Friday, December 4, 2009

What to eat

I was told by a TI sales rep in Korea that I have a "marketing stomach." I actually like kimchi, eel, and tofu. I have eaten octopus so fresh it was still moving (I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me), a fudgesicle made out of red beans (I thought it did not have much chocolate flavor), sea cucumber (squishy and tasteless), and Taiwan's national dish "stinking tofu" (and it tastes pretty much the way it smells.)

What do you do if you are not an adventurous eater? You are going to have problems. If you are staying at an American brand name hotel, there will be American food there but it will probably not be to your liking and will cost a small fortune. They simply do not know how to make American food the same way it is made in America. All the same, if it is a choice between a $12 hamburger that tastes a bit off or sushi, you are probably better off with the hamburger.

Most hotels have a breakfast buffet which will have something you can eat but if your eggs must be dry and your bacon must be crisp, you may have problems. If you can not face eating cucumbers for breakfast or a lunch meat sandwich, then eat rice in Asia and bread in Europe.

I shared a taxi from Chang Kai-shek airport in Taiwan with a guy from Israel. He was terrified because he was a very delicate eater. I invited him to eat dinner with me since it was his first trip to Taipei. We went to a seafood restaurant recommended by the concierge at the Sheraton but when we arrived, the floors were bare concrete and all the fish were in aquariums. We had to select our own and my new Israeli friend was backing out the door with eyes as big as saucers. I decided it was time to hop in a taxi and go across town to Hollywood Underground in the basement of the shopping center next to the Far Eastern Hotel. There, the food is decidedly Euro-American.

On our way out, I picked up a matchbook and handed it to him, "In case you want to return," I said. Four days later, as I was checking out of my hotel, he came up to me to thank me. He'd eaten dinner there every night. You have to do what you have to do.

Personally, after about 10 days in Asia, my system starts to complain. It needs something familiar. Having traveled a lot, I normally keep my eyes open for an American chain restaurant close to the hotel. When home, I normally do not eat under the golden arches, but during a long trip, even Mickey Ds starts to taste pretty good.

And finally, when traveling in Europe, it is easy to gain three or four pounds. The food there is great. In Asia, I expect to lose about five pounds. It is not so much that I do not like Asian food. It is more the fact that they tend to eat less fat in their diet than Americans do. If I am in Asia for two weeks, it is an adjustment to get used to the fat content in American fast food upon my return. Everything tastes like it is coated in Crisco. We should probably be a little concerned about that.

James Snider is an global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the semiconductor and high-tech industry. He is currently working as a consultant while looking for the next great thing and earning inbound marketing certification.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 ears!

One thing that still tends to bother me when I fly is the pressure on my ear drum. Even after 3 million frequent flier miles, I still have problems. I have tried nasal spray, decongestants, and antihistamines, but the one thing that helps the most is sucking on hard candy. Pick up a package before getting on the plane and keep them handy.

They also come in handy if a parent and child are sitting close to you and the child is experiencing pain. Hand the parent about five pieces of candy in case the plane has a lengthy descent or has to circle a few times.

If all else fails, I do something that I always saw my father do. I hold my nose shut and swallow hard. It is a little frightening. I am never sure if I may be damaging something, but when nothing else helps, this opens the Eustachian tube and lets the pressure equalize.

If I get off the plan and my ears are still blocked, I bend over with my head between my knees, hold my nose, and swallow hard. It looks silly, but when you are in serious pain, looks are the least of your worries

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How to get over jet lag

OK, you finally arrived and you have meetings first thing in the morning. How do you get over jet lag?

This varies from person to person. Most people say that flying east (from the USA to London) causes worse jet lag than flying west (USA to Tokyo). However, I have not found this to be significant in my case. The more significant factor is how worn down I am before making the trip. Some people go to bed an hour progressively earlier or an hour progressively later each night a week before the flight to get their bodies adjusted to the time zone in their destination but my life is always too full to do that. I just try to get 7 - 8 hours of sleep a couple of nights before the flight.

Assuming you did things right on the way over:
* got some sleep on the way over
* drank water (it is good to buy a bottle of water at the airport since you will probably not be served much to drink in coach)
* avoided alcohol (a universal suggestion in everything I have read)
* walked around and stretched every few hours on the flight over
I am going to suggest what you should do once you get to your destination. If you did not do the things I just listed, you are probably out of luck. Drink lots of coffee!

1) Stay awake until bedtime. That is not so hard if you change planes in Tokyo and arrive in Taipei at 9:00 PM but if you fly to London and arrive at 6:30 AM, this is a miserable experience. I had a pilot tell me that he goes straight to the hotel, sleeps 3 hours in a pitch black room then forces himself to get up and stay up until bedtime. I do not have that discipline, so I just stay up.

2) Break a sweat. Get on the treadmill in the gym or take a hard walk around the area. Exert yourself. You are not walking for pleasure. You have to get the blood pumping and really start sweating those accumulated toxins out of your system. Wear yourself out.

3) Eat something familiar for dinner. Maybe this is just me, but my body is all messed up after a 14 hour flight. Now is not the time to try a meal of sushi for the first time in my life. I need a hamburger and fries. If you are staying in an American brand name hotel, you are good. Room service will have a hamburger. If not, there is probably American fast food around the corner. Hunt it down and do not be adventurous this first night.

4) Go to bed a little bit early. If you normally go to bed at 11:00 PM, make it 10:00 this first night. Do NOT go to bed a 8:00 PM. You are going to wake up 2 - 20 times that first night anyway. Get your body adjusted to the new time zone. Going to bed too early is not going to help you.

Do those four things (especially the hard walk) and you will be as good as you can be the next morning. If you wake up at 5:30 AM and just can not go to sleep. Take another walk. Do not go out before people are on the street, however. It is risky to be out alone in a strange city.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How a $2 Beach Ball Can Improve Your Flight

In my last blog, I talked about using the "1st Class Sleeper" to improve your comfort on long flights, spare your aching back, and improve your chances of sleeping. The downside is the $30 price tag for something that will last you about 10 trips.

As a cheap alternative, I have tried using a cheap beach ball partially inflated. You can find those in spring and early summer at Wal-Mart and drug stores for $2. If your travel plans are in Fall and Winter, you may have trouble finding one.

I simply place the beach ball between the small of my back and the seat and it works pretty well. The major down side is the lack of a "fuzzy" surface on the beach ball (similar to the surface on the 1st Class Sleeper) which "wicks"perspiration. If you've ever sat on a plastic surface for a lengthy period of time, you know what I am talking about. I wear a light cotton jacket on international flights which helps prevent the build-up of perspiration.

Another thing you can do with the cheap beach ball is to inflate it almost full and put it on the floor to give you something to put your feet on. I find that the lower half of my body starts screaming out in pain after about 6 hours in a coach seat. Having something to put my feet on helps a lot. You can also use the ball to exert slight pressure with your feet to get the blood going in your veins and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

And finally, I find that sleeping on my back is fine for most of the flight, but sometimes I just have to lean forward. Having done everything I can think of (stretching, walking around the cabin, doing deep knee bends by the exits), my lower body still is hurting. Leaning forward helps by moving the pressure off my lower body and partially distributing it to my upper body. Problem is, how? If you have just enough space between your seat and the seat in front of you to get your head down on the pull-down tray, you are not very comfortable. If you can put something between yourself and the tray (to get your head up to a higher, more comfortable position), you can get some relief. Inflating a second beach ball (you do not want to use the one you had your feet on) and covering it with a t-shirt works pretty well.
James Snider is a global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the high tech industry. He is currently looking for his next great job.

Monday, October 26, 2009

First Class Sleeper for under $30

Some of you may have seen the "1st Class Sleeper" sold for around $30 and wondered if they were worth it. I tried one and it was excellent. The basic premise is simple. The device is similar to a small, narrow air mattress which is small on the top and fat on the bottom. You inflated it partially (so it does not take a lot of effort to inflate). This gives you a little more cushion on your coach seat, but the real magic comes from the tendency of the air to redistribute from an area of high pressure (your upper back) to fill in areas of low pressure (such as the gap between your lower back and the seat). This permits you to slump in your seat in a more reclined position with lower back support. This supports your whole back making it much more comfortable to sleep.

Is it worth $30? I guess that depends on how valuable $30 is to you and how often you will be flying long distances in coach. I used one for a year about once a month and it held up just fine for about 9 months. After that, it developed a slow leak which meant I had to re-inflate it about halfway through the flight. I thought that was worth the money.

Next time, the things you can do with a cheap beach ball.
James Snider is a global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the high tech industry. He is currently looking for his next great job.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ouch! My aching back!

I am sure that some of you suffer from back pain when you take long flights. I have two recommendations. Get a blanket and roll it up for lumbar support. I am leery of the airline blankets and would rather have it behind my back than under my chin. Bring a sweater for warmth...I stay away from the blankets.

The second thing is a bit more novel. Bring a small cardboard box like the one books come in from Amazon. Have it collapsed and in your carry-on. Also bring a small cheap roll of tape. When your flight is in the air, pull out the collapsed box, folding it into a box again and run the tape around it a few times to keep it "box shaped". Now you have something to put your feet on; either flat or on one end depending on which feels better. That is the one thing I hate about coach. I can take the narrow seats, lack of leg room, and meager food. But I must get my feet up off the floor during the flight or everything starts to hurt or go to sleep. The box idea helps a lot.

When you are ready to leave the plane, you can break the box down and take it with you for the return flight or leave it on the plane. I would suggest you break it down before you leave it. You do not want security called to investigate a suspicious package left on the plane. Airlines have plenty of security issues to deal with without our carelessness increasing the work load.

James Snider is a global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the high tech industry. He is currently looking for his next great job.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Get a pillow

I have heard hard core travelers scoff at the inflatable horse-shoe shaped pillows you see for sale in airports. If you can sleep at all on a flight, I would recommend them highly. I do not know what others are scoffing about. These pillows are great!

Most airlines no longer provide pillows even on the longest flights. Besides, how clean can they really be? I have seen people sit on them, use them for lumbar support, cough or sneeze into them, drop them on the floor, and step on them. I would prefer to have my own pillow. Besides, the horse-shoe shape really works. It keeps your head from falling way over to one side, which would be nearly impossible to sleep through and would give you a pain in the neck.

For me, the pillow is well worth the $10.

James Snider is a global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the high tech industry. He is currently looking for his next great job.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Business Class...this is as good as it gets

If you can swing a seat in Business Class on an international flight, go for it. It does not get any better than that.

First Class on domestic flights is only slightly better than coach. You do get a meal which is small but decent. The alcohol is free in First Class on domestic flights, but I would join others in advising you to not drink on a flight. I makes jet lag much worse. The seats are better, wider, with more leg room but those are about the only advantages. Free upgrade, yes! Pay for the upgrade, no.

On two rare occasions, I was lucky enough to get bumped into First Class on international flights. The food was better than business class, but not THAT much better. The wine selection was broader (see my comments on drinking alcohol on long flights). They served caviar, which I can take or leave. The seats were a little bit better and the movie selection was broader. You get to leave the place before the people in the back of the plane do. Those are about all the advantages I saw.

Business Class on an international flight is about as good as it gets and about the best a business traveler can dream about. Today, most companies will not pay for business class, but a true road warrior has an upgrade or two he can use from time to time. You can also upgrade with miles if you have an over abundance of them. Business Class is comfortable. It is like flying in a recliner instead of a cramped car seat (as I would characterize coach travel). The food is very good. The movie selection is normally pretty good unless you travel all the time. There have been periods of time when I flew so much I'd seen all the movies. You are able to get up and walk around easily even if you have a window seat.

Flying in Business Class is wonderful. However, most of my travel has been in coach, so I would like to help those of you less seasoned travelers with your coach travel.

James Snider is a global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the high tech industry. He is currently looking for his next great job.

I Love to Travel

As a child, my parents took me on a fair number of trips. My father went to seminars in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Mexico City and New York and other locations that have faded over the years. Sometimes we flew, some times we drove. On the trip to San Francisco, my parents decided that we should take the train while there was still a passenger train to take...what an excellent decision. On the trip to New York, we drove in my father's brand new double cab pick-up...which was a source of embarrassment for me once we reached the Big Apple. On the trip to Mexico City, we drove in my father's brand new VW beetle...way too crowded for a party of four. For the December trip to Chicago, we flew on Southwest...about 6 stops between Texas and the coldest weather I'd ever experienced. All of these trips were done on a budget, which prepared me well for my future life as a business traveler.

In college, I went to Israel on a 6 week archaeological dig where I had afternoons and weekends to myself to explore a foreign country with a couple of my buddies from church. This also prepared me for my future life as a business traveler. There were no adults around to help me find my way into Tel Aviv or back again. There was no one there to keep me from getting conned or to get me out of trouble if I did something stupid. Just a group of three pretty good college boys figuring things out as we went along.

When I got married, my father sent my wife and me on a cruise of the Mediterranean. I discovered three things: traveling with my wife was a lot of fun, I would rather tour on my own than on a bus with a lot of tourist, striking out on my own (as my wife and I did once the tour reached Jerusalem) gives me a rush like nothing else. From that moment forward, she and I were hooked on travel. Not the safe "looking out the bus window" travel but the "getting lost down tiny winding streets where no one speaks English" kind of travel.

It was very fortunate that I discovered this early in life. When leaving a meeting with a Chinese Technical Park official with just enough time to make a meeting with a large PC maker on the other side of Shenzhen, I was in my element when the taxi driver could not speak English or read the English address of my next meeting. With my few words of Chinese, I was able to get the taxi driver to flag down a couple of college kids who interpreted for us and we were on our way.

What follows are some quick tips on surviving travel when you do not have the luxury of going first class. Keep in mind, you can see the same stuff on TV. Why travel 18 hours to get there if you are not going to get out and experience it? In many ways, traveling on the cheap is better. Embrace it.

James Snider is a global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the high tech industry. He is currently looking for his next great job.