travel already has that effect and the net-net is I feel better and perform better on the road because of it.
Number three: Stay in touch
It’s hard being away from friends and family so often. Yet almost every trip I take I manage to get together with a family member or friend in one of the cities I visit. As I type this on yet another flight, I have worked a short diversion into this business trip to see my mother and several cousins. Next month while in Boston for meetings and to speak at an event I will have dinner with one of my nieces who is studying public health there. These dinners and meet ups keep me feeling socially connected and part of my family and network even with a 75% or better travel schedule. It can be tempting to schedule every minute of a trip to maximize value for travel dollars spent. I find that I am a better CEO when I make sure to stay connected to my family from my mom and aunts and uncles to my energetic nieces and nephews, and yes even my in-laws! I schedule these meetings and dinners ahead of time with every bit as much attention to fitting it in as seeing a major partner in a city where I am giving a talk or attending a conference.
Putting it all Together
Nothing makes travel feel as good as eating a home cooked meal and sleeping in your own bed. Several years of hitting the road more often than not have taught me a few things about how to keep healthy and sane while also being a road warrior for my growing company. It’s not easy, and my day-to-day at home healthy habits help me maintain them while traveling as I know I feel much better when I do these things even when it seems like a lot of trouble to go to in the moment. For those of us that find ourselves on a plane more often than at the office it’s critical to form travel habits that support our health and happiness. I hope this article prompts others that travel often to share their tips for the road.