Oh my goodness! First off, travel light. A rule I always follow in my life, even with day-to-day, is buy things that will pair up really well with 3-6 other outfits in your closet. I’ve traveled to places where there is no laundry machine, so I had to handwash things, and these things are still professional-looking. When you go to meetings overseas, they expect professionalism. So travel light, roll up your clothes, your shirts, your jacket, your suit pants or skirts, roll them, that’s how I can fit enough clothes for 2.5 weeks in Kenya in a single backpack. I have some links to videos talking about the rolling technique, it’s really helpful.
Second, if you’re doing a lot of traveling and you have to bring stuff to the country of target, put it in the checked luggage. There’s a free samples program you can sign up for through the US Government. Normally you’d get charged - one guy was traveling through the Kenya airport, and I’ve seen this in Israel and India - if you don’t have the proper receipts you’ll be charged customs and import tax bringing items from overseas. Especially if it’s a commercial good. The program enables you to bring a volume of product or dollar value for free, because you’re doing it to demonstrate or do presentations, and that can save you tens of thousands of dollars. The guy in line ahead of us in the customs line, we learned so much just watching him get heckled, he got charged about $200 for every pair of shoes and I think he had 10 in his bag! So real serious stuff, as a startup, you don’t necessarily know about these things doing business overseas. So these are hidden costs that can add up if you don’t have a free to carry certificate.
Another thing about traveling overseas: I always have a carry-on with me on the plane. You never know what’s going to happen to your checked luggage. Put some of the heaver stuff in there, but always keep one set of clothes in your carry-on bag, because when I was in India, my bags got lost, and same with Kenya. In the beginning, I would lose one checked luggage, inevitably! The reason I always recommend this to people is when I was coming back from India, I had a layover in Zurich, it was a 8-10 hour layover, so I thought I’d go into the city but I couldn’t, because my checked-bag ended up getting lost, so all I had was a tunic from India that wasn’t warm enough to leave the airport and explore. Even the airpot was too cold for me! It was snowing in January in Zurich. So that’s something I really recommend.
And in some of these areas, you won’t have access to internet for one reason or another: you’ll run into situations where you’ll be glad you had EVERYTHING printed out. Even though we live in a digital age and you can get buy with stuff on your phone or laptop, if you’re traveling, print things out. In Ethiopia, I almost wasn’t able to travel to the Forbes 30 under 30 conference in Israel, so thank goodness I’d printed it out -pulling it up on my email wasn’t enough! By having it printed out, I was able to make it to the Forbes 30 under 30 conference on time. By having it printed out, that might be the difference between catching your flight or being held in quarantine. It almost happened when I was flying to Kenya, I’d left my yellow fever card in Ann Arbor, and at the time, you had to show your yellow fever card as you were entering Kenya, so thank god I’d printed out my vaccination records so I could travel into Kenya. I was in quarantine for 15 minutes just explaining the situation to the lady in charge!
Make sure you have the stuff you need and it will fit in the overhead space. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re overseas for 2-3 weeks without your stuff. You just need the basics.
And going to sign up for flight alerts. Normally to travel to Uganda or Kenya, the flight is $1,500. I have a whole list of airfare alerts where they aggregate search results, so you can search a bajillion results at the same time. I think thanks to Hipmunk I could get a flight to Kenya, roundtrip, for $700 dollars. So by signing up for flight watches, you’ll get a sense of the usual price, and great deals as well!
And when you’re traveling in the country: always do your due diligence on the country. In Kenya, for a while, there was a threat, and thanks to the State Department alerts, we were prepared and alert. Because we were traveling to all these resource-scarce settings, we wanted to see what it was like to have lodging more similar to what someone in-country to live in, and AirBNB helped host us when we were in Kenya, Uganda and Israel! I wasn’t able to stay in an AirBNB listing in India, but AIrBNB has a wider footprint than you’d think, and it allows you to have a more authentic travel experience. The AirBNB I stayed in Kenya I got to learn so much more about the culture, the host was sharing with me the language, local sights to see, and it enabled our team to bond better with the locals, including the medical device distributors, and the doctors and nurses we are working with. We were able to have a wonderful experience for 2.5 weeks staying in an AirBNB. So those are my key tips!
And don’t forget to bring -just in case - some people have more sensitive stomachs, I’m fine, but some of the people traveling with me, they’d bring a few granola bars and water cleaning chlorine tablets, because you never knew what was going to happen with the water. And some of us would always get bitten by mosquitos. ALWAYS bring bug spray, even if you don’t think you’ll need it!