When work’s up in the air

S’bongiseni Vilakazi

S’bongiseni is the director of The Valley Trust, a centre for health promotion in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, founded 60 years ago.

Sbongiseni Vilakazi

The Valley Trust is a participant in the Garden of Hope and Healing, the innovative 16 Days of Activism project which takes place at the Durban Botanic Gardens.

Overcoming jet lag – how real is it?

It is very real. I travelled to Hawaii once and the trip there took a total of 43 hours. When I got there, the combination of tiredness and the 12-hour time difference with South Africa made it difficult for me to fall asleep. I was walking around like a zombie for days before I got into a “normal” sleep pattern for where I was. I have since learnt that one can minimise jet lag by making an effort to sleep in the “night-time” of one’s destination during the trip, regardless of the time of day where one currently is on the trip.

Power dressing from a suitcase – overcoming creases and forgotten shoes.

Being in the not-for-profit sector, jeans suffice for most of the places I travel to. However, it is good form always to pack formal or semi-formal pants for the odd occasion when they might be needed. I also carry a few golf shirts which I have found to be highly versatile – they can be worn as part of a (semi) formal or casual outfit and don’t crease as easily as normal shirts or T-shirts. An absolute must is slip-on morning or indoor shoes. The one thing I want to do after a long flight/trip is take my shoes off and not have to worry about walking barefoot on cold floors.

The challenges of travelling with business-related stuff – boxes, bags, banners, books, flip charts etc.

This is generally not a big problem if travelling by car – just make sure you get one with a big boot, especially if carrying your own flip chart stand/printer etc or carrying passengers. It gets more challenging when flying. Work materials add significantly to the weight, and can be problematic to carry or transport on the ground.

What technology works for you and what are you using?

My BlackBerry is indispensable! I can receive and send e-mails and instant messages without too much hassle and, domestically, call if necessary. If travelling internationally, I often have text message roaming only and try to buy a local SIM card where I am going. My laptop is still the more practical for working on documents, even if it is bulky – I need an iPad!

How easy is it to find time and space to work in airport lounges, in-flight and hotel rooms?

It is a huge challenge. Tiredness, cramped spaces and uncomfortable or non-existent seating make it difficult to work in these places. I’ve recently discovered British Airways slow lounges as a result of my FNB card, and am enjoying the relaxed and conducive environment they offer for work (if not too crowded).

Kindle or books?

Books for me. I don’t have an e-book device. In any case, I have lots of books at home I buy but do not find the time to read, and I always aim to read them while travelling. Does not always happen though.

Is travelling for work as glamorous as it is believed to be?

I enjoy seeing and experiencing difference places to stay. However, it can be exhausting, and there’s also the frustration of being away from family and not being in close contact with the work environment, adding to the stress of it all.

Ralf Dominick

Round the World sailor Ralf Dominick recently completed his circumnavigation when he arrived in Durban earlier in November having left 33 months ago on his yacht Imvubu.

Dominick was awarded the Royal Natal Yacht Club’s “Sailor of the Year” for 2012 and also was given the Gordon Burnwood Trophy by South African Sailing and the Barton Cup by the Ocean Cruising Club for “the most meritorious ocean race or passage” in 2011. Before his odyssey he was the chief executive of BBD, a software development company he founded with two partners in 1984 in Johannesburg. Today he is the chairman of the board and has a Ph.D in the management of technology and innovation.

Overcoming jetlag – how real is it?

Absolutely real! The body clock is based on 25 hours a day while the day, as we know, is 24 hours. The body can thus adjust itself to local time by approximately one hour a day – the difference between the body clock and the real clock. Seven hours’ time difference results in a week of disrupted sleep.

Lay the dress item on a flat surface, smooth out all wrinkles and then roll it into a smooth sausage – voila, no wrinkles or creases when you unroll it. Hanging a wrinkled shirt on a coat hanger in the wet shower cubicle, preferably without the water running, tends to remove the worst of the wrinkles overnight.

Forgotten shoes is a challenge that is not as easily overcome!

Being festooned with multiple bags while pushing an overloaded cart along never-ending tunnels and passages in airports while trying to make a connecting flight is enough to destroy the self-esteem of even the most hardened traveller. Where possible I send such items a day ahead with a courier to my hotel – it is worth every penny.

No longer need to carry those flip charts. A projector and power-point is the answer.

How easy and efficient is it to find time and space to work in airport lounges, in-flight and hotel rooms?

It depends on what VIP privileges you have/are prepared to pay for. The top-end credit cards tend to offer airport lounge privileges; executive class lounge access and in some cases cash for lounge access system. In most First World countries, lounge access is merely a matter of money. In much of the developing world, a seat to sit on in an air-conditioned area is a real privilege.

eReader without a doubt

No, it is torture.

Emma Durden

Emma is an arts and culture consultant who spends a lot of time travelling.

She is director of the annual PANSA Musho! Festival of one- and two-hander theatre which takes place at the Catalina in January. She is also a consultant for theatre, health and development.

I have only really badly experienced jet lag when going to and coming from Australia. Two years ago I was in Melbourne and came back just a few days before the Musho! Festival in early January. It was incredibly difficult to try and stay awake in the nice dark theatre every evening.

I have learnt to roll everything into tight sausages – you can fit much more into your suitcase, and it doesn’t look too bad if you shake it out when you arrive.

Flip charts are the worst. They are just too big to fit into anything, and look stupid if you fold them, so I’ve learnt to make sure those are all lined up at the other end. I learnt the hard way that all markers and pens should travel in plastic bags, not just be thrown in next to a white shirt!

Piles of books are unbelievably heavy to travel with, and I often resort to couriering them ahead of me. Last month I was travelling to Zimbabwe to run a workshop, and had taken along a game that involves blocks of wood with a bag of long steel nails. I was terrified that the Zimbabwean border police would think I was up to something suspicious.

I go everywhere with my laptop.

Airports and hotel are easy – but trying to open my laptop on an economy class tray table is difficult. Doing it at the same time as having a drink is almost impossible. More than once I’ve ended up with a drink in my lap!

Books for sure!

It’s unfortunately not glamorous at all. There is lots of waiting around, and so many things that can go wrong that derail the work you’re supposed to be doing. Last month I had to flee a small town I was working in late at night, as it was being cordoned off by angry protesters, and the police advised us to get out while we could. It’s not easy to dodge protesters, pot holes and then find an open bed and breakfast after 9.30pm in the Free State!

But my work always is interesting, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other job. - Sunday Tribune