Managing work travel

Firmly out of lockdown, work travel has been on the rise, and I’m increasingly finding myself on trains and staying away from home. Whether this is an afternoon client meeting, a team away day or perhaps travelling further afield that involves an overnight stay – these all involve using public transport and being in unfamiliar places. Your work travel may even involve going abroad or being on a client site for a few months.

Whatever your position, even if you’re travelling for non-work reasons, this blog looks at why this may be especially challenging for autistic people, while also providing some advice on what can potentially help.

Firstly, why is travelling so different for an autistic person?

Well, any change in my day-today routine is monumental and takes me a great deal of processing time to cement the change in my mind, let alone then in practise. Additionally, the whole notion of using public transport can be unpredictable; with crowds of people, new noises, smells and other factors that I cannot control. I find the external environment to be so saturated and stimulating, that to combine that with the stress of travel, and the fact that anything can change or go wrong, can literally be enough to prevent me from going in the first place.

And that’s also a good place to start: do you need to make the journey? Can a video call be made instead, or can the trip be combined with another meeting later on, ensuring that only one visit takes place? It’s not always necessary to do that work trip.

I personally encourage myself to make these visits, as I learn a lot and feel it enhances my relationships with colleagues, and I have a better sense of the work that I’m doing.

I’m essentially more involved, which is something that having a video call doesn’t always achieve. Travelling off-peak can be another option to reduce travel anxiety, even if it involves missing a part of an event or meeting. It’s worth exploring the alternatives and potential adjustments.

Another big struggle I have is with my navigational skills. Those with a co-occurring conditions like dyspraxia or a learning disability may be more likely to be affected by this. Anywhere new, I manage to frequently find myself lost. Maps don’t help me as I struggle with knowing which direction I am currently standing in and heading in, even when I find specific landmarks around me to help with this signposting.

Navigation is disorientating,