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Travel Tech Q&A: Xero's Chris Ridd

Have you ever had to cancel a speech at a conference because your surfing holiday left you with a nasty case of pneumonia? The Australian managing director of Xero, Chris Ridd, did. He tells us about that and gives us some travel tips in this Q&A piece.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor on

Have you ever had to cancel a speech at a conference because your surfing holiday left you with a nasty case of pneumonia? The Australian managing director of software-as-a-service accounting provider Xero, Chris Ridd, did. He tells us about that and gives us some travel tips in this Q&A piece.

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Chris Ridd
(Credit: Chris Ridd)

What tech do you travel with and why?

As a former Microsoft exec I have to chuckle when I say that I am now a full Mac dude: iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air and iPod. The other big change for me in the past 12 months is that all the apps I use are cloud based, so I can access everything I need from anywhere, anytime and on any device. My favourite app is, of course, Xero Touch, which is our iPhone app that allows me to access the Xero accounting system from my phone. I use Xero to run our own finances so it is a huge bonus to be able to do this easily when on the road.

How do you deal with jet lag?

I've done a lot of international travel over the years so I think I have got this down to a fine art, although I don't think it is any trade secret. From the get-go on the flight I normalise to the destination time zone in terms of sleeping and meals. Sleeping tablets are helpful, as is one or two glasses of red, but no more than that. Then when I land, I hit the hotel gym for 30 minutes. I generally find that this routine helps avoid any form of jet lag.

What (if any) travel websites do you use?

TripIt is a great app that helps me organise all my trips and itineraries in one place. It even allows me to push notifications so that everyone on Facebook can see where I am. When travelling internationally I use WorldClock and XE Currency on my iPhone so I know time differences, local weather forecasts and how much I'm paying for things in Australian dollars.

Perhaps my favourite though is AroundMe. It's a brilliant location service that helps me find everything I need when I am on the road, from an ATM or chemist to great bars and restaurants. It is such a time saver. The other one I like to use for finding great places to eat out is Urbanspoon.

What was your biggest travel disaster?

In 2008, I travelled to Atlanta to a Microsoft conference to do a keynote presentation. After a four-day surfing stopover in Hawaii, I boarded the flight with a chest infection and proceeded to go seriously downhill. To cut a long story short, I was bedridden for the entire conference, missed my speaking slot and ended up being hospitalised with pneumonia. I managed to recover 24 hours before my flight and then returned home. Not much fun!

Is there one thing you must do before you leave home?

Exercise and spend as much time as possible with my family.

What was your last tech purchase?

Technically, it was an iPhone 4S, but from a pure toy perspective (and as a keen guitarist) it was Studio Devil's "Guitar Amp", which turns your iPhone or iPad into an authentic-sounding guitar tube amp. Sounds like the real thing and means you don't have to lug equipment around with you. Now I just need to purchase one of those foldable electric guitars and that way I'd be assured of never getting any work done again whilst on the road :)

What is your dream travel tech to have on planes/in airports/at hotels?

Wireless on planes would be good. They have it in the US and other countries so it's just a matter of time. Having said that, planes, airports and hotels are good opportunities to indulge in some of the less high-tech mediums: reading the paper, a book, a magazine; or watching TV. These are perhaps rare opportunities for us to disconnect momentarily from the "always-on" world we live in.

Favourite destination city to work/visit & why?

I'm going to be boring. It's Sydney. I lived there for seven years and love the harbour and beaches. These days, if I am required to stay there for a few nights, I like to stay at Manly. I can surf in the morning and then catch the ferry into the CBD and enjoy what would have to be one of the world's most pleasant commutes into work.

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