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Are you among the growing breed of female business travellers? Packing for a trip made easy for Indian women!
By Meena Venkataraman
I had just been told that I would be travelling to the Philippines. It was my first business trip and the heady intoxication of anticipation filled my head with a cocktail of thoughts. It was only when I got to packing for the trip that I realized, work was what was taking me there and it was not just another holiday. The task seemed daunting.
Panic set in. What would I wear to the meeting on Monday? Would I need to dress any differently from how people dressed in my office in Bangalore? Were there any cultural taboos I was not aware of? Luckily, I spoke to a colleague who had been there a couple of weeks and she gave me invaluable advice one Indian woman to another.
Many business trips later, packing for a trip does not faze me like it once did. Many of us work in environments where travel is an essential part of work. Teams are global. We don’t always know everything about our colleagues whom we work with so closely day to day. Meeting them face to face becomes somewhat of a conundrum to solve. It has become important for the new age Indian woman, travelling on business to make the seamless switch from the work environment back home to one in a completely unknown land. It is in this context that packing for a business trip can prove to be a challenge.
I have found that researching dress code is of paramount importance. Terms like ‘smart casuals’ can sometimes be misleading and can come loaded with cultural influences. I found on my trip to England that while it might be okay in the US to turn up for a meeting in Jeans, in London it is a strict no no! You might have just stepped on a cultural landmine. Once you know what you can wear, deciding what to take in your suitcase is easy. I usually mix and match shirts and trousers, taking 2-3 of each in neutral colours.
Weather can play an important part in deciding what to wear. For colder climes, as a rule of thumb I pack two cardigans, one light and one in a dark shade like black. It is easy to make space for accessories like scarves which are a great way to enhance what you wear. Resist the temptation to over pack. Longer trips might be more of a challenge. On a 5 week trip to Shanghai I found myself wondering if I was taking enough. To my surprise the mix and match strategy I followed on my short trips held me in good stead. Most hotels provide laundry facilities. This coupled with a little help from the iron box in my room, got me though my stint there comfortably.
The clothes I have found hardest to pack for a business trip are things like jackets notorious for lapping up suitcase space. There is no easy way to fit them in. So the trick is to remove them from the equation. With airlines being air-conditioned, wearing a jacket rather than packing them away helps stay warm and at the same time provides great economy of space. The same holds for my favourite pair of jeans or my comfortable sneakers. They are best on my person.
Only pack what you can’t get. If you are thinking of taking essentials like your trusted hair dryer along, think again. Check with the hotel where you are staying if they are part of the amenities provided. The same holds good for toiletries like shampoos and soaps. Get rid of them and you can free up space for other essentials that you might really need.
It is important to make smart choices when it comes to foot wear. Carrying too much can add to the bulk of your suitcase. A pair of shoes that goes with trousers would be sufficient to get you through the trip without hogging luggage space. If you need something more comfortable for your leisure time like a handy pair of flip flops, wear them when you travel.
There is always the office dinner, or the party after work which might require something different. So pack something for those evenings when office wear falls short of what you need. I usually make sure the footwear I carry is not just something I can wear on my day shift but on these special occasions too.
Being a fan of travelling light, I have always turned to hand luggage to achieve my goal. Electronic equipment which I need to access easily like my laptop, charger, and my camera, I always carry in my backpack. A pair of spare clothes for long stop overs or other emergencies is an essential part of my arsenal.
Packing for trips doesn’t have to faze the female business traveller. It’s easy to get things going by focussing on what you really need. Like most things, it gets easier with practise. So pack your bags and travel away! The world is our oyster and as Indian women, we mean business!
*Photo credit: Satish Krishnamurthy (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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