This article was originally published in The TIREDGIRL Society Magazine, an online publication specifically for women with chronic illness, September 2018. Reprinted with kind permission from Abby James.
I’m a nervous flyer. Like; 3 Valium, an order of Scotch, and possibly a painkiller to top it off – that’s what I call my Cocktail of Coping. But, that’s not the worst bit about business travel for me. The hardest part is the seemingly endless quagmire of roadblocks and extra considerations I have to navigate just to ensure I get to my destination with the capability to actually fulfil my business duties and get home again. In one piece.
Recently, I travelled from Perth to Melbourne to attend a 2-day conference and awards event specifically for Mothers in Business.
The last time I travelled for PD was to ProBlogger in QLD and it took me a year to convince myself it would be totally worth it and I could go it alone. You see, my business expenses won’t cover me taking Mr Crow – super get-Jay-to-where-she-needs-to-be-with-a-spare-pair-of-shoes-and-the-right-cables extraordinaire that he is – even though he makes everything a gazbillion times easier. Nope, if Crisp Copy is footing the bill, I’m on my lonesome.
But, this was the 3rd year in a row I was nominated for the AusMumpreneur awards. Someone wanted me to go. Heck, I wanted to go. I said yes in a fit of confidence and then went about trying to make it all work. Here’s how I did it:
Firstly, I always like to sneak in a disclaimer. Although my illness is physical, I am not in a chair. I can walk up and down plane stairs and I can wheel my own bag. I can read without assistance and be understood verbally to ask for help. I understand that this puts me in a different space than some other readers.
1. I booked flights to give myself at least 24 hours “off” each side of the conference.
This can be a great idea and a terrible one. If you don’t have anywhere to go in that 24 hours and you’re wandering about in a city you don’t know with a whole lot of luggage, that’s not going to help you at all. But, I planned to fly in with enough time to do a bit of work, have a nap, get my hair washed, eat really well, and get at least 10 hours of sleep before the first day of the conference (which also happened to be the day I’d need to pitch for my category in the afternoon).
2. I paid for an early check-in and check-out at the hotel.
Fantastic, if you don’t organise it with the new intern. Usually works. Not this time. Perth is quite different to Melbourne when it comes to gambling and I had no idea I’d rock up at my hotel at 9am – after clearing with the lovely girl at the other end of an email that I’d be checking in early – to find out they legally couldn’t let me in until 11am. And then have to sit on the minus 2-degree concrete ground with all the jiggling, jangling folk waiting to feed their dollars to a machine for a couple of hours. So, I did get to check in early – an hour before ‘regular’ check in at 12 noon. Still, that buffer of hours gave me enough time to check emails, fire some off to the support system I had set up for the 4 days, and sneak in a large nap.
Also, if the budget allows, always go for the single room. You need downtime, lady, and having a sleepover with three of your new best business friends is not going to give you the rest you need.
3. I brought in the big-guns – my extended team – for extra support.
I’m not talking physically here. I’m talking about prepping a team of people who will help your business run smoothly while you’re doing all the pitching/meeting/networking/napping/gala dinnering you can fit in a couple of days. These are people who you’ve worked with before and who you can rely on. Who will take initiative if something goes sideways and who will be prepared to hear from you with weird time zone differences and in rushed typing (almost code!) between speakers. They also turned out to be the ones who shared my good news come award announcements with all of Facebook. Bonus.
4. I emailed the organisers!
If you’re like me, you’ve had years of pretending you are “absolutely fiiiiiiine” with massive ramifications for all that chin-up malarkey afterwards. No more. Tell the people you’re travelling to learn from/be with/work with that you’re planning to travel with extra considerations for a chronic illness or disability. They don’t need any extra details than necessary and you never need to say more than you’re comfortable with. I fired off an email saying, “Yes! I’m booking my ticket but I’m also letting you know this and this”, I guess, so if anyone found me napping in one of the swanky chairs near the loo, they’d know not to poke me.
5. I bought travel insurance.
Notice how many of these pieces of advice end up costing you dollars? Sucks, doesn’t it? It costs so much to be a woman in business with an illness who wants to be part of things. (Some of the things, you know, not many of them!) Still, insurance is worth it not to lose the whole shebang. Perth Hills to Melbs is exxy.
6. I lived it up.
This is a once-every-year (if that) kind of event I was fortunate enough that my business could pay for and my family could cope without me for. I went wild. The Jay version. I attended most of the classes, I chatted to everyone who’d talk to me, I stayed for the cocktail party on the first night, I went out to dinner with new friends, I had my hair washed twice, I ate all the Melbourne food, I introduced myself to women I admire, I even had a dance after the gala dinner with the hanger-onners after midnight. I was a hanger-onner! If just for a night. I may have paid for it the fortnight since after I got home, but it has been worth it. Life’s far too short not to go your-version wild once in a while. Just because we’re fully sick, doesn’t mean we have to be totally sensible every day, right?
Jay Crisp Crow
Yep, really my name