Capturing The Travel Spirit at a Conference

My trip to Monaco was driven by a work conference. I have been to dozens of these over the years and they all look the same after a while. As a colleague and I joked, you can be in any conference center anywhere in the world and never really know the difference. The empty halls and 10×10 booths are all alike, and depending on the industry, you can also see the same people over and over again. Days are long, evenings stretch into the wee hours of the morning and very little sleep is had.

So what can you do to capture that travel spirit in this kind of less than adventurous environment? My favorite thing to do is have dinner at a local restaurant. Not a chain, not a place where all the tourists go and nothing within a mile radius of the convention hall. Going local gives you the opportunity to see the city you’re visiting as it really is. What can be better than that?

This week we were able to take in one of those experiences at an amazing little restaurant in the La Condamine neighborhood of Monaco. It had been a long day with press briefings, trade show booth duty and presentation preparation. Our whole team was back at the hotel with half the group scrambling to approve a German press release translation and the other half answering emails as the U.S. business day was still in full swing.

We asked the concierge for a dinner recommendation and it happened to coincide with one of the choices we selected from Trip Advisor. Both resources can be your best friend when traveling, so don’t hesitate to use them. The restaurant was called Constantine and was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel.

It was a lovely evening. The weather was perfect and the sun was still brightly lighting up the sky even though it was after 8:00pm. The walk turned into a bit of an adventure itself as the streets of Monaco wind and curve with lots of tunnels as the country is built into the mountainside. After a couple of small detours, we ended up on a pathway by the Mediterranean Sea with stunning views of the very blue and calm waters. We even saw the Monaco Heliport, because who needs an airport when you can have a heliport. 

We turned the last corner and all stopped to give a collective gasp. It was the most amazing cliff side view with a couple of little restaurants tucked away on the street by the water. Boats lined the docks and sports cars were parked on the road. 

 Constantine’s was the last restaurant and at first I thought it was a flower shop as it was so filled with greenery. It was tiny inside, maybe 10 tables at most. All of the decor was simple – natural linens, whitewashed wood, potted herbs as centerpieces and the menus were even presented on cardboard with clothes pins. The place just oozed charm and character. Add that to the stunning view outside and you had the makings of an incredible dinner ambiance. 

The meal did not disappoint either. The Italian chef has created a locally sourced menu, so everything is super fresh and only in season items are available. The food was outstanding. All four of us thoroughly enjoyed the meal from starters to main courses to dessert. The staff was excellent as they paid attention to all the right details, made great recommendations and offered just the right level of service. All in all it was a fantastic experience.

The thing I loved most about this evening was the excitement in discovering this wonderful restaurant. I was practically squealing in joy when we found this lovely little street with stunning views. The outstanding meal topped it all off and made this one of those moments that makes me love to travel. How lucky was I to have found this place to enjoy it with my business colleagues? It didn’t matter that we were at a conference or had a really long day. In the end, we all found this unexpected travel experience that made the conference a little better and the trip definitely more worthwhile.

A Week in Monaco

I just had the privilege of spending the week traveling for work. Yes, you read that right, I had the privilege of spending my week traveling for work. Don’t get me wrong—just because I enjoy traveling, those words do not always come out of my mouth when it comes to business trips. This week, however, was different. I got to go to Monaco. A-ha—the lightbulb goes off! 

I had never been to Monaco or anywhere along the Cotê d’Azur. Needless to say, I was very excited and did something that I have rarely done. I booked my return flight home for Sunday instead of Friday and gave myself two extra days to explore the area. It is something so simple, yet I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken advantage of opportunities like this before. 

Why? I could give you so many reasons. In the early days, the kids were little and I didn’t want to be away from home that long. Family obligations on the weekend were pulling us in all different directions. Too much going on back at the office to stay away for an extra day. “I’m already going to be there for three days for work. I’ll see everything I need to see then.” “I really should be doing (fill in the blank) instead.” How many of these sound familiar?

None of these are bad reasons. There are always going to be times when genuine obligations prevent you from extending a business trip by a day or two. However, when I look back at all the times I’ve used these excuses, I realize many of them were limitations I put on myself. That makes me a little sad. How many wonderful experiences were never able to happen just because I gave into that nagging inner voice saying “you really should go home.”

What this week in Monaco helped me realize is that the world will not stop just because I take some time to expand my horizons and go off on a little adventure. Dad and the kids managed just fine and most likely created a few adventures of their own. The office did not come to a screeching halt because I didn’t check in. The team probably benefitted from getting a bit more responsibility, as someone kindly pointed out to me.

In the end, I know that taking this time was good for my soul and isn’t that what really matters? When I do these things then everyone around me — my family, coworkers, clients and friends — all benefit from a stronger me. As the airline safety video reminds us, we need to take care of ourselves before assisting others. These past few days were a great reminder!