What a Healthy Future for Long-Haul Travel Looks Like
Colin Nagy expresses a positive sentiment about the future of business travel in his article The New Wellness Imperative for Long-Haul Travel. Correctly identifying now, as a watershed moment that can set exhausting long haul travel on a better trajectory and better experience for travellers has been a long time coming, but it hasn’t grabbed the attention of the mainstream until now. The trickle feed of academic research, personal tragedies and travel anecdotes wasn’t enough. It took the role travel played in spreading the Coronavirus to do that. The pandemic single-handedly put health top of the agenda and for travellers pushed personal immunity into sharper focus. The imperative is not to let this slip out of view and to define what the age of the performance athlete traveller (or the endurance traveller as Colin calls it) is and guide travellers and their organisations in how to support this understanding of traveller wellness going forward.
Valuable data points have long been accruing, yet we have not taken advantage of them in a meaningful way across the business travel community. Some noteworthy examples include Recent Developments in the Treatment of Jet Lag (Petrie and Dawson), A Darker Side of Hypermobility (Cohen), Stress Triggers for Business Travelers (CWT Whitepaper), and the CWT Travel Stress Index to name a few.
Preparing for the age of the performance athlete traveller is the name of the game but what does that mean exactly? Business travel is driven by the need to perform optimally regardless of the obstacles along the journey. Professional athletes are driven to higher levels of preparation, endurance and performance in order to succeed. Borrowing from the professional athlete playbook, being a performance athlete traveller is about using similar tools to excel in the face of exhausting travel schedules.
To really get this idea over to the business travel community, and have it take root as a way of travelling, we have to have a common understanding. Being a performance athlete traveller isn’t a fad and it isn’t a done to you process. It requires the travellers' full participation. It sees overcoming jet lag and fatigue associated with long haul travel as a journey rather than a destination. It requires tools within reach of every traveller and the willingness to “train” for the journey in the understanding that benefits accrue for the quality of life the traveller leads outside of flying on business.
Colin’s experience with an Oura ring signifies an essential part of the performance traveller athlete playbook, the ability to get real-time data about health on the road that informs one’s ability to perform, Oura’s nighttime heart rate variability (HRV) reading is a great metric to use to gauge this. This and other tools like it are at the travellers' disposal for a better long-haul travel experience and point to an inescapable fact, performance athlete travellers need a travel wellness toolkit fashioned to their individual needs. Combining a travel toolkit with other performance athlete traveller practices allows for personalisation in line with individual health and shies away from the blanket tropes and throw away recommendations one often hears about.
To Colin’s point in the article though, it’s great that some airport lounges are wising up to offering spaces for yoga and meditation (Qantas) and others offer nap pods (British Airways) but the heavy lifting still needs to be done by the traveller. This means making lifestyle choices (which require a mindset shift) that pay off in the immediate and long term. Getting this message across to the business travel community is where the real work lies and adopting the performance athlete traveller mindset can help.