Traveling for work is weird. We like to imagine the intrepid traveler, out experiencing new cultures, seeing new places and taking care of business. However all too often while traveling for work, I find myself sitting in my hotel eating disappointing delivery food, and feeling like Bill Murray on the cover of Lost in Translation. When your day is filled with trying to navigate a new place, living out of a suitcase, and well, working, it can be easy to stop prioritizing the outdoors and more broadly your own mental and physical well-being. Studies reveal that getting outside, even briefly, can have health benefits for your mind, body, and community. Here are a few low-impact, suitcase-friendly ways to get outside, clear the mind, and take advantage of the outdoors during those few precious hours of free-time on a work trip.
1 – Bring Your Running Shoes
The key to any outdoor activity is access. There’s no easier way to give yourself access to a city’s parks, trails, and activities then by bringing a comfy pair of athletic shoes. Running shoes are lightweight and easily pack down into a suitcase…or better yet just wear them on the plane. Simply having athletic shoes will help you reframe your approach to navigating and exploring your temporary home. Get your creativity kick started in the morning with a pre-work run or give yourself permission to get introspective with a nature bath. After work, you’ll feel a lot more motivated to go for an evening adventure if you know the only dogs that’ll be barking will be at the park.
2 – Rent a Bike
Most major cities have bike share programs with an app-based bike rental system. These short-term rentals are a great way to see the area more intimately, get some fresh air, and boost your mood with some exercise-induced endorphins. Look for developed bike paths and trails that let you skip the stop-and-go of the crowded surface streets. Most bike rentals also offer electric bikes which can be helpful for cities with hills or venturing farther afield. Plus, they’re super speedy. I often find that in big cities during the morning rush, an electric bike will get me to my appointments faster than sitting in a gridlocked cab anxiously scrolling social media.
3 – Bring a Packable Blanket
The best way to experience the outdoors during a work trip is simply to be outdoors. Bringing a packable blanket that can live at the bottom of a backpack or shoulder bag is a pro-move that’ll elevate your whole travel experience. Take the opportunity on your lunch break to find a near-by green space, city park, or even a courtyard and have a mini-picnic. If you’re feeling social, invite a colleague to join you. If not, take this time to practice resisting the ever-looming shadow of FOMO. This sojourn to solitude is your time. Read a book or take a few minutes for meditation to help quiet the mental buzz of a busy day. Your blanket can also serve as a place for a midday stretch. After hours of sitting in meetings, laying down for a few minutes of spine twists and pigeon pose will get your blood moving and set you right for that late afternoon push.
4 – Find Fine Fare
If I come in to town on a Sunday for a Monday work trip, I’ll look to see if I can find an open-air market. Open-air markets offer a wonderful opportunity to get outside for a walk, interact with the local culture, and get unique and healthy food to fuel your stay. Farmer’s markets let you sample the best of the local cuisine and stock up on regional snacks like local fruit, pickles, or cured meat. That way, you aren’t heading to the vending machine for unhealthy snacks between meetings. If there aren’t any open air markets during your stay, see what that town is known for. If there’s a particular local favorite, check it out. Maybe you arrange a meeting at an open-air cafe, try something unique at a food cart village, or catch a riverfront happy hour…if you don’t have any meetings afterward.
5 – Watch the Sunset
Bring it all together by finding a place to watch the sunset. Slip out of those work shoes, grab your farmer’s market fare and your blanket, hop on that bike, and find a cozy spot to relax while making core memories in a new place. Explore city parks, elevated greenways, rooftops, and if it feels appropriate, ask a local where the best spot may be. They may give you the insider tips for less touristy areas. Some waterfronts even let you have small campfires, but be sure to check regulations and restrictions. Plus, the nice part about sunset is, it happens every day, at least so far. So, get in there, get out there, and become that calm, cool intrepid travel pro you deserve to be.