For the uninitiated, a bleisure trip is travel that combines business and leisure.
The term was coined about 10 years ago to describe the increasing tendency of travelling business people to add on some leisure time in their destination.
How did bleisure happen?
In fact, a recent study of travellers by Hipmunk found that 81 per cent of Millennials (those born between 1980 and the late 1990s) said they would “probably” add extra personal time to a business trip, compared to 56 per cent of Gen-Xers (born 1965-1979) and 46 per cent of baby boomers (born 1944-64).
Interestingly, 44 per cent said they took their bleisure trips solo.
No doubt about it, there’s a certain emptiness to corporate business travel. Weary long flights, a ban on business class travel in many organisations, and long days of meetings takes its toll. Throw in a soulless chain hotel with a limp room -service club sandwich and horrendous jet lag; it’s not the glamour trip you aspired to!
I love a bit of bleisure
In my previous career, I spent a lot of my time travelling. Based in the Middle East, with a responsibility for that region and North Africa, and a headquarters in New York, the airmiles were soon racking up.
When I was invited to our New York HQ for a two-day intense meeting with all my global counterparts, I knew it was going to take it all out of me, physically and mentally. The build up of getting everything ready for it, two long days and evenings of work and socialising, plus the 14-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to JFK (company policy was to fly economy due to cutbacks). The only way I knew how to counter that was to build in a bit of holiday me-time to it. And there you have it, the business and leisure trip we now know to be bleisure!
Bleisure is good for your wellbeing and mental health
But what? And where? Having travelled to the Big Apple many times, and it being the middle of summer, I wanted to relax, unwind and focus on me. Little did I know at the time, I was heading for a bit of serious burn out. (It came after, but the signs were there with hindsight). Post-divorce, I had thrown myself into a new life and career abroad I worked hard and played hard, and hadn’t really come up for air. Neither had Iproperly processed everything I had been through.
This, I decided, was my opportunity. After many late nights of research, consulting with friends and colleagues, I found what I was looking for. A week at a hippy looking yoga retreat in Tulum, Mexico. I had barely done any yoga, but the serenity of it, the beachside location staying in thatched beach huts, the on-site spa, and laid back approach to the yoga schedule, (“it’s included so you may as well come along, but we won’t shout at you if you don’t, oh and by the way, yes, we have a bar and wi-fi”) had me booking in for a week faster than you could say “don’t forget to email me the minutes of that great meeting and all my actionable tasks”.
I have now enjoyed many trips
And there it was born. My first proper bleisure trip. To be honest, I can’t remember a thing about that two-day meeting in an iconic skyscraper overlooking Grand Central Station. I do remember throwing off the corporate clothes and heels, stuffing them in a bag for an understanding colleague to look after, and cramming flip flops, cozzies and yoga gear into my bag and getting the hell out.
The first highlight was getting to Mexico in 2 hours – a novelty for a Brit normally faced with a 10-hour flight. Then, on arrival, realising I actually couldn’t walk around in shoes, or even flip flops as the sand was so soft and powdery. Barefoot was the way to go. Everyone I encountered in those first few hours, where I was a bit disorientated, was so smiley and lovely and chatty, and just…nice! Not like in a weird cult way or anything. Chatting to some fellow guests later on, we were a mixed bunch, mostly all travelling on our own and by and large, there to recharge our worn out corporate batteries. Wow. I had found my people.
It was amazing
The following days were spent trying to (badly) master a bit of yoga in the intense heat, every morning before breakfast and every late afternoon before dinner. The days in the middle were spent either reading or taking a tour, snorkelling in the nearby cenotes or exploring the nearby village or ancient Mayan ruins. Idyllic.
I battled with the humidity (our beach huts only had the sea breeze to cool us), made friends with many geckos who thought my room was their home, and spent many hours chatting and sharing life stories with the other guests. We’re all still friends now. Mainly though social media as we’re all in different corners of the world, but that connection to that week, seven years ago now, is still there. And I’m so grateful for it.
The work/life balance
- It taught me life was not all work, work, work and to seize opportunities like a work trip and make the most of it (admittedly not always feasible if your work sends you on a day trip to drizzly Dusseldorf).
- It taught me I can holiday alone, and enjoy it, as long as I’ve planned it carefully, really understanding what I want to get out of it.
- I am more likely to have a different kind of holiday/leisure experience in a country / city I am being sent to compared to if I was planning my annual holiday say, from home. For me, that makes it more exciting.
- There’s no point in collecting all the airmiles and hotel loyalty points if you never get the time to use them. USE THEM! They’re free and it means your extended trip could be a lot cheaper on your pocket. It’s your reward for all that jetlag.
- Business travel can be really lonely. You owe it to yourself to have something to look forward to. Even a weekend add-on can be enough to turn that business into pleasure. Sorry, I meant bleisure!