20 interesting things you notice when you travel to India.

I recently traveled to Bangalore, India for work. My ad agency, The Weaponry, was hired to film a very impressive business based in Bangalore. And I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go. Not only was it my first time in India, it was my first time traveling anywhere in Asia, that wasn’t actually in Orlando, Florida. #epcot

Between my readings, my Indian friends, the people I know who have traveled there themselves, and my consultation at Passport Health, I felt fairly well prepared for what I would experience in India. But nothing compares to visiting a place yourself. It was truly a perspective-altering experience. To summarize this once-so-far-in-a-lifetime trip, here are the Top 20 things I noticed during my travels.


Top 20 Things I noticed on my business trip to India.

 

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My core travel crew of Jake, Me, Nina and Adam (who we call Henry, because it is easier than having two Adams).

 

#1  Language  One of the things that makes traveling to India easy for Americans is that so much of the population speaks English. In the area I was in about 60% of the population speaks English. But I never encountered anyone who didn’t.  You can quickly understand why it is so easy for Americans and Indians to do business together. Which is why I was there.

Other languages spoken in Bangalore include Hindi and Kannada (the local language that is pronounced like the song, O Canada, without the O. The pervasive English definitely helps make you feel at home, even though you are 10,000 miles away.

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#2  Climate The Climate in Bangalore is perfect. Highs are typically in the 80s and lows are typically in the 60s. This is extremely pleasant weather (although I am not sure pleasant can be extreme). Bangalore is close enough to the equator to be consistently warm, yet at 3000 feet above sea level, the heat is moderated by the elevation. I can understand why people enjoy living there.

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#3  People  The people were fantastic. They were excellent hosts. They were hardworking and responsible. They always greeted me with a smile (except at immigration at 2:30 am). I, like so many other visitors, were struck by the remarkable people. I don’t mean struck in a Reginald Denny kinda way. More in an Eat. Pray. Strong-like kinda way.

 

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My close friend Betty Garrot told me I must try the Dosa. So I didsa.

#4  Food  The food was a surprise. I have eaten Indian food before, but not in such quantities, qualities or with such great diversity. It all felt very different from American food. Different flavors, different textures, different smells, different seasonings.  I would have liked to have tried an even greater range of the most adventurous food options, but I was on an important work assignment, and didn’t want to risk missing any of the work because of a gastro-tastrophe.

 

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#5  Traffic The traffic was crazy. The craziest I have ever seen. In the city, during hours when humans were awake, there were vehicles everywhere. There was no adherence to lanes or signaling, or safe distances. It was like the wild, wild east. And I LOVED it! The traffic was pure entertainment. It was like high-caliber improv show, because the drivers seemed to be making up their wacky performances on the fly.

Our driver, Alfton, said, ‘If it wasn’t for the traffic I would be bored driving.’ My friend Tarun said, ‘Here, if I leave more than 4 inches between me and the next vehicle, someone is going to fill that space. But for all the crazy, I never saw a crash. Even better, I never saw anyone angry or hostile. There seemed to be an appreciation that everyone else was trying to get somewhere too, and nobody was trying to prevent you from getting where you were going.

I also noticed that the traffic never seemed to stop moving. Unlike in LA, Chicago, and Atlanta, where you can sit or creep for an hour, this traffic was denser, less organized, but almost always flowed forward. Maybe this self-regulated traffic can teach us something.

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#6  Motorcycles There were motorcycles everywhere. Not giant, muscle-y hogs like we have in the US. All kinds of small, efficient, people-moving motorbikes ands scooters.  These little bikes moved large quantities of humans, produce, and other random cargo.

A favorite game was finding bikes with more than 2 people on them. While 2 is the maximum allowed by law, the law didn’t seem to have a huge influence over the traffic participants. However, for the rule-less behavior, almost everyone wore helmets.  Although several times we saw a father riding with a wife and children, and the man wore a helmet and the others did not. The dynamic was surprising. I later heard that the man would be ticketed for not helmeting up. But the women and children would not.

I also saw many women riding the motorcycles side-saddle. This always drew my attention, as I expected that any moment I would see the women un-saddle off the other side. But thankfully, I never did.

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#7  Motorized Rickshaws  There were little green and yellow motorized rickshaws everywhere. These mini taxis are like 3-wheeled, partially enclosed motor trikes. They are also kinda like motorized wheelbarrows.  They have handle bars, not steering wheels. And they seemed to be able to navigate traffic faster than the cars.

 

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#8  The Smells India smells like no place I have ever been. It is a combination of the plants, the natural environment, the spices and scents that the locals use in cooking and in the general scenting of their environment.

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My hotel scented the hallways to make it smell like India. I wish I had a better nasal identifier to be able to tell you exactly what it smelled like. Although one morning during our film shoot the room we were working in smelled so good I finally asked what it was that I was smelling. The answer was cinnamon oil. I had no idea that was even a thing. But it is. And it smells amazing. Probably like being inside a bubble of Big Red gum.

#9  Poverty The poverty in India was impossible to ignore. I saw it as rundown buildings, homes and structures that had fallen apart and were not about to be fixed. It seemed to be intermingled with everything else. There were parts of the city that clearly were more poverty-dense than others. But there were few parts of Bangalore that didn’t exhibit a sense that there were fewer financial resources than there were people who could use them.

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#10  Service The service was excellent everywhere we went; from the hotels to restaurants, to our drivers, to the places we worked. The people were extremely accommodating and responsive. It felt as if it was part of the culture to be thoughtful and offer great service to others. I will remember that as a core part of the brand experience in India.

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#11  Cows Ever since I was a child I heard that cows are sacred in India. I read that you would see cows wandering the streets in India. I didn’t think that was still the case. But sure enough, I saw plenty of stray cows. But maybe not as many as in Moo-mbai. They seem to congregate near markets, where they benefit from produce being tossed out at the end of a day. It was both very odd and very interesting. I also never saw a cow related menu item either. But then again, I never visited McDonald’s.

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#12  Tourist Attractions We had one afternoon to do some sightseeing. We had a driver and a host, Loknath, to take us around to various places he and his team thought we should see. Based on what we saw, Bangalore was not a city of obvious tourist attractions. We saw a historic palace, a historic temple and some interesting government buildings. The palace and temple both had the potential to be impressive. But both of them lacked for the resources needed to impress as a well-kept destination worth visiting.

In other words, the building were visually interesting, but the overall experience lacked because the building were not well cared for, or supported.  The government buildings were large and impressive. But I left feeling as if Bangalore could use the help of a business dedicated to offering tourists interesting experiences, and investing in the things worth seeing. #businessopportunity

 

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#13  5 Star Hotels  I stayed at two amazing hotels in Bangalore. The Ritz Carlton downtown Bangalore, and the Taj Hotel, next to the airport. Both of the hotels were important to my stay in a couple of ways. They both offered a wonderful experience. The service was excellent. The rooms were extremely comfortable. The food was outstanding. And they both felt extremely safe. When in a place so far from home it is important to have a sense of safety and comfort. These places provided this and more. Which played an important part in enjoying the overall experience. Plus, they were easily the least expensive 5 star hotels I ever paid for. So If you go, I recommend 5 star-ing it up.

#14  American Knowledge It is an understatement to say that the people of India know America better than we know India. Among the people who I worked with, and socialized with, not only did it seem most had a very good knowledge of America, many of them had either lived in the US, gone to school in America or traveled to the US regularly. I was a bit embarrassed by the lack of American travel to India. And I was wowed that so many of the people I interacted with had spent time in America, given the fact that it is neither cheap nor easy to travel between the two countries.

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#15  GI Attack  If you travel to India prepare for an assault on your GI track. You have to be careful with things like water, ice, and fruits and vegetables that were likely washed in said water. Also the food is interesting and different and potentially spicy enough to create a glitch in your digestive system.

I traveled prepared. I had Travel-Ease tablets before each meal, I had Diahrease in case I ran into trouble, and I had antibiotics in case I ran into a lot of trouble. My stomach definitely got knocked off course by my gastronomic adventures, and I used everything in my weaponry just to make sure my work and flight home were not negatively impacted. The tablets and pills really helped keep me between the ditches. I would never travel to India without such reinforcements.

#16  The Beautifulness of the people I thought the people of India were beautiful and handsome. I had a great appreciation for how visually interesting so many of the people were. It reminded me of when I traveled to Iceland and was impressed by how good-looking the population was. Maybe I just like the looks of people from countries that start with ‘I’.

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#18  Namaste I was not at all prepared for all the Namaste-ing I received. It is a beautiful greeting. But I didn’t know how to receive it. Was I supposed to respond with thank you? By replying with my own ‘namaste’ and pressing the palms of my hands together?  Did I offer a high-five? Should I wink and point back at them? I still don’t know. But I do know that every time I was namasted, I thought of my friend Suzanne Darmory, who frequently drops a nam-bomb as a funny response to a frustrating situation.

#17  Billboards  There were billboards all over Bangalore with no advertising on them. That made me sad.  In a city of 12 million people there should be plenty to advertise, and plenty of people who would rather see your ad than a big empty board on the side of the road. I am still mulling over what I can do to help this situation. If anyone wants to collaborate on a “Make Bangalore Beautiful with Billboards’ initiative with me, let me know.

#19  The Head Bobble The most perplexing thing I encountered in India was the head wobble, or bobble. This head movement is neither a head nod, nor a shaking of the head, but both and neither at the same time. In fact, it seems to be the head moving in all the ways a head can move that are neither a nod nor a shake.

I found that I have no way of processing this gesture. So I was confounded by how to interpret it. Did it mean there was a problem? Is it the equivalent to the stink face? Or does it mean everything is ok? Eventually I came to realize it is not a bad sign. And no one was mad at me. But it still feels like an input that my processor doesn’t know how to interpret.

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#20.  The Time Zone The time in India is 10.5 hours later than US. Central Time Zone. I could not have kept this straight without the World Clock feature on my iPhone.  I have never visited another place that did the .5 hour difference. Which made India feel just a bit more exotic than it already felt.

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Our final night at the Amin’s was an amazing way to wrap up an amazing trip.

Key Takeaway

India was amazing. I have a new-found appreciation for all that I saw and experienced there. It all started with the very special people. It also ended with the people. In fact, the final night we were in India we were invited to the beautiful home of Parth and Roshen Amin. They treated us to a wonderful dinner and an unforgetable evening among our new friends on the other side of the planet. It was the cherry and whipped cream on top of our trip.

If you ever have the chance to travel to India for work or pleasure, I strongly encourage you to go. Interact with the people. Enjoy the food. Avoid the water. Smell the air. Look out for cows. Pack your pills. Grab some popcorn, and watch the traffic. And if you figure out how to interpret the head bobble, please let me know.

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Today is the day I leave for India!

I start my journey to India today. The team at my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, are working on a project with a really impressive business in Bangalore. But the first big moment of the trip actually came yesterday. 24 hours before takeoff I received a push notification from Delta that it was time to check in for my flight. I have traveled so much that the mere check-in notice doesn’t usually get me excited. But this one did. There is so much unknown ahead of me in the next 30 hours that I got a fun flock of butterflies flittering in my stomach. I love that feeling. It makes me feel both alive and buttery.

The first big question is, How will I tolerate 2-hour, 8.5-hour and 10-hour flights back to back to back?  I have a regular-person seat for both long flights. No first class or business class. No exit row. No incrementally-less-discomfortable seats. The second question obviously is, Do I have enough material to maintain over 20 hours of conversations with my seat mates? I am sure whoever sits next to me on the long flights is going to expect us to have an ultramarathon conversation, like at a no-sleep sleepover. And I don’t want to disappoint.

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I flagged today to fly to India on a day that India is flying a flag. 

Today’s Indiatinerary

I leave Milwaukee just before 1pm today and fly to Atlanta. I have a 2-hour layover in my other-home airport, and meet up with my fellow Weapon, Adam Emery. Adam, or Henry as we call him, is our Associate Creative Director, and has been a full-time employee of The Weaponry for a year. When you celebrate an anniversary as a full-time team member of The Weaponry, we like to offer a special project, like working with a celebrity athlete or something that allows you to fly to the other side of the planet. #benefits

From Atlanta, Henry and I have an 8+ hour flight to Paris. There, we will try to find an all-you-can-eat croissants buffet during our 3-hour layover. We will also meet up with the two clients who are traveling with us. I envision us filling our lengthy layover with sitcom-style airport hijinks, and general foreign country hilarity. After 3 hours of ooh la la-ing, we will jump on the final leg of the journey to India. Our 10 hour flight will take us to Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru, where we plan to watch Hulu with a guru.

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This is exactly what I expect the airport to look like in Bangalore, except none of the signs will mention Helsinki.

If all goes according to plan, we will arrive in India just before midnight on Sunday night. Then Henry and I will catch a ride with a transportation service to our hotel in the city center, which is about 35 kilometers from the airport.

This will definitely be interesting adventure. I have watched a bunch of movies to prepare me for this experience. My Pre-India Film Festival included Gandhi, Eat. Pray. Love., Slumdog Millionaire, Lion and Hoosiers. I later realized that Hoosiers actually took place in Indiana. Oops. (or should I say Hoops?)

Thanks for following the journey. I also plan to post updates, pics, vids and stories on Instagram at @adamalbrecht if connectivity allows.

Let’s do this!

There is an exciting new trip on my entrepreneurial journey.

My career in advertising has been an amazing adventure. The interesting experiences I’ve had at work could fill a book. Or at least a blog. I have never taken any of this for granted. And I always look forward to what each new project will bring.

Travel

One of the great benefits of my career is that I have done a lot of travel. I have spent more time in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago than I can count. I love each of those cities, and feel at home in all three. But these great American cities represent a small sliver of my business adventures.

My work travel has taken me to Alaska where I was awed by the Northern Lights. I have snowmobiled on glaciers and ATV’d on black sand beaches during the summer solstice in Iceland. I have worked with 100 men in pink bodysuits in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I spent a week in a camper in the Baja peninsula of Mexico while filming trophy trucks bombing across the desert. I have ridden a 1500 foot zipline in Whistler, British Columbia. I have flown to Quebec City on a private jet to ride a secret snowmobile on a 50 mile long private trail. And I was being paid to do it all.

My Entrepreneurial Journeys

When I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, I wondered how long it would be until I added to noteworthy travel. Over the past couple of years I have certainly traveled a good bit. My journal says that work for The Weaponry has taken me to the following places:

  • Boston
  • San Francisco
  • Montreal
  • Cincinnati
  • Columbus
  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • Las Vegas
  • Fort Myers
  • Minneapolis
  • Madison
  • Salt Lake City
  • Athens, GA
  • Albany, GA
  • Houston

Taking It To The Next Level

Today I am thrilled to share that I have some really exciting new travel coming up. This Saturday I am going to India! The Weaponry is filming a fascinating global business based in Bangalore, which for those of you who don’t know, is the Silicon Valley of India. Bangalore may be the largest city you’ve never heard of. At a population of 12 million people, it is 12 times larger than any city with 1 million people! (I did the math)

I have never been to India. So this is an exciting new experience for me. The travel itself will be an adventure. Total travel time each way will take 25 hours. I will be in India for just 75 hours, because I need to get home for my wedding anniversary. Which means that my ratio of traveling-time to being-there-time is nothing to envy.

Shots! Shots! Shots!

Last week I got shots for Typhoid Fever and Hepatitis A (which I thought is what Canadians call Hepatitis). I received Malaria medicine and anti-diarrheal medicine. This is the first time anti-diarrheal has appeared in this blog. You know you are embarking on an epic journey when you get counseled on Malaria and diarrhea strategies.

I also called Global Rescue to cover me while I am traveling. This membership-based organization is a life saver. Because if you become ill or injured when traveling internationally, they will come and get you, and bring you home to the hospital of your choice. Even better, Global Rescue was The Weaponry’s founding client, and we are thrilled to be members today.

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This is a globe. You can tell it’s not a picure of the Earth from outer space because it has words on it.

Key Takeaway

Once again, my entrepreneurial journey is presenting an opportunity to do, see and learn new things. Thanks to this business I launched, I am going to visit a new continent, a new country and a new culture on the other side of the world. From the beginning, I expected The Weaponry would enable me and my team members to do amazing things together. And it has. But this upcoming trip takes the proverbial cake.

*I will share updates throughout my experience. If you want to follow along, consider subscribing to this blog.

Perspective from high above a big week.

It is 11:15pm on a Wednesday night.

My plane from Atlanta to Milwaukee just took off. My past three days have been packed full, like Oreo Double Stuff cookies.

Monday our team conducted an 8 hour branding workshop with one of our great new accounts in Georgia. There were 16 clients and 4 agency people collaborating intensely to forge a new path for the brand. Afterwards I drove 2.5 hours in 2 different rental cars while drinking 4 large sweet teas.

Tuesday between 7:20am and 9pm I had 8 in-person meetings and an hour-long client presentation

Today I had 5 more in-person meetings.

Then I refilled a hole in my concrete driveway in Atlanta, with help from a few neighbors (thanks Steve, Crain, and Chris! I feel like that really cemented our friendship. #DadJokes)* Then I had dinner with some of my great Atlanta neighbors, including all of the above plus Betty, Melinda and Grace. Then I bolted Adam Albrecht-Style to the airport. (I’ve written about that style before here.)

After I finish this post I need to get back to work for the rest of the flight.

Because Tomorrow:

  • I have a huge creative presentation to a brand new client.
  • I have another important kickoff to an exciting new client engagement.
  • I have a call with a major foundation based in New York City that we are supporting  with a really rewarding initiative later this year.
  • And I have a new business pitch.

The Wee Hours Of The Morning

I will get home at 2am ET.  I will sneak into my three children’s bedrooms, and give them each a kiss (my kids, not the bedrooms). I will tiptoe into my room and kiss my favorite person on the planet for the first time in 4 days. (I am referring to my wife Dawn, in case you were unsure). Then I will sleep as fast as I can.

Key Takeaway

As I reflect on the past 72 hours, and prepare for the next 24, I feel like I am the luckiest man 35,000 feet above the Earth. 

*The hole stemmed from a pinhole leak in the main waterline to the home. It was detected by a higher-than-normal water bill. I hired a leak detection company to find the leak. Which they did. Unfortunately it was two feet under the center of the concrete driveway. Hence the hole. Life is an adventure.

How to make your business trips more personal.

I am not a control freak. I believe there is more than one way to skin a cat. Although most cats I have met strongly prefer not to be skinned at all. I like to hire good people and let them do their jobs. I am very comfortable delegating responsibility. With one notable exception.

Travel

When it comes to business travel I become a micromanager. You will never find me handing over my travel planning to an assistant or simply booking what everyone else is booking. Because when I travel for work I always have a hidden agenda… (cue the sinister music).

As the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, my first priority on every business trip is to take care of business. I call this my Bachman-Turner Overdrive Philosophy.  I want to arrive with plenty of time to prepare for the meeting or the shoot, or whatever I’m travel to do. And I build in enough time for a travel backup plan in case anything goes wrong.

But once the work plan is set I always turn my attention to my hidden agenda. It’s not finding great restaurants or a fancy hotel or seeing a great show.

My People Plan 

When I travel for work I always think about the people I can see. Business trips offer us all a chance to keep in touch or reconnect with friends and family. I take advantage of this every chance I get. You should too.

The moment I know I need to travel I start working on my people plan. I study the location I am traveling. I look at a map to see who I know within a reasonable radius of my business.

Then I build my itinerary.

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This is my cousin Janelle. I saw her on a recent trip to Fort Myers. She saw me too. 

 

The 3 Parts To My People-Seeing Travel Plans.

Flight:  I look at flight options that will get me in early enough and allow me to leave late enough to see my people. Often I will take the last flight home on any given day to help open my schedule and improve my odds of connecting.

Lodging:  My lodging is always an important part of my plan. I book hotels that make it easy to see my people. This is either because the lodging is centrally located, or because it is in the middle of a pod of my peeps. However, sometimes the lodging is not a hotel at all. I stay with friends or family members whenever they offer to host me. This allows for the best people experience of all.

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I recently stayed with the DeMarinis Fam in Boca Raton. It was totes great. The photo was blurry. My memory is not.

 

Car  Unless I am staying in Manhattan or a similar car-unfriendly location I rent a  car from Hertz. That’s because Hertz has the best cars, the best service and the best loyalty  program. A rental car gives me the most flexibility to see my people. And it gives me the greatest people-seeing range. If I am ambitious, which I usually am, a rental car enables me see several people, over a large area, for a fixed price. This is a major advantage that rental cars have over a ride sharing service.

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I recently rented a convertible Mustang, which I drove 50 miles to see my college track coach, Mark Napier. 

 

 

A Recent Example

Last Thursday The Weaponry conducted an all-day branding workshop with a client in Minneapolis. I scheduled a flight that landed in Minneapolis at 5pm on Wednesday afternoon. I picked up my rental car, then Jeanne, our amazing account director and I picked up two of our clients and went to a really enjoyable dinner. (Side note: One of those clients was a friend before she was a client. And the last time I had seen her was on a people-seeing side trip in Atlanta earlier this year.)

Then I dropped off Jeanne and the clients at their hotels before heading to my sister Heather’s house for the night. There I got to see Heather, her husband John, my nephew Addison, and nieces Rebekkah and Rachael.

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Me and my nieces, making memories in the middle of a business trip.

Thursday was the branding workshop. It was great. Productive, insightful and fun.

Thursday evening I had dinner with Heather’s family at one of our favorite restaurants.

Then I met my friend Tom Burger for after-dinner lemonades. Tom and I were college roommates and track teammates at the University of Wisconsin. It was really great catching up on family, friends and careers.

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My college roommate Tom Burger and I got over-served on lemonade.

Friday morning was special.  I got up early and drove 70 miles west of Minneapolis to Hutchinson, Minnesota. I went to surprise my 98-year-old Grandma Albrecht. And boy was she surprised. Which made me think that surprises and 98-year-olds may not be a healthy mix.

It had been too long since I saw Grandma. It was a real gift to be able to spend a couple of hours alone with her.  This was all the more special because I lost my other grandmother, Grammy Sprau, two months ago at 100 years old.

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My 98 year Grandma, Judy Albrecht.  When I surprised her she was sitting at her kitchen table doing a crossword puzzle.

Then I drove back to Minneapolis and met my friend Mark Setterholm at his production company, Drive Thru.  Mark and I had worked together on a fun Ski-Doo project many  years ago and have kept in touch ever since. I got to see his latest office space, I reconnected with members of his team, and met new DriveThruvians. Mark and I had lunch, we updated each other on our latest work developments and talked about life in general. It was great.

Then I headed to the airport and home.

Summary

In the past two months alone I have had three business trips just like this. All of them were greatly enhanced with friends and family time. By integrating my work and personal life I am able to get the most out of both.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram offer us a great way to stay in touch with our friends, family, and business associates. But it is not the same as seeing your people in real life. Take advantage of the opportunities to grow, maintain, rekindle or develop relationships while you are away from home. You’ll be glad you did. Life is short. And nothing matters more than our relationships.

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My college teammate Bryan Jones and I had breakfast recently on a business trip.  On Wisconsin!