I was frozen to my seat. Quite literally. Ice crystals on aeroplane windows are normally reserved for the outside aren’t they? The wintery coastline of southern Iceland had disappeared from view and as the tiny plane rattled it’s way through pregnant snow clouds I eagerly searched the sea below for my first glance of the Westman Islands. Full of puffins in summer, they were quite a different world in the middle of January, and one not usually visited by tourists. Perhaps if I’d known we’d be landing on a runway of sheer ice I might have thought twice about booking this side trip, but I had a couple of days to play with and wanted an adventure. This sure ticked that box.
It’s no secret that I’m not a full time traveller. I love my job, my house and my life, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Yet when it comes to trips away, I’m always one for making the most of every opportunity. Whether it’s weekend jaunts to the country, sneaky romantic nights away or even business travel.
Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure?
Business travel can be frustrating, visiting exciting new places but only experiencing them from the wrong side of the boardroom window. During my trip to Iceland I realised it didn’t have to be all work and no play. I was in Reykjavík on business yet I’d already been horse riding in the snow around Hafnarfjörður, and eaten the obligatory bit of rotten shark in the equally obligatory Viking Restaurant. Seeing the world on someone else’s time was clearly the way forward. I soon learnt it was possible to have the best of both worlds, and started factoring in extra time on my trips to explore as a tourist. All it requires is a bit of thinking outside the box, a splash of determination and lots of pre-planning.
Oh, and a splash of Icelandic schnapps to help persuade your colleagues!
Thus I found myself skidding along an icy runway with a couple of work colleagues who were no doubt wishing they hadn’t listened to my crazy idea back in the warmth of the Reykjavík bar. Alighting from the plane, our legs a little wobbly despite a perfect landing, we found ourselves a world far away from the bright city lights. Soft snowflake flurries were settling on the black volcanic landscape all around us, and as we wandered down the enticingly lit streets it became apparent we were the only tourists on the entire island. Not something I was complaining about. We spent the afternoon scrambling up hills and chatting with some friendly locals who hadn’t seen visitors on the island for weeks. Definitely the best day of the trip, and one that would not have been possible had I not been there for work.
There’s nothing better than having a job that requires you to travel for business. Until you’ve been at it a little while. What used to be a glamorous perk can often become a chore, something that non-business travellers can never comprehend. My friends would stare incredulously as I grumbled about ‘having to go to Paris’ for a week, or ‘needing to attend meetings in Belgium’ that involved socialising with clients and drinking beer. I don’t even like beer.
And frankly I’d rather be snuggled up on my sofa at home watching TV and eating a pot noodle.
Yet business trips like these, and those that have come about through being a travel blogger, have allowed me to experience places I would otherwise have overlooked. I’ve been introduced to people I could never have discovered alone and perhaps had a truer flavour of local culture than on any of my personal travels. Whether real or just perceived, being a business traveller gives you more confidence than when you’re simply on holiday. Without business travel I wouldn’t have shared afternoon tea and tales of 17th Century pirates with fishermen on a remote Icelandic island. I wouldn’t have exchanged banter and local lore with the inhabitants of a small Belgian town, and I certainly wouldn’t have stayed in the utmost of Parisian luxury and eaten escargot whilst being serenaded by a pianist. If you’re interested in combing these sorts of experiences with work then why not consider starting a travel blog? You can begin with it as just a hobby, then build it up so it starts paying for your travels.
I know combining different types of travel isn’t that simple for everyone, and some may not even want to blur the boundaries at all. Each of us is different, and perhaps some of us don’t even know quite what we want. I certainly didn’t until I went to Iceland. But that’s okay. Just treat the whole experience as a journey, one on which you’re allowed to change your mind! Just do whatever you feel happiest doing in the moment.
These days I have the opposite problem and have to fit in paid blogging work around my holidays. It’s a whole new take on travelling and one we’re slowly getting used to. We haven’t yet got the balance quite right, and hubbie will tell you he’s frequently subjected to thoroughly ‘non-holiday’ behaviour as he’s commanded to make himself scarce whilst I photograph our hotel room. Sometimes he has to make do with the local cat for company whilst I’m writing in the evening, and he just doesn’t understand why I need a picture of every meal we eat.
Yet we’re getting there, and are beginning to understand travel for business and travel for pleasure don’t have to be so different after all.