Going for a three-week holiday using all forms of transportation (planes, trains, automobiles, buses and boats) traipsing across three countries required a lot of planning. It involved going to a concert, a half marathon and a wedding in different cities and towns. Despite all the planning, there is the mindset to be opened to surprises. There were many references to principles (in business and in life) on this trip. Let’s start with the first!
1. A Brand You Can Trust – Unfortunately, I was not going first-class all the way. I wish. As expected, there are heaps of cobbled stones and walking paths in Europe. My friend’s luggage wheels took a beating and literally came off almost at the start of the journey. And immediately, I thought of one of the most trusted brands, Samsonite (this is not a paid endorsement!). And it’s not just about the quality but the after-sales service. I had fixed some of my parts the beginning of the year and knew exactly where to get it fixed at a reasonable price. My luggage piece is easily over 20 years old and there are still parts available. Although we didn’t know where to fix things there and then, there is the assurance that it could still be fixed upon return. It’s so important to work with brands which are reputable! This brings me to my second lesson.
2. Outsourcing – I am a big advocate of outsourcing elements of my life where I am not “gifted” to do. It is actually more a case of where my skills are best utilized given the limited time we have. For example, I cater my dinners, get transportation organized for my son to school and extra classes, a housekeeper to help out a few times a week and get groceries and toiletries delivered to my house. And so, when we chanced upon porter service to lug our bags (at a reasonable price!) from our hotel to the train station, we quickly procured the services. The luggage were on its last legs literally!
3. Planning – Just like any business, this trip took about 4 months to plan. It started with the vision of a wine run in Croatia and the other elements came into play. Firstly, the big ticket items namely the air flights, followed by the accommodation, on-ground transportation and then other bits and bobs. Largely to spread the costs. Before all that, travel insurance. The most complicated part was figuring out the best method to get from location to location at the best price. Thank goodness for Google, friends’ recommendations and general crowd sourcing. What did we do before technology! The importance of digitalizing oneself and of course new apps to download. Who knew Uber is only available in Milan and Rome and not the other cities? Taxis are cheaper than Uber in Milan and there’s this app called Free Now which also did not seem available in other Italian cities. Go figure!
4. Never A Straight Line From A to B – And despite all the planning, be prepared for hiccups and turbulence. The routes could be a tighter and even after looking at the maps, until I’ve been there, I can’t get a complete grasp of the map plus language considerations. Maybe it’s just me. The idea is to go with the flow and work the best with the information available. Terminal 1 and 2 could be next to each other or it could be miles away. I am never relaxed until I’m sitting outside the boarding area. It’s always a pleasant surprise when things are really close. So we found this AirBnB unit in a central location in Florence with a fantastic restaurant 10 steps away but of course we had to traipse through 3 flights of steps with our heavy luggage to get into the unit. All the questions like washing machines were asked but I think we forgot to ask which floor the unit was on.
5. Be Prepared For Turbulence – Like any business, of course there’s going to be turbulence. The goal is that nothing crashes or sinks! One time, the alarm didn’t ring and so we missed our only bus to a city 80kms away. The only solution was to hire a taxi (not cheap). Fortunately, we weren’t catching any on-going flights elsewhere that day. The only thing we could do was stay calm, find out which company accepts credit cards (nobody did and thankfully we had enough cash) and laugh about it.
At the end of the trip, it was to remember all the things we did right, laugh about things and to keep the mishaps in the folder to be used for another day.