Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home.
If you travel for fun, you might only have a vague appreciation of that. But if you’ve ever been away on business for an extended period of time, you probably see things differently. There are few things worse than being sent across some ocean to tend to business for a long period of time.
Unfortunately, I can’t write a note to excuse you from the project at hand. But I can offer some suggestions for making it a bit more palatable when you are far, far away for an extended period.
Bring a piece of home with you. Nothing eases homesickness (and yes, the high-powered executive gets homesick) than a few mementos of your home and loved ones. Bring small photographs in a folding frame for your nightstand— your kids, wife, girlfriend, or loyal pooch. Do you have any young kids? Bring a recent piece of “art.” Does your wife or girlfriend wear a perfume that you love — bring along a sachet that will remind you of her.
Stay in touch. Keeping in touch keeps home close to you and you close to home. There are ways to work around a time difference, but it is important to be sure to keep in touch with your home base — not your office, your home base. Be sure you know that Jimmy won his soccer game, and that your wife had the day from hell, and that Susie has the sniffles. If you are in Europe, call late at night just before you go to bed, and if you find yourself in Asia, set your alarm for a 15 minute conversation in the middle of the night. Call on their time, not yours.
Use technology. If you have a laptop, keep in touch with “just thinking about you” e-mails, consider an instant messaging program, or even a webcam for the face-to-face conversation. I know that my evening out with some clients will go a lot better when my Elizabeth (my daughter) pops onto my instant messaging to tell me about the “way cool lacrosse game” she just finished. While I do not have a webcam, many of our clients do use them to keep in touch — it is a living photograph and closes the distance gap just a little more.
Blog it. Blogging is all the rage. It’s is a personal piece of cyberspace to voice your opinions, keep your thoughts, photos, and memories. Google has a partnership with Blogger, which allows you to blog for free. Just give your personal address to your friends and family and you all can share and post to keep one another up to date. If you are looking for a great travel-related blog, look no further than Tripso.com—for an outstanding sample of a personal blog, check out Aren’s Adventures (written with a little help from his father, who also happens to edit this Web site) which chronicles his life from birth to present — Aren is 3. If you are not as tech-savvy as you would like, a travel journal is a great alternative. Don’t bore the neighbors, but a journal and some photos to really see what mommy or daddy does when they go away is a fantastic way to keep in touch.
Pick the right place to stay. While bringing a piece of home with you and keeping in touch will go a long way to ease the pain of a road trip, the fact remains that a hotel is still a hotel. Or is it? If you find yourself away from home for an extended period of time — say, 10 days or more, you ought to look into long-term corporate housing. I am not talking about those extended stay places that add a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee pot to the standard fare hotel room. I’m talking about a full-blown home away from home.
While there are several companies in this field, Ashbourne Corporate Housing has stood out for my clients. They own and manage properties worldwide, and for the ones that they don’t own, they have reciprocal agreements. Instead of the usual bathroom on the left, closet on the right, bed straight ahead, they offer a range of homes away from home. Are you traveling alone? How about a wonderful flat in the West End of London. Bringing the family for a three month stint in Northern Virginia? Try one of their furnished four bedroom homes in the beautiful hunt country of Virginia. Amenities vary by property, but all are considerably larger than a hotel room, all will include a furnished kitchen, and can be provisioned if you like. More important, they are designed to save you money. With a serviced apartment or home, you have a place to entertain clients, a place to cook your own meals (no more expensive and fattening dinners) and a place that is a home —not a hotel. And the price is right. That flat in London will run you $2500 based on a month long rental or about $80 per day. You can contact Ashbourne Corporate Housing on their website or by phone at 800-424-8845.
So the next time the word comes down from the corner office to pack up and ship out, take heart. Travel today is a nightmare. From the lines at the airport to the food on the plane, to the cab driver that just wants to scam you — it just is not as fun as it used to be. But it does not need to be that bad, while there truly is no place like home, following these tips will make it a lot more bearable.
John Frenaye is the president of JVE Group, Inc., a diversified company based in Annapolis, Md. With a background in business management, he writes about the travel industry as an insider with an outsider's perspective. or . Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting .