Business Travel: Some Things You Should Plan, Other Things You Ought To Leave To Fate

One morning a few weekends ago I decided to go for a leisurely walk. I was in Provence at the time. In a lovely little village called Saint Rémy de Provence. My family and I were staying just outside the old town.

It was 7:00am and I had been up a couple of hours, unable to fall back asleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about a live deal. I got dressed and put on a pair of pink espadrilles I had bought the previous day in Arles. I quietly stepped out of the house making sure not to wake anyone.

Before long, I arrived into town and found myself in a square where a middle-aged cafe manager was arranging bistro chairs and round tables ahead of business hours.

“Je peux vous offrir un cafe si vous voulez,” said the Frenchman, seeing I was alone and eyeing one of the chairs.

“C’est très gentil,” I said. “J’en ai besoin.” (“It’s very nice of you. I need it.”)

“Dites moi.” (Tell me.)

“Un cafe allonge, s’il vous plait.” (A tall coffee, please.)

While I awaited my drink, I opened the Economist app on my phone to read articles from the latest magazine. About halfway through one on the recent Hong Kong protests a calendar alert popped up. It was a reminder I had set for myself – and completely forgotten about – a few months ago to consider attending an event in November. MIPIM Asia. A real estate conference.


I discarded the pop up and continued reading the article. I’ll get back to it later. But, in the minutes that followed, as I read article after article, the word property came up not once or twice but six times. And every time I saw the word I thought of MIPIM. What am I doing in late November? Stop getting distracted. There was no minimising the thought. I opened my calendar and scrolled down to November. It looked relatively empty on the travel front. I put the phone down and agreed I’d make a decision as to attend or not over the next five minutes. I was in the mood to make swift decisions. It would be easy after all. Here I was alone in Provence without distractions.

By the time I finished my coffee, I was ready to book my flight to Hong Kong. And I got there by asking myself two simple questions:

  • What’ll cost me? Roughly USD1,400 for registering. Not cheap despite it being a premium event and offering. Then there was the flight there and back. And accommodation, though sometimes I stayed with friends, especially in Hong Kong. It all adds up. And I tend to travel regularly so it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of a particular trip
  • What’ll I gain? This was easy. Plenty! I always go back to the same answer which is that even if I meet just 1 person I get along with and am able to plant the seed to a long-lasting relationship then it’s worth much more than the cost of the trip

I checked flights, which were reasonable, and decided to register for the conference on the spot. This was the part of my trip that was planned. That is, I would fly from London to Hong Kong, direct, landing a day ahead of the conference. Then I’d spend the following two days at MIPIM attending talks, networking with and meeting some of Asia’s largest real estate investors, developers, fund managers and more. After the conference I’d meet up with friends and existing contacts, time permitting.

Again, this was the neatly organised, pre-planned section of my trip.

So I booked my flight. The outbound journey was London Heathrow -->t Hong Kong Airport. The inbound trip, however, was not the reverse.

So what happens after MIPIM Asia?

In considering the inbound journey I asked myself, How much time can I be away for, and what other stops can I make on the way back?

With the Maps app open on my iPhone I zoomed in and out of Asia, and also looked west, to get some ideas. So many cities to choose from and many investors to catch up with. Vietnam? Singapore? Maybe Brunei or Indonesia? Perhaps I could spend time in mainland China. A catch up was long overdue with a venture capital fund in Shenzhen. A family office in Shanghai. A sovereign wealth fund in Beijing. So many choices. I would need more time to figure out this part of my trip. Was there, I asked myself, a country I should visit with greater priority? Indeed, there was one: India.

I was in the process of taking on a new client, a fund manager, headquartered in Mumbai and the last time I saw the CEO was in February of this year. I’d since met one of their executives in Dubai, where they have offices, but it was important to see the senior management in Mumbai again to take things forward. Talks between us have been ongoing for months and another meeting in person could officially kickstart the relationship.

Then, of course, there were previous clients and family offices I could meet up with in Mumbai. Not to mention seeing some close friends over a meal at one of Mumbai’s famous Irani cafes.

I booked my return trip from Mumbai.

In summary:

  1. I’ll fly out to Hong Kong and land on 25 Nov
  2. I’ll spend the 26th and 27th at MIPIM
  3. On the 28th I’ll head to: [TO BE DETERMINED]
    • 29th in [TBD]
    • 30th in [TBD]
    • 1st in [TBD]
  4. On 2 Dec I head to Mumbai
  5. On 4 Dec I fly out of Mumbai and arrive at Heathrow the same day

Some people may find it strange or inefficient to travel this way but I often like to leave a little room for trying out new routes.

Allowing some flexibility in your travels helps make life a little more exciting.

Next time you’re flying somewhere for business

As opposed to holidaying with friends, when you make travel plans for work it’s not as easy to be flexible with your schedule, for obvious reasons. But … however difficult it may be, do try to carve out some time which allows you the freedom to do something new or different. 

It could mean extending your trip by a day or having to squeeze in more activities on a particular leg of your trip than you previously anticipated, but it can be worth it.

Sometimes it is when you’re spontaneous that the most amazing and memorable developments occur.

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