There is always this illusion that those who travel for work (outside of your typical travel bloggers and influencers) have a glamorous life being able to visit many places thanks to being sent by their employer for work.
If you are one of those people that loves to travel, being in a job that requires you to travel to different locations can be a blessing but this does not necessarily mean you will be visiting the city the same way you would if simply on holiday. One thing I picked up even prior to my contract gig with Red Bull is that this illusion of work travel looks far better from the outside looking in. A big misconception around work travel is the amount of free time you have to play tourist in a city. When your job sends you to a city, the expectation is that you are being sent to work and maximize on the little amount of time you have to accomplish said work task. All of my work trips including but not limited to my current contractor gig have had early morning starts and late-night ends with packed itineraries.
This is not to say there aren’t ways to still be able to get a taste of the city you are working in. One simply has to get creative and find ways to sneak in some tourist things into the mix.
This is the tricks I was able to apply during the 7 days that I was working in Lisboa, Portugal this past March for Red Bull Futur/io.
- Do a little research and planning before arriving to your city of work. Figure out what your schedule will be, if any free time/gaps will be available. Additionally, find out the locations you will be at such as hotel, office, event venues, etc. and what is near these places that could be easily visited during this free time/gaps.
- Dinners can be an easy way to make your trip a culinary one. Ask local work contacts or find online restaurants and food suggestions that should be explored while in said city. If being taken to dinner, suggest if you may be taken to places you shouldn’t miss and if already pre-planned by work, rest assured they have most likely picked a restaurant that will be a culinary highlight in the city.
- If able to walk to locations, walk! This allows you to explore neighborhoods. If in a city, the hotel selected by your employer will most likely be very central to places to see, things to do, etc. If you are a runner consider a run opposed to hitting the hotel gym to kill two birds with one stone and add some fitness time into your work trip. I can assure you that your body will thank you.
- If your schedule allows, consider extending your trip and add some days either in the front or back end of when you are committed to work responsibilities to truly play tourist.
By implementing some of the tips above I was able to get a good refresh (FYI: I traveled to Lisboa on a European holiday years ago but admittedly don’t think I maximized on my time since this was closer to the end of my holiday and I was pretty tourist out.) and explore more of Lisboa during this work trip. See below.
- Stayed in Pestana Palace in Lisboa which is considered a national monument in Lisbon as this 5-star luxury hotel was built in a former 19th century palace and centrally located for exploring Lisbon in your free time.
- During a short work gap, I was able to enjoy the sunny day by walking around the “Parque das Nacoes” aka “Park of the Nations” which was near the Red Bull office in Lisboa. This short walk included stops to see the “Torre Vasco da Gama” and one of their infamous cable car stations.
- Local work colleagues made sure we got tempted to local pastries every morning by ensuring our meeting room had a box of “Pastel de Nata” which is a mini custard torte and “Pao de Deus” (“Jesus bread” in English), a sugary coconut bread roll. Word on the streets of Lisbon is that the best place to get a “Pastel de Nata” is from “Manteigaria” which is located in the “Time Out Market” building.
- One of my work venues was at the beautiful movie theater, “Capitolio”. It’s across the street from the abandoned “Teatro Variedades” which almost a century ago was the playground for theatergoers in Lisbon. It was lovely to see the old and new standing side by side.
- Worked in “Second Home”, a well-known co-working space in Lisbon located at “Time Out Market”. While there, I grabbed lunch at Time Out Market, which is on the list of places that tourists should visit as it offers an array of global food options in this famous food court. Food in Portugal is known for being delicious and affordable compared to other European countries and I can certainly vouch for their food as my meals here never disappointed. In the Time Out Market, I ate from one of the seafood stalls but am certain that any stall you decide on will not disappoint.
- Speaking of food, had the opportunity to have dinner at one of the top places to eat/best cocktail bars in Lisbon, “Bistro 100 Maneiras”. This Portuguese meets East European cuisine restaurant certainly didn’t disappoint and the long workday cocktail I enjoyed here was more than a treat.
- Visited LX Factory, a former industrial complex that now houses an array of boho shops and restaurants with an artsy feel.
- Enjoyed working in one of the traditional neighborhoods in the city, “Madragoa”. With its traditional narrow streets and small houses close to the Tagus riverfront, this neighborhood offered beautiful views of the “Cristo Rei” aka the Jesus statue overlooking the city.
- Maximized on the half day free time I had and enjoyed a walk to “Parca do Comerico”, this waterside plaza is home to the oldest café in the city, “Martinho da Arcada”. This beautiful square is also classified as a national monument of Portugal.
- Drove under the “Aqueduto das Aguas Livres”, a gothic aqueduct that stretches 14km.
- Took a stroll along the Tagus riverfront which as I mentioned offers beautiful views of “Almada” where the “Cristo Rei” stands and the “Ponte 25 de Abril” bridge that connects both cities.
As you can see, with a little commitment and pre-planning you can still enjoy your work trip and get a taste of the city you are visiting for work. To my fellow comrades who travel for work, are there any tips that have worked for you? (Share in the comments below)