Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Leave the Country in 5 Days (or Less!)

I have a great job.  At graduation, I was one of the lucky ducks who had a job (in my respective field, nonetheless!), and in the past year, I've learned quite a bit and have gotten to do some of the things that I really enjoy.  My job consists of writing computer code, reading emails, and traveling.  The travel is sporadic and usually last minute (I went to Europe for 5 days on 24 hours notice once).  And then there are days like today.  My previous post is of the conversation[s] between myself and my boss earlier today.  The result of these conversations are two plane tickets and a very stressed employee.  Luckily, I have some experience with work travel and have figured out some useful tips for these last minute trips:

  • Set up online bill pay.  Even the Great Firewall of China will still let you pay most of your bills.  This way, you can pay them from anywhere.  An even better step is to set up automatic bill pay.  That way, you're never late and you don't have to worry about it (as long as you keep sufficient funds in your account).
  • Stop mail.  The US Postal Service has a handy website for arranging a hold on your mail delivery.  It's free, unlike some other sites, and you can arrange the start date for after you return.
  • Arrange a remote access account for your home computer.  This step may not be necessary (and in some cases may not even work) but in case you need emergency access to some of your files (or if you're just missing some of your favorite websites, like blogspot) you will be able to log in and retrieve them.  I use LogMeIn to link between my work laptop and my home laptop, and I'm hoping that during this trip to China I'll be able to log into my home computer using this account.
  • Hand sanitizer.  Toilets in China are rare.  Most of the public restrooms I saw in my previous visit consisted if holes in the floor and platforms to put my feet.  TP and soap were almost never seen.
  • Some hotels have a laundry service.  It might be a little expensive ($3-4 per item), but if you just need a few things washed (I thought it would be considerate to my seat mates to be wearing clean clothes on my 14-hr return flight) it's a good way to go (and you can expense it).
  • Go digital.  I may be gadget-happy, but I continue to sing the praises of the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad.  Sure, the iPad has a reader feature, but the lit LCD screen is hard on the eyes.  The Kindle's e-ink technology is realistically book-like, and the memory is large enough to house a small library.  Plus, there are thousands of free books available.  The iPad is great for videos and games and general websurfing.  
  • Make copies.  I was stopped and questioned at the Amsterdam airport.  The security's biggest concern was that I didn't have a hardcopy of my itinerary.  So, while I don't like to carry papers around, it is wise to have hardcopies of your travel itinerary.
I leave Tuesday for Shanghai and won't be returning until September 28th.  At least, that's what my ticket says.  My boss says that we may push out the return date.  Oh boy.

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