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16 Oct 2014

Leslie's European Workcation

Last month I had the great opportunity to travel in Europe for three weeks. Work was the vehicle that got me there (big thanks to HOTSTART!) so it's only fitting that I glean some knowledge from the experience that will hopefully make me a better employee. Here are some highlights of the trip (just to make you jealous ;-) ) and some insights I learned from stepping WAY outside of my comfort zone.

The work still has to get done: The main reason for my trip was a trade show in Hamburg, Germany. Trade shows are probably 40% of what I do and my boss encouraged me to attend this one because it was in a region where we expect growth. He wanted my perspective on the market for future marketing planning. But before I left, there was a lot to do. The prep for the event started months before and it involved working with multiple departments to get our display ready and out the door. And it wasn't the only show I had for September. There were three other events to coordinate before I left. I was excited to go on my trip but the work still had to get done. And let's be honest, a trade show is work; long hours in a hall, smiling so much your face hurts and catching up on everything else during the evening because Spokane is waking up and demanding attention. Did I mention the show shipping carrier lost my return shipment and didn't tell me for three weeks? PANIC ATTACK!! (They found it eventually and it's back in Spokaloo.)

Proof we did some work while in Germany!

 

Go with the flow: The next week was split working first in Siegburg, Germany and then Paris, France. The biggest thing I noticed here were the cultural differences. In Germany, when you were in the office, you worked. We were focused, task oriented and kept the chit chat to a minimum. When I got to France, it was more fluid. There were customers to see, but if we were late or had a cancelation at the last minute, oh well. We would just stop off and have a café and croissant till the next meeting. Both experiences were different than a typical day in Spokane but not by much. Schedules change, priorities shift and some days are more about work while some are more about play. Being able to go with the flow no matter the environment is a good skill to cultivate.

A French pastery before a customer visit. Who could say no to that?

 

It's about the people: One of the best parts of work was spending time with coworkers that I rarely see. Even with tools like email and Skype, our paths don't always cross. This trip was a chance to get to know them, find out what they face day to day half a world away and learn how I can better serve them and our customers. The feedback was great to hear - and commiserating with them on things that are also concerns in Spokane established a connection we didn't have before. Now, when I see an email that's "blunt", I know more about the person sending it so I'm less likely to take offense. And now that they know our workload, hopefully they are more understanding when delays occur in fulfilling their requests of marketing.

New friendships created in Cologne over some  Kölsch and Coke!

 

Make time for FUN: All work and no play make Leslie VERY grumpy! Traveling all that way for work would have been a waste if I didn't also have some fun. Europe was a treat but London was the part of the trip that was all for me! The work leading up to the trip and running around Germany and France for two weeks was worth it to have that time in England. Statistically Americans get fewer paid vacation days than Europeans. And we don't even use all the days we get. How crazy is that?!? When the opportunity presents itself, go for it! Check it off the bucket list and soak in the moments. I don't know when I'll be in London again but I already know what I'll do when I go back.

Obligatory Eiffel Tower selfie. Being weird at Parlament. Cambridge friends having fun!

 

They say traveling changes you. Granted, each of these lessons can be learned right here at home, but do we really take the time to seek them out? Would we recoginze an opportunity when it appears or do we just keep on the blinders that routine creates? I don't know if there was any single moment that I can point to and say, "Well I'm different because that happened." I think in the long run, little things will pop up and reveal themselves to me that will result in a few "Oh SNAP!" moments. At the very least, I know for sure it's time to learn another language if I'm going to travel more!

Who knew the Queen was protected by a lion and a unicorn?
Be sure to catch a show on the West End when you're in London.
Stuffy British business men wear wacky socks.
Oh Cambridge!
Portabello Road for all you could ever want or need!
If you don't know what this is, we can't be friends anymore.
The London Underground is a fantastic way to get all over the city!
Again, if you don't know what this is, we can't be friends anymore.
The Tower of London with a field of handmade ceramic poppies to honor the British soldiers who died in World War I. Over 850,000 will be planted by Nov 11, 2014.
A very cheeky yeoman at the Tower of London.
He never did crack a smile.
Tower Bridge, not to be confused with London Bridge.
Stonehenge just an hour and a half from London, highly recommend.
Big Ben standing watch over London.