What’s in my travel backpack? My list of important items in my backpack for international travel to coffee and tea growing regions. One of the joys as tea and coffee buyer for Allegro Coffee Company and a job requirement is to visit our suppliers in order to strengthen our relationships at origin. Oftentimes these trips require plane and car ride(s) that can be lengthy and can range between 4-48 hours. Thus, you must be prepared to travel healthy, ready to combat or relax into whatever might happen and come your way. My travel toolkit consists of some pretty obvious items: noise-canceling headphones, eye cover, book, Emergen-C vitamin packets (both the ZZZ’s kind and the Immune System kind), old-lady constricting circulation socks for long plane rides, large scarf/wrap, tea, coffee, translator app, notebook, raincoat, flip-flops, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, Benadryl and/or Dramamine, two small bottles of travel size vodka, and sometimes social focused reading like People/US/Star for quick and easy entertainment. Some of these not so obvious might require some explanations:
- Cupping spoons – as a coffee and tea buyer this is our tool we use to taste the cups of delicious coffee and tea and evaluate it’s flavor, quality, and potential use. It is silver plated to cool the liquid as it’s being taken from cup to mouth and also in order to not impart flavor onto the brew.
- Yoga Toes – keeping myself centered and spiritually calm is super important during these long trips. There are language challenges, long car rides, food surprises, concerns for the business and the relationship and sometimes hard conversations to have. But a calm spirit and honoring each other’s intentions and hard work usually will help us get through any challenging situations. Likewise, for me, this daily spiritual practice keeps everyday a new adventure.
- Smiles and laughter – both of these are our easiest way to communicate with each other especially if there are language barriers. We smile to greet and welcome each other. Laughter creates a lightheartedness in what can sometimes be tricky situations and is an opportunity for us to bond.
- An adventurous, learning and sharing spirit– visiting a new growing region, discovering a new varietal, exploring a new culture is fascinating to me. To be able to learn something new and come back and share with our Allegro teams and leadership to help them experience and understand the hard work and efforts it takes to produce our coffee and tea is hard to put a price tag on it. It can only be experienced.
- Flexibility – Often times we end up in places unexpectedly and for long periods of time and don’t know what will happen next. We just have to settle in and be open to what is in store for the day or the transportation mode that may or may not be working and enjoy each other’s company. Usually, this is where the two bottles of vodka comes in handy.