Always Double Check the Date on Your Visa
Jonathan Sanchez is the vice president for global communications and capability at Unilever, with oversight over Southeast Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Africa.
The Singapore-based U.K. native spoke to the Journal about the importance of white shirts, how to get a high-tech coffee maker through security, and why he always double checks the date on his visa.
How often do you travel?
About half the time.
Where do you go most?
London two or three times a year; Durban, South Africa; Moscow, Istanbul, Myanmar, Jakarta, Manila and other Southeast Asia countries.
Thai Airways. Their lounge in Bangkok is one of the best-kept secrets—they have a Jacuzzi. You can get a massage and eat great Thai food. It’s like taking a mini-vacation before starting on a 12-hour slog.
Frankfurt. It’s quite a long walk between terminals, but it’s well-equipped, clean and has good connectivity. It’s a well-oiled, efficient modern German environment.
Which city has the best taxis?
Singapore. The taxis are the blood and veins of the nation. They have an app where you can order a taxi without having to speak to someone, and you can follow the car on a GPS-based map as it’s coming to you.
Radisson Royal Hotel in Moscow. It’s in one of the so-called seven sisters, the colossal skyscrapers from the Stalin era, which makes it easy to find the hotel. Although the inside of the room is a bit like being trapped in a 1970s wedding, the grandeur is unbelievable.
Which country in Asia has the best food?
Istanbul is genuinely where East meets West. The foods you can eat, and the venues in which you can eat them, are mind-blowing. Thai food is also incredible, and Vietnamese pho is a great pick-me-up that can only really be made in Vietnam.
The best coffee?
Vietnam has the best environment, Thailand has the best beans, and Starbucks has the best quality through consistency.
I also have a Handpresso, a device that lets you make espresso in your room. It looks like a weapon though, so I get questioned every time I take it through security. Once they see it smells like coffee, they believe me it’s a coffee maker and let me through.
How do you fight jet lag?
You learn to live perpetually slightly tired. When you have downtime, maximize it. After over 10 years, one thing I’ve learned to do is power nap for 20 minutes. I wake up completely refreshed.
What are your packing essentials?
I collect eye blinds and always pack at least five—in different pockets of my luggage—so I can nap. The iPad Mini is my entertainment center. I also recently got a tiny Asus Wi-Fi router that’s about the size of a cigarette lighter that will turn an Ethernet connection in a hotel to a Wi-Fi connection. It comes in handy because hotel Wi-Fi is remarkably slow because it’s shared among so many people.
What’s your packing strategy?
I always pack exactly the same everywhere I go. I keep my Rimowa carry-on by the door with my iPad keyboard, work shoes and a jacket. I grab a small bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, mini toiletries. I also pack three white work shirts. White shirts are the best because no one knows if you’re wearing the same one or not.
How do you exercise on the road?
I try to walk more. I also swim when I travel because I find it relaxing.
Where haven’t you been that you’d like to go?
Mongolia. It’s opening up and has phenomenal scenery and landscape but has never really turned into a top tourist destination.
What’s your travel advice?
Be kind. Traveling is a privilege, not a right. If you spend a lot of time on airplanes, you can be tired and frustrated, but try to remember the staff work to protect you.
Best travel experience?
When I first traveled to Istanbul, we landed into the airport at 6 a.m. and came over the hill into the city just as the sun was rising over the minarets and mosques of the city. To see that orange-hued sky, that Arabic Eastern-Western layout in front of me—it took my breath away.
Worst travel experience?
Being denied entry in Moscow. It was mainly because of a clerical error—the date on my visa was incorrect. But in Russia, there’s a very high level of attention to detail, so there was no question that I could get a pass. It was a life lesson: Always check your own documents and if you need a visa, make sure it’s the right one.