Travel Checklist: What One Entrepreneur Can't Fly Without We take a peek inside the backpack of Tate Chalk, founder of apparel brand Nfinity, who travels frequently to Asia and other destinations.
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Company: Nfinity, an athletic footwear and apparel brand designed specifically for women
Miles clocked last year: 135,000 miles
Furthest destination: Qingdao, China
Dream destination: Reykjavik and Moscow
Why do you travel?
Face-to-face is how business is done. I relearn that constantly -- you have to give face time. And as a business owner who travels a lot, you get caught up in traveling. So when you're not traveling, you think you should be traveling. You always feel like you should be planning a trip, whether you've accumulated miles or just want to go somewhere. It feels weird being home, honestly. There are times where I've been home four or five days a month and you don't know what to do on a Saturday morning.
China is where our manufacturing is done. Here are a couple things you need to know about doing business in China -- not hard and fast, just something I've found. In America, the negotiation ends at the handshake. In China, it begins at the handshake. Culturally, it's OK to change terms. So the challenge, as an American company, is that you have to honor everything you told them you'd honor. With Chinese companies, things are a little more fluid, so you have to be prepared to jump up at a moment's notice and go over there.
The other thing about being there -- there are two schools of thought. Some people go over for a long time and get acclimated. For me, three days does it. By the time jet lag hits me, I'm already on a plane going home. I head over, keep my head down, and get through it. One of the things that keeps you grounded is the advent of FaceTime. I can talk to my staff just like they're sitting there. I used to have to fly two or three people over, now I can show them samples in real time. It cuts down on costs.
What do you hate about travel?
I really respect what they do and I respect that they keep me safe, but I hate security. I hate the hassle of getting on the plane. But I've gotten in the habit of getting in the zone. I get in the zone on my way to the airport and stay there. I also can't stand layovers. That's why I moved to Atlanta -- I can fly direct anywhere. Layovers mess with the zone.
How do you stay sane on the road?
FaceTime, Skype, finding a routine, any semblance of a routine. I fly the same flights out, the same flights back, I know where the lounges are. There's this great Burger King in the Seoul airport. I have a Whopper, it makes me feel like I'm back home. Ninety-nine percent of the time when I fly for business, I'm alone, so you have to find routine.
What's one item you can't travel without?
My eye mask. Because if I'm gonna get any sleep, I'm more light-sensitive than I am noise-sensitive, and there is always some inconsiderate person who's going to open the shade. And comfortable clothes. You need a go-to travel set of something. You can keep it rolled up in your bag -- comfortable socks, sleep pants, long-sleeve T-shirt. Sleep is the most important thing for whatever you have to do, so you have to keep your sleep regulated. You need to function, you need to stay focused. You've got a job to do. The people across the table you're meeting with, that's their regular life. You're on their turf. So you need to do whatever you can to keep your sleep as regular as possible. And drink plenty of water. You almost can't drink enough water when you're traveling.
Related: 6 Ways to Reduce Jet Lag Naturally
What's your best travel secret?
Only bring what you can carry on. One way to maximize that is to decide if you're going with black ensembles or brown ensembles, so you can save space on shoes. Keep things that are really important, like prescription medications, in two locations -- one in your carry-on, one in your backpack. When traveling abroad, keep things we take for granted in the States with you, like ibuprofen and antacids. Here, we can just go down to the lobby and get them. A few beers the night before when you're entertaining some people and you'll kill for ibuprofen the next day.
Also, it's important to take time to explore. It is all business and you're there for a job, but it's life too. So if you've got a few extra hours, and it's safe, go for a walk. Go to the mall. I went to an outdoor flea market in China during one trip. I couldn't read a single sign, it wasn't stuff I was interested in, but I'm glad I went.