How to Travel Like a Caveman

5459938298_1d7141f127_zCavemen can become nervous on airplanes or at a power lunch—the Mediterranean snack box and pumpkin ravioli in cream sauce simply will not do.

In case you’re living under (or behind) a rock, the caveman diet (aka paleo) means eating as our Paleolithic ancestors did—primarily protein and non-starchy vegetables and fruits, and it’s a huge lifestyle trend. But a paleo diet can be a challenging proposition when traveling, as can be any gluten-free regime.

When I developed a gluten intolerance several years ago, it took me several months to grieve for the lost bread and pasta, but eventually I happily embraced a new way of eating that actually made me feel better (on so many levels). Gradually my eating evolved—or, since it’s reversed evolution, would the correct term be devolved?—to eating mostly paleo, like a caveman.

Over time, I learned how to order from just about any menu and how to navigate the occasional etiquette dilemmas. But travel still unnerved me—not just because of the unfamiliar food situations I’d find myself in, but also because the last place I want to feel sick is on a plane or in a hotel room.

So, when I signed on for a long business trip to India, I was apprehensive. Many of the foods would be unfamiliar, we would be dining at least once at a prominent executive’s home, and I feared the gluten intolerance would not be understood by restaurant staff.

As it turned out, this was not a problem. I did some planning (asked an Indian friend for advice on safe foods I’d commonly find served) and came up for a strategy for navigating the home meal. As it turned out, a number of dinners were chef-prepared and -presented in a private dining room. These chefs always made sure I was accommodated gracefully (and deliciously).

This week I wrote on TravelSkills.com about strategies for sticking to paleo and gluten-free diets when traveling. You’ll find the post here.

If you eat paleo or gluten-free, what are your tricks for staying healthy on the road?

Photo: Flickr/Tavallai

Your New Best Friend on the Road: Bizly

3454937700_c4b11b9453_zHave you ever been in another city and needed to meet up with a colleague…but where? Location is key–it has to be close to your next meeting. And you need something with a little more class and panache than Starbucks, a place where you can find a quiet corner and have a cup of coffee or cocktail while you discuss business. It’s tough.

Or, have you ever gotten frustrated as you tried to find the very best hotel near your meetings, a hotel with the specific amenities you most care about–let’s say free Wi-Fi and breakfast–and you spend an hour sifting through TripAdvisor reviews, finding the ranking of business hotels questionable?

That’s where Bizly comes in, the mobile app I’ve been working on with a talented team based in New York. It’s an app that will help you quickly find the perfect places to stay, meet and work when you’re on the road (or in your home city, for that matter). We’ll launch with New York in April, then take on the world.

Check it out here, and jot down your email address, so we can update you on the launch.

Photo: Flickr/smannion

The Covert Stress of Reentry

14973731919_7530d9b4e0_zOne of the biggest pain points for frequent travelers doesn’t even happen on the road, but at home. It’s that window between when your body walks in the door after a trip, and when your mind and heart settle in. You made it home—that’s the good news. But chances are, you’ve arrived tired, stressed, and (often) hungry, a recipe for an adult meltdown, if you’re not careful. That’s the bad news.

Reentry is often overlooked as being stressful because it’s on the home side of the trip. After all, aren’t you so, so happy to be home? And chances are that your loved ones have missed you, too, so they dive at you, ready to have you all to themselves finally. All good, right? Not really. You may very well not be ready.

I’ve noticed that even if I get home from a trip at 2 a.m., I need to sit and acclimate to being home—sort of soak it all in–for at least an hour before heading to bed. And when we first were married, my husband reported that I acted like he was a stranger when I returned from a trip. He’d only regain the real me 24 hours later. I probably still do that, but we’re just accustomed to it now.

On a recent Michael Hyatt podcast, Michele Cushatt reported that after her almost-weekly trips she schedules one day of doing nothing but restorative things, to regain herself before continuing the week. Another frequent traveler I know has a ritual of unpacking his suitcase immediately, no matter what the time. It’s his way of signaling to himself that he’s making a clean break of the travel…he’s really home.

What do you do when you get home from a trip to ease the reentry?

Photo: Flickr/Hernan Pinera

The Second Most Important Amenity in a Business Hotel

3631501874_9fea3048ea_zBeyond good Wi-Fi, preferably free, it’s all about a good cup of joe. Dare I say, nothing kicks off a day on the road more significantly than the ritual of sipping an excellent cup of coffee. The perfect roast. Well brewed. Prepared just the way you like it.

I pondered this last week as I sat in the lobby of the Hilton near San Francisco’s Union Square, eyeing the Starbucks that dominated one corner of the lobby. The Starbucks that opens at 6 a.m. every day–including Sunday! Hotels are getting smart. Whether by including a coffee retailer in the lobby or offering a complimentary coffee/tea service there, they are responding to the increasing number of guests who care enough about a good cuppa joe to wander downstairs in the early hours.

Sure, in-room coffee machines are fine. And many hotels have upgraded to Keurigs or Nespressos for a better experience in the room. But for those who love their lattes, the barista downstairs will do better.

My pet peeve is when a hotel does not offer an in-room coffee maker. Is it just my bad luck, or is this a minor trend these days? The first time I encountered a room without a coffee maker, I hunted for at least a half-hour, sure I’d missed it. It was positively unthinkable not to have a coffee pot. A travesty.

What does a good cup of coffee mean when you’re traveling for work? It means you can warm your hands around something fine, even as you struggle to regain your best self in a new day in a new place when you’re sleep deprived, laden with stress and somewhat disoriented. It means all is right with the world. Or it will be shortly, when the caffeine kicks in.

All this said, I am a tea drinker. I have it easy, with an endless supply of good-quality tea bags within reach in my carry-on and hot water an easy-to-acquire commodity. But my heart goes out to you coffee drinkers. I’m happy that hotels are beginning to understand that they must not come between you and your coffee, if they’d like you to come back.

Is hotel coffee important to you when you travel? (And maybe I shouldn’t get you started, but what’s the best/worst airline coffee?)

Photo: Flickr/Lara604

What Does Your Hotel Say About You?

Where are you staying? It’s a question that comes up in conversation during almost every trip, often posed by a client or colleague. Your answer conveys something about you, your work and your business.

Imagine one of those Facebook quizzes that promises to analyze you: What hotel are you? Maybe those quiz results would say, You’re a Four Seasons. Or, You’re a W.

This got me thinking about some hotels I’ve adored and why they appealed to me. A few favorites come to mind.

Killer view from a room’s transformed balcony at the Andaz West Hollywood (Courtesy of Hyatt)

Andaz West Hollywood – I love the Andaz brand: cool enough to be interesting but not so over-the-top hip that I feel ancient. This hotel has such a colorful rock-and-roll history that they successfully play up, but I particularly appreciated the clever way the rooms have been updated, with former balconies transformed into incredible sitting areas that look out on the bright lights of the city. I dug it!

Mira Moon's Secret Garden bar offers a respite from Hong Kong's frenetic energy (Courtesy of Mira Moon)

Mira Moon’s Secret Garden bar is an oasis from Hong Kong’s frenetic energy. (Courtesy of Mira Moon)

Mira Moon, Hong Kong – I fell head-over-heels in love with the design of this hotel and wished I could take it home with me to transform my house with its aesthetic: brightly colored, bold, playful, and clean. Bonus points, especially for a writer: There’s a storyline, a folktale that involves a rabbit and the moon, that ties the decor together thematically. More bonus points: The Secret Garden bar is one of the loveliest and most surprising alcoves I’ve ever seen, tucked away on the third floor.

Stunning sculpture, Rising by Zang Huan, welcomes guests to the Shangri-La Toronto (Photo: Flickr/Joseph Morris)

A stunning sculpture, Rising by Zhang Huan, welcomes guests to the Shangri-La Toronto. (Photo: Flickr/Joseph Morris)

Shangri-La, Toronto – Something about this hotel really made clear to me the subtleties of the highest levels of service. Every single human interaction I had was sublime, whether it was with the engineer who fixed the Nespresso machine or the concierge who summoned a black car–conversations that were friendly but sophisticated, caring but professional. The hotel is also filled with incredible art, something I care about and that usually signals that fifth star. The hotel is oddly placed, but once you’re ensconced, it doesn’t seem to matter because within the Shangri-La’s confines, life is happy.

The airport/harbor location is what sets the Hyatt Boston Harbor apart. (Courtesy of Hyatt)

The airport/harbor location is what sets the Hyatt Boston Harbor apart. (Courtesy of Hyatt)

Hyatt Boston Harbor – Now, in great contrast to the Shangri-La, this hotel is quite basic and just what you’d expect from Hyatt. Which is fine. Service is friendly but inattentive. As I said, fine. But it makes my list because I was totally tickled by the hotel’s location. If your room is on one side of the hall, you have a straight-on airport view, right down a runway at Logan, with no sense of being close to the city center. If your room is on the other side of the hallway, you have a magnificent view of Boston Harbor and the city skyline, with no sense of being near the airport. And how cool is it to take a 10-minute water taxi ride to your meeting–from an airport hotel?

Who knows what these hotels say about me, except that I’m all over the place and every trip is different. But this I do know: When a hotel surprises and delights (because that’s a relatively rare experience), it’s something to celebrate.

What is your very favorite hotel?