Around the Christmas holiday and New Year are some of the busiest times of the year to travel (and most expensive). Personally, as an infrequent traveler, I find travelling taxing and stressful. I often wonder how executives manage to travel the world, answer countless emails a day, and still do their full-time job. What’s even more shocking to me is that they are able to stay productive (and frankly keep their eyes open) while travelling.
I had the chance to chat with Jonathan Becher, Chief Digital Officer of SAP, about his thoughts on business travel and his top travel productivity tips. As former chief marketing officer (CMO) of SAP and a frequent speaker at industry events, Jonathan is certainly no stranger to international and national travel.
In 2015, which Jonathan considers a down year, he spent about a 100 nights in a hotel and took 40 flights. In 2014, he spent 150 nights in a hotel and took 50 flights. To give you a sense, that’s about 240 hours in the sky, which means 10 full days!
So to call him a frequent traveler is an understatement, really. Here’s what Jonathan had to say about travel.
What do you like about travel?
Obviously, I don’t mind travel because I do a lot of it. There are two things I really like about travel. The first is personal connections you make travelling. I’m a digitally native person (not by age, but by attitude), so I enjoy communicating through social and digital technology. But, what I love about travel is the in-person interactions, which help me to be a much better communicator digitally afterwards.
The second thing I like is the opportunity for continuous learning. I learn from other cultures and learn from other points of view. I’m a big believer in the notion that diversity of opinion brings stronger results. I know what I know, and I want to find people who don’t have the same set of beliefs as I do. You are more likely to recognize the importance of diversity when you travel, even though I live in one of the best melting pots in the world – Silicon Valley. The more I go to other places, the more I see things differently, which makes me a stronger leader.
What do you dislike about travel?
When I’m on the road, I typically have a very packed schedule. I’m scheduled from breakfast through dinner. When dinner is done – and in many cultures, dinner isn’t done until 10:00 or 11:00 at night – then I have to somehow get back to my normal job. It’s not uncommon for me to have 16-hour, even 18-hour, days when I’m on the road. So, it’s not just the travel itself that’s exhausting. It’s trying to juggle two jobs that’s exhausting.
What’s your best travel productivity tip? How do you keep productive while travelling?
Never check a bag. Carry-on is the only way you can travel – even if it’s for three weeks and five countries, which I’ve done. It saves so much time. Not just at the airport, but getting in and out of hotels, going to meetings, etc. I don’t think I’ve checked a bag in the last 15 years.
Second, take advantage of the quiet time on planes. I actually switched my mental model about 18 months ago when I recognized that I’m actually most productive when I’m on a plane because there are less interruptions. It’s probably one of the few times where I control my own time. There are no meeting requests. No one is calling my cell phone. I don’t have to log into the Internet if I don’t want to. I’m completely isolated – other than the snoring passenger next to me. So now I schedule my thinking and writing time on planes.
Finally, there are four little things that I do every time I travel that I would highly recommend:
- Bring earplugs to drown out distractions. I have earplugs stashed everywhere, in my bags and at various SAP offices around the world.
- Digitize everything. I have a digital copy of all important documents (my license, passport, itinerary, etc.) that I keep in the cloud and Dropbox.
- Pack an emergency supply of cash. You won’t believe the situations I’ve gotten out of because of spare cash.
- Use TripIt. TripIt is a travel app with more than 11 million users that helps organize your travel plans in one place. In fact, TripIt Pro is now available on the SAP Store.
What’s your prediction on the future of travel (the #30kFtView) and how do you see digital technology improving travel experience?
A lot will change in the travel industry. Here are three predictions for the future:
- Travel is moving from a luxury to a ubiquitous experience. The price of travel will drop significantly. And travel will begin to follow a subscription model. One company is already trying the subscription model with flight. Beacon offers exclusive private air travel memberships with executive level service. You can fly all you want for less than $2,000 a month.
- Hotels will be more than just a place to stay, they will be experiences. Travelers are looking for a personalized experience fitted to the local culture. Traditional commercial lodging won’t cut it anymore. And of course, technology will play a role in the hotel experience. Robots may even be handling room service sooner than you think!
- Teleporting will become a reality. Scientists now believe it can be done; it’s just a matter of when it becomes practical at scale. Unfortunately, I suspect it won’t happen fast enough.
What do you think about travel? What does the future hold? Tell us in the comment section below or connect with Jonathan Becher on Twitter @jbecher.