I actually find myself breathing heavy as I begin to write this blog. Could it be stress and anticipation as I slip into “trip preparation mode” and my mind starts going a million miles an hour trying to think of all the possibilities, all the eventualities, all of the contingencies I need in place for when I am away, or just anticipation for hitting the highway and the mind-clearing solitude it provides?

As a sole proprietor who has to wear many hats, life on the road can be quite challenging. Think about it. Anytime I depart on a trip, whether it’s a business trip, vacation, or combination of the two, I need to be mindful of all the spinning “plates” in my life that must continue to spin whether I’m at home, away, or somewhere in-between. Without preparation on my part, mass chaos would surely ensue upon departure and most certainly arise upon my return.

What are these plates you may ask? On the business side, they include business development, client management, client projects, and marketing. On the personal front, they include exercise, paying bills, maintaining friendships, personal appointments, and much, much more. It’s almost enough to make me rethink going on the road, especially when it’s for pleasure versus business. After all, if I have to wear myself down preparing to leave, and then worry while I’m gone that something might go untended, then what’s the point?

Luckily, with today’s technology, much of the pre-trip preparation headache and subsequent “jitters” from afar can be alleviated.

Typically, I hit the road not with my PC laptop, but with my iPad and Blackberry—quite the renaissance man with three different technologies that I have nicely integrated. My iPad is lightweight and allows me to be quite mobile and still productive, while my Blackberry remains the perfect TOOL for emails (RIM Technology are you listening to your customers yet?).

Now all I need to worry about while I am on the road is a strong cell signal, free WIFI, and whether I brought my chargers!

As for getting things done, because I tend to combine pleasure trips (aka vacations) with business, I usually define some pre-trip objectives to keep me pointed and moving in the right direction.

  1. To help me stay focused, I develop a mini plan for my trip, long before I ever hit the road. I try to keep it simple, coming up with at least three measurable objectives (personal and/or business) that will determine the success of my outing.
  2. Turning to my calendar, I then allocate time for specific activities that will help me reach these objectives, such as daily email check-in, client follow up calls, etc. By allocating the time, I can plan my trip-related activities around them (or vice versa) so that one activity does not intrude on another.
  3. I always keep notes as I travel, using the “notes” App on my iPad to highlight leads and activities to follow-up on, people I meet, places I go, and all of my great epiphanies from the road. I find this makes my transition from the road back home and back to work much smoother.
  4. Last, and perhaps most importantly, I try not to sweat the little things! Rarely do things go as anticipated. As your trip gets into full swing, you may soon realize your “To do” list was too big, or you may encounter unplanned opportunities that force you to rethink your objectives . . . and that’s OK. Life on the road requires flexibility.

Upon return, I make a point of taking time to decompress for about 24 hours, reviewing my notes, sorting through contacts, business cards, and marketing materials collected, and leafing through my photos of the trip. Doing so helps me get organized so I can attack things with a fresh outlook and renewed vigor. I find that when I try to hit the ground with my feet running as soon as I return, whatever “attitude adjustment” benefits and bounce in my step I might have gleaned from my time away, quickly disappear.

PS – My ever-present travel companion, Fred (my dog), also helps keep a smile on my face and makes me MORE memorable to people I meet, which leads to a natural conversation starter and easy follow-up!

What’s life on the road like for you? What plates do you have to spin when you go away on vacation or take a business trip? Do you go it all alone like me, or do you have a stay-at-home associate who can help out?

Share your experiences here.