Link to all Ramadan 2011 posts

It's only fitting that I write this post on a weeknight at 11pm in a different time zone than I'm used to and in an upscale downtown hotel with shoddy Wi-Fi. If you feel my pain, you are most likely one of many people who travel regularly for business.

In fact, you're the only ones who would truly understand that free food and drinks every day in the hotel concierge lounge, priority boarding, and (occasional) upgrades to first class are not perks that make travel fun – but necessities that prevent travel from being completely unbearable when you spend this much time on the road.

Lamenting about first world problems aside (like how annoying it is to have to adjust rear/side mirrors every week in your new rental car), let's get to the meat of the issue (pun intended) – Ramadan.

I also write this post at an opportune time as I am anticipating this Ramadan more than perhaps any other Ramadan in my life, and that's almost entirely due to business travel. While I am still slated to travel about 2 weeks in Ramadan, my last Ramadan was the worst of my life.

I had just started a new project and began traveling professionally for the first time in my life. I'm not sure if others have experienced this or not, but it meant I had to pay my dues. I didn't quite yet have the same freedom as the 'road veterans' did. Plus, I was on a new project and client, so there was a lot of feeling my way around. This travel started roughly 2-3 weeks before Ramadan. So not only did I have to completely readjust my home, family, personal, and work life, but now I had Ramadan to throw into the mix.

My entire Ramadan looked like this: Fly out Monday morning at 8am, fly home Thursday night and get home around 10pm. Take a cab to my hotel. No rental car. No masjid within walking distance. It was devastating. It was the first time in my life I felt completely and utterly spiritually destroyed during Ramadan. Looking back, I know I could have done better. I could have made up ground, been diligent with Qur'an, extra prayers, and so on – but lets not kid ourselves. It put me in a huge funk, and I failed with flying colors. Not to mention being left with 8 fasts to make up.

So now that I can look back and see how I would do it differently, here's my personal advice for making the most of Ramadan if you're traveling for business.

Food

This one is important. We have to be very particular about our diet as it is because we eat out so much (and most restaurant food is murder, zabihah or not). You know how you pack your clothes? No over-packing or under-packing? Everything perfectly accounted for and packed? Food has to be planned with similar intensity.

Suhoor will be difficult because you usually can't order room service that early (most start at 6am), and you're often without access to a microwave or a fridge. My plan is to go to the grocery store on Monday after landing and stock up. Plan out and buy what you're going to have during the week.

Also, stock up on water bottles (free at the hotel usually if you have lounge access), protein bars, and dates. Take it easy at iftar/dinner time. My go-to option on the road is to swing by Whole Foods and make a salad plate and a hot plate shortly before dinner.

Fasting

I follow the opinion of fasting being optional while traveling, so I write from that perspective. My advice is to fast as much as possible. You just can't replace the spiritual feeling of fasting in Ramadan. Also, the more you miss, the more you have to make up.

Last year I skipped fasting on the days I was flying. This time I think I will try to do it and see how it goes. I already know, though, that on Thursdays my flight is during iftar time so I will not fast.

Just be diligent about making them up ASAP.

Sleep and the masjid

These two go hand in hand because they're seemingly at odds this year. Pray taraweeh, and be groggy at work. What gives? I'm personally in a city where the isha adhan isn't even until close to 10:45 (and maghrib is around 9pm).

I'm all for praying at night, but you have a responsibility to be fresh/alert at work as well.

You'll have to be diligent about napping at specific times to make Ramadan work. This probably means being a stickler and leaving work at 5pm, and then taking a 2 hour nap. Wake up, get refreshed, and get ready for iftar. Another possible nap time is after suhoor and before work (especially if you don't have to be in the office until 9) – but you then sacrifice serious 'spiritual' time, as this is the best time to get your Qur'an reading done.

I've personally come to grips with the fact that I might skip taraweeh altogether some nights in order to get some sleep. Try to make isha in the masjid though. Even with napping, you need some nights where you get a solid stretch of good sleep. Just take it easy, pray some extra in the hotel, and make up for it on the weekends when you're home.

du'a List

Travel is du'a time. Ramadan is du'a time. Fasting is du'a time. You've got the trifecta. Make a list. Use it every day.

Workout

Because you'll be less active while fasting, and eating a heavy meal right near bedtime, it's important to have a workout plan. Without going into too many details, forget everything and just do this 20 minute hotel room workout. That's it. Keep it simple.

WEEKLY Goals

This is my final advice and one of the most important. Logic says to make daily goals and plans for Ramadan. How much Qur'an to read every day, how much to pray every day, and so on. I found that doesn't work for me while I travel. Travel is simply too unpredictable, and there are too many days where you're “just out of it” and can't get anything done. Those days can kill your productivity, and make it seem unrecoverable.

My suggestion is to instead make a written list of goals for the week while you are gone. So sit down Sunday night and say, “before I come back, I want to read 2 juz. I want to memorize 2 lines. I want to listen to 3 talks on YouTube.” Maybe you get super religious and do them all on Monday. Maybe work and travel kicks you in the butt and you do them all on your last night out of town. It's ok. Most likely you will do a lot on 1 or 2 days, and slack off on one day.

The important thing is to be okay with that, and make sure your overall goal for the week is met even if you have an offday (or two, or three).

Stay safe business travelers, and keep me in your du'as.

16 Responses

  1. Yasmin Raoufi

    Thanks for the helpful advice about fasting while traveling. Since I have never traveled during Ramadan your article gave me another thing to be grateful for. It seems to be quite a challenge so I pray that Allah (s.w.t.) will make it easier for you.Jazakallah Khair!

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  2. Lubna

    JazakallahKhair for this informative article, great tips for the perpetual jetsetter!

    I experienced my first Ramadhan while travelling for work only last week, Alhamdulillah they have 24-hour in-room dining so suhoor wasn’t a problem. I expect a busy month ahead though, and am trying to find ways to make the most of Ramadhan. This was a good starting point, thank you again for the share!

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  3. Riyaz

    This was a very well written post. Very informative and helpful. Jazak’Allah khair.

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  4. Asad Rashid

    As someone who has had to travel during Ramadan for the past six years, I can definitely appreciate your post. Completely agree on making a weekly goal list. Also glad to know that I’m not the only one hitting up the local Whole Foods all over the US.

    One thing I would like to add is that there is a strong emotional aspect to this. It can get super lonely being away from family and friends during this blessed time of the year and can definitely dampen the spirits. However, all that happens to a muslim is good and so this emotional state can be channeled into one’s ibadah, raising the taqwah and quality of worship for the traveler. It might be that one’s heart would not be at the same level of ubudiah if they were at home and therefore, the fact that one is on the road during Ramadan might be a blessing from Allah.

    - Asad

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  5. abu Abdullah

    may Allah bless you ibne Abee Omar, and increase you in goodness. May Allah put barakah in your time and accept your ikhlaas to strive to please him and share your efforts for others to benefit from using such articles and initiatives. May Allah accept it. May Allah forgive you and your parents and have mercy on you.
    wassalam

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  6. adeel

    Awesome article. I went to sleep yesterday thinking about how I would deal with such a situation in the future.

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  7. Hassan

    This is my worst ramadan (spiritually) as well, but no fault of others. I still can not adjust to a life without Sh Waleed Basyouni.

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  8. Kamran

    salam ibnabe

    just wondering why you didn’t just rent the car out on your own (only for Ramadan)? I think it’d be worth it…

    wassalam

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    • ibnabeeomar

      thought about it but its too cost prohibitive, esp for those on a tight budget :)
      once you factor in hotel parking (over 20/night), gas, rental, that many days youre easily looking at about $885 for the month [i ran the numbers ;)]

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