Do you like traveling alone? Whether you love it or hate it, if you run your own business, you had better get used to it. Like many things, a lot depends on how you go about it. Do it right, and it'll be a lot more fun.
I've traveled by myself from Tulsa to Prague to Bali (I'm one of those weird people who loves traveling alone). Here's what I've learned over the years:
1. Always have something to read.
Being the only person dining alone in a nice restaurant is a lot less awkward if you can dive into a great book while you're doing it. (And, it turns out, reading books benefits your brain and adds to your longevity.)
Traveling on your own is not the time to try to get through that long, incomprehensible tome you've been meaning to read, or even that book you know you need to read for work. Instead, pick something you know you'll enjoy even if it's a guilty pleasure, such as a romance or trashy thriller. It's extra fun to pick something set in the place you're visiting. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tony Hillerman near the Navajo reservation, and Dubliners in Dublin, (although I'll confess that I laid that book flat on my lap on the bus so the other passengers couldn't see what it was).
2. Make sure you can stay connected.
When traveling by yourself, having a reliable connection to work and home takes on a greater importance. So use tethering, buy a portable hotspot, buy a local phone chip or "burner" phone, and scope out internet cafes where you'll be staying.
3. Plan your travel around your natural rhythms, not the other way around.
I have a friend who frequently travels from New York to London and he refuses to take the red-eye. Instead, he'll take a flight the morning before he needs to be there, arrives in the evening (with the time difference), gets a good night's sleep, and turns up to his meetings refreshed the next day. I think that's very smart.
You may be able to save money and/or time by taking the red-eye, arriving at the airport at 4 am for a 6 am flight, or doing any of a number of other self-punishing things. But if you're going to the expense and taking the time away from the office for a business trip, it had better be for an important reason. If you're half-asleep, physically exhausted, or otherwise suffering the effects of a brutal trip, how well will you be able to fulfill that mission?
4. Never bring anything you can't move by yourself.
Especially when traveling alone, it can be comforting to fill up your suitcase with everything you might possibly need. But there comes a moment in nearly every trip when you have to bring everything with you, even if it's just from baggage claim to the nearest taxi line. A system where you can hook a bag onto the top of a rolling suitcase becomes extremely important at that moment. So is being able to actually lift each of your bags.
5. Have a traditional time or times to make contact with home.
My husband and I have a long-standing practice that, if one of us is traveling, that one calls the other right around bedtime every night. It's reassuring to know that we'll have that connection, it gives us a chance to tell each other about our days, and we never have to wonder when or if the other will call. It also makes traveling alone a lot less lonely.
6. Go exploring.
There's always something new or new-to-you to go check out in any destination, even one you've visited many times before. So if at all possible, take some time to visit an attraction you've never been to before, revisit a museum, take a nearby hike, or just pick a new neighborhood to explore on foot or by car. If you're unsure about safety in the destination you're visiting, find out which neighborhoods are safe to visit and which aren't, or bring along a guide.
7. Talk to strangers.
Traveling by yourself is a great time to meet new people, and the acquaintances you pick up can make all the difference to your trip. In Prague, I happened to strike up a conversation with another solo traveler from the UK who turned out to also work in publishing, and we wound up attending the city's best music festival together. Then we never made contact again. Friendships formed between people traveling alone need not last beyond your trip, and they can make that trip much more fun. Talking to locals can be even more interesting because it gives you the chance to learn about your destination as well.
8. Ask for advice.
Sometime during your trip you'll undoubtedly be working with or meeting with locals. This is a great opportunity to ask what their favorite places to visit are, and what they recommend you do and see while you're in town. Not only is this a great way to get inside information about the destination, it will help build a relationship with these contacts. Most people love sharing inside information about the special places they've discovered, especially if they take pride in their home town. And absolutely everyone appreciates being asked for advice.
9. Plan for enjoyment.
If you're traveling alone on business, especially if you're pitching a new product or trying to get a company off the ground, you may be tempted to fill every single minute with appointments or sales calls--or catching up with the work going on back at the office. Don't give in to this temptation.
To perform at your best during your trip you should be well-rested and happy. So try to make sure every day has some down time, even if it means sneaking off for an hour in the middle of a conference or turning down a meeting to take a walk in the park. It's also perfectly acceptable to spend your down time lounging in your hotel room if that's something you enjoy--I know I do. One of my happiest solo traveling moments was having room service deliver a pot of tea in the delightfully old Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
Your down time could be an afternoon of skydiving or riding horseback on the beach. Or it could be watching old movies sprawled on your bed. Just make sure it's something you truly enjoy, and that will leave you ready to face tomorrow's meetings in a happy mood and with a clear mind.