Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

20 May 2013

Travelling with business cards

Posted by Will

Many travellers scoff at the idea of business cards; the invasion of cooperatism into the rosy idealism of living free and easy. This article isn’t for them, although I hope they might be able to recognize some of the benefits. This is for the majority of travellers who haven’t even considered taking business cards.

By ‘business card’ I mean a card with your name, contact info, sentence explaining your trip and website. It’s not necessarily formal, in fact, sometimes its entirely appropriate to jazz-up the card to match the motives, style and eccentricity of the trip. As I will try to convince you: travelling with these light accessories often improves your travel experience.

Give something away to people. No matter where you are in the world, people, especially local people, enjoy receiving gifts. It doesn’t matter how worthless the item may be, it is the thought that counts. On my trip, people’s faces have lit up at the gift of a business card, partly because it contains my contact information, but also because it shows them I consider them worthy of a gift. In many cultures, people will show the card to their family and friends as a treasured possession, tangible proof that they are friends with a foreigner. Aside from the benefits for the receiver, bestowing a business card has advantages for the giver too. You will have improved your chance of being invited into a local house for the night, be more likely to receive favours or if you’re staying for a while have promoted yourself.

Promotion. Following on from the last point, business cards are an excellent way to ‘get yourself out there’. Of course, this is particularly important if you plan to stay somewhere for a while. You’ll become better known in the area. I have even had locals approach me in the street and ask for a business card because they’ve seen their friends showing one off. Promotion can extend a lot further than the local community as well. If you are looking to grow your blog, increase your internet presence, apply to sponsors or raise money for charity, a business card is an important way to direct expats and other travellers to your endeavours. If you’re really determined, you could even leave your card in hostels and other backpacker haunts.

Professionalism. Business cards add an element of seriousness and commitment to your trip. In many situations, you won’t want to appear professional, in fact you’ll want to seem the opposite, and in these cases the business cards can remain in your wallet and backpack. But if you ever want to apply for sponsorship where you’re travelling or show proof that you are a traveller likely to achieve his/her goals then business cards may come in handy. You never know who you’ll meet on your travels, who you’ll stay with and how useful knowing these people may become in the future. Some travellers view this as shameless networking, others are actively doing this. As far as I can see it, we’re always networking, consciously or not, and carrying business cards gives the option of moving into pragmatic mode.

Save time. A very practical point: it quickly gets tiresome writing down contact information for everyone you may want to keep in touch with. At the crucial moment no one seems to have a pen, let alone paper, and the contact, who you may have really wanted to follow will be lost. Business cards make it easier. Whip it out, put it in their hand, everyone’s satisfied and you can hopefully speak again in the future. Yes, I’m still talking about business cards!

Remember, we’re only talking about only 100-200 grams of extra weight in your backback. Business cards give a traveller the option of moving out of the idealistic, disorganized, airy-fairy stereotype when the circumstances so require. Give something back to local communities. And maybe, in many years time, you’ll come across one of your old cards, maybe on a return-trip, perhaps still stuck on a traveller’s noticeboard or even in someone’s wallet. How would that feel?

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