Who cares about Traveller Wellbeing?
Before I begin to debunk myths about traveller wellbeing I want to put out a caveat (always best for legal reasons and just in case anyone feels passionately that I am wrong). This article is written from my personal experience, listening to others and engaging in the art of many conversations with travel industry peers and leaders.
So here we go… let’s do some Myth-busting (option to hum the Ghostbusters theme here);
 The definition of Traveller Wellbeing is too complicated
There is still a feeling that the definition is difficult to agree. For me Traveller Wellbeing should be defined as the connection of the Physical and Mental Impact of travel. Unfortunately many still believe that Wellbeing only relates to the Physical impact. Let’s connect the 2 and ensure that we understand the core elements correctly – lack of sleep (physical) = low energy and mood (mental). So to answer this question we ask ourselves – How does my trip impact my Wellbeing Overall?
 Travellers are Humans and not Robots
Many of us are travelling to complete a task (presentation, meeting, conference) that is defined by our role. It is an ‘expectation’ that we do it because it is an important part of our employment. TRUE. However the important thing to remember is that we are HUMANS first. When we tune into the human side of travel we start to understand more about each other, and when we are truly safe to do so we are able to be honest about who we are, and when we may struggle and need that extra little help.
 Anxiety and Mental Health issues only happen to the weak
We all have anxiety (sorry to call this out so early), it is our protective reaction to threats. When triggered our anxiety (fight, flight or freeze) will help to protect us. However things have changed significantly with our anxiety since the pandemic. Health anxiety has increased, people are more cautious and concerned about their safety from a health perspective now. We now have a trigged heightened awareness. Anxiety pre-pandemic was already high. With so many touch points during travel that can be identified to trigger anxiety (ever been late for a flight, missed a train, or had a hotel with no booking?!).
Mental health challenges across society are growing, with 1 in 4 adults experiencing issues each year. Amongst a travel community that potentially highlights the impact that ‘negative’ travel might have to those already struggling.
 Travel Wellbeing is the responsibility of Travel Managers
I am sure any Travel Manager out there will be happy to hear this is not true. You are not responsible for my wellbeing. This is a bit of a challenging area to consider who is responsible. The simple answer is that I (yes me) am responsible for my wellbeing. However if we use the thought of a Parent Child relationship, in a workplace my Manager ‘should’ be encouraging me to take care of myself. After all I am employed by my manager to do a job that meets their objectives. If a manager is truly caring for their employee they invest in the conversations and support to encourage me to be a healthier human. How many of you have a manager that checks in with you on a regular basis to see how you are feeling, how are you looking after yourself, and encouraging you to stay fit, healthy and well? (travelling or not).
How many of you have a manager that checks in with you on a regular basis to see how you are feeling?
 Travel Wellbeing is an investment we cannot afford
The good old ‘It costs more to be healthy and well’ – a great myth. Actually it costs more when we are unhealthy and unwell (sick). I am yet to be convinced by the continual thought that travel wellbeing is all about flat beds on airplanes and high end hotels? My personal investment in travel is important to understand. What do I value more, 5 star hotel or a 3 star hotel where I know I will get a good nights sleep? I guess we will never know if we never ask.
The only investment barrier that I often see in this conversation is TIME (which I know does often equate to money!). But imagine a time when we are able to stop, listen and act in the best interests of travel wellbeing. What does the traveller need to perform to ‘their’ best? Do we truly know what motivates a traveller?
 Travelling is just like being at home
Of course this is the simplest of myths to bust. Travelling is NOTHING like being at home. I know because my wife always reminded me that I didn’t have to do anything when I travelled (and of course she was right). I never had to make my bed, clean the bathroom, wash my clothes, or prepare my food. Everything was done for me. But does that help? Often for me when I travelled I had very little motivations to do much apart from work (it was all being done for me), and therefore there was a break in my routine. Travel was nothing like home. Maybe in 2022 we should consider how we can incorporate more ‘homely’ elements into the travel programme? (just a thought and call to action!)
 Long day trips and long-haul travel are positive impacts on my wellbeing
Oh dear, what a bizarre concept. Putting ourselves through travel that is unhealthy surely could never even be considered as an option? When I was a frequent traveller I always looked forward to my day trips to Europe. Wake up at 3am, airport for 6am, meeting around 10am, flight back home around 9pm, home and in bed by 11pm. An epic 20 hour adventure and I felt great [NOT]. Of course this is a true reality for so many. Think about the impact of that trip for the rest of the week. Half a weeks work completed in just 1 day! We need to put the brakes on this type of travel (if it is regular), because if we don’t we will break people.
 So long as I look after the planet I feel good
Sustainability is high up the priorities for so many companies now, and this is such an important topic. However as much as sustainable travel choices do make us feel better we need to also ensure that we understand human sustainability. Taking care of our humans, and preparing to take better care for humans in the future is critical for our survival. The more we heap on challenges and expectations the harder it is to recover. In 2019 the World Health Organisation included Burnout as a Long-term Workplace related Stress illness. It is growing, take notice people.
We need to move our travel wellbeing to a model that asks the question – Is this travel a Wellbeing Neutral or Wellbeing Positive trip? If the trip is Wellbeing Negative then it should only be warranted in ‘exceptional’ circumstances when it cannot be avoided.
Is this travel a Wellbeing Neutral or Wellbeing Positive trip?
 My Manager does not need to know anything about me
This was already partially covered in  above, but travel aside it is a critical part of retention for our managers to truly know who we are, how we feel, and what makes us motivated. If you are a manager or leader of people ask yourself, what do you know about those you have responsibility for? Do they engage with you in discussions about their lives outside of work? Consider this thought, often behaviours that we see are triggered by the things that we don’t.
 Companies need to make profit before people
Sadly this is still a reality for many companies today. In this year of 2022 we are starting to see the value in investing in our people. Human capital is a critical part of our workplaces, after all in travel it is the humans that are the key component. Over the past 5 years I have challenged my own personal understanding of the importance of a business traveller. I have concluded (IMO) that the traveller is still NOT in the centre of the Travel Industry. This has to change.
I hope that you realise the importance of the collection of all parts in the above. Travel Wellbeing is not a single thought, it is something that we need to consider for each and every trip, and most importantly for each and every human.
How do I PREPARE for my trip in advance? How do I PERFORM when I am away?, and How do I take the right time to RECOVER after my trip?
If you would like more information about how to embrace travel wellbeing into your programme in 2022, or as a supplier how you can evolve your products to better support wellbeing please feel free to reach out. I have offered this in the past and it has not really found any traction, maybe it is a difficult conversation.
I have to put out there in advance my TIME is not FREE, but it is an absolutely worth while investment to help your HUMANS (for which you are one also!).
I wish you all happy, healthy and Wellbeing POSITIVE Business Travel in 2022 and beyond.