You can’t buy more time. It doesn’t matter if you’re Bernard Arnault or Michael Jordan, time is the one universal equaliser that can’t be commodified. But maximising time is undeniably what the world’s most successful people do best.
In partnership with Uber Reserve, Wheels Up is where you’ll find some of Australia’s highest flyers and titans of industry alike pinned down, albeit for a brief moment. We want to know how they move more efficiently around the country and the globe, as for them, every second counts.
Read on to unpack the hustle behind this article’s feature – Shaun Birley – or dive into his quickfire insights to help you get ahead of the game when on the move.
Shaun Birley is about as well-travelled as they come. Before he’d even said his first words, the son of a DHL executive was well-versed in embracing a new country and a new language every few years.
Jump 30 years into the present and his insatiable appetite for peeling back the layers of foreign and familiar places around the globe still hasn’t worn off, even for an entrepreneur who’s managed to turn travelling into a vocation.
You’ve seen his face, no doubt. Perhaps in one of the many projects we’ve collaborated on together over the years here at Boss Hunting. More likely, you’ve brushed past him in a suburban Brisbane cafe and understandably mistaken him for Ryan Reynolds (of the two, the latter is the more common conversation starter).
But few know that Birley built an international logistics company before taking a back seat in the business to dial up his passion for men’s style on social media.
Well before he donned his first linen suit for a photo shoot in the backstreets of Istanbul, Birley saw an opportunity in the logistics industry to essentially franchise a new tech platform that aggregated the best shipping options for manufacturers – a “Skyscanner for freight”, as he put it simply.
With the guidance of his father, Birley rolled out this software, InXpress Australia, to over 350 warehouses and e-commerce platforms across Asia-Pacific, allowing them to choose which carrier they wanted to use based on size, weight, or catering for specific requirements of a product.
He bounced around the world, ducking in and out of his favourite coffee haunts as he went. This is where he became reacquainted with his love for photography. The snowball started to roll from there, gathering momentum as people eagerly chased down his uniquely local insights. It was as simple as where to find a killer flat white as much as it was a source of sartorial inspiration.
Then the door became ajar to springboard off social media’s exponential rise and leverage the success of his business. After a decade in the logistics game, Birley dropped the juggling act and went head first into content creation full-time.
“Up until this point, I’ve always been conditioned to hit KPIs, budgets, and my goals. Social media is nothing like logistics, it’s so reactionary and creative that pragmatism goes out the window. One thing I can control though is my time, so when I’m on the move it’s essential to be dialled into the process.”
And the man’s had more practice in the travel process than almost anyone.
Putting his 100 or so annual domestic flights aside, his credentials in moving efficiently (be it himself or cargo) around the world, in tandem with regular long-haul efforts and deep knowledge of global culture, have found him squarely in the hot seat for this edition of Wheels Up.
Give us one veteran-level flying tip to kick it off.
Airtags. I’ve got them everywhere; wallet, suitcase, carry-on. I also love how you can easily put them on anything important that you might be moving around with on the day – cameras are a huge one for me.
First person at the airport or last to board?
Internationally, I’m first to check in and first to board. I like to get as comfortable as possible before my flight. Domestically, I prefer to cut it fine without being stressed.
Check-in or carry-on?
I like to overpack and be prepared, so I don’t shy away from check-in if necessary.
Favourite airport to fly through?
My favourite airport to fly through is not my favourite city to fly to. Los Angeles International Airport. The luxury shopping and lounge options are fantastic.
Oneworld or Star Alliance?
Oneworld, every day of the week.
Preferred airport lounge?
The Emirates First Lounge in Dubai. Four or five kitchens with so many different cuisines and the shower facilities are excellent. They make you feel like a different person when getting onto that next leg to Europe.
One tangible thing you can’t travel without?
My Bose noise-cancelling headphones. When I’m awake, it’s a non-negotiable for the entertainment experience, and when I want to tune out, they help me get in the right headspace for sleeping.
Best travel app for your phone?
The Wise Card – allows you to Apple Pay for everything in local currency and gives you the most epic exchange rate so you can avoid getting ripped off at physical exchange counters. I can transfer money online instantly.
Go-to airport outfit – dress sharp or dress casual?
Depends on the length of the flight. For domestic flights across Australia, dress sharp. For long haul, it’s always a casual affair.
Qantas. I’ve been a QF frequent flyer since 1998, geez, that’s a long time!
Window or aisle?
The window for short-haul flights, the aisle for long-haul flights. After a few drinks in the lounge I enjoy having the freedom to get up and out to the bathroom when I feel like it.
Favourite place to go off-grid?
Anything that’s an island. I used to love the islands in the Philippines because they were actually off-grid. It’s a bit different nowadays, but give me a beach, a beer, and some good surf and that’s where you’ll find me.
Most memorable hotel?
Mest Hotel in Istanbul. Think double shutter doors that open your suite onto the most incredible view of the Blue Mosque. It wasn’t even a five-star hotel, but often the most memorable ones aren’t.
Do you have a bar or restaurant in the world where you feel like a local?
Cafe Gilli in Florence.
Do you try to beat lag, if so, how?
Stay awake for as long as possible and lean into the evening’s agenda, even just a local bar to catch up with friends or colleagues. If you’re alone, don’t shy away from soaking up some energy by yourself. I’ve still yet to master the art of beating jetlag on the way home though…
Craziest travel story?
My Dad and I told someone at NASCAR that we were interested in sponsoring them, and they flew us to Daytona 500 as potential clients when we actually just really liked racing. Met them the night before.
Cab or Uber?
Next question. Uber every day of the week. Especially when overseas, the ability to get an upfront price – as any traveller would know is tough in most of the world – is such a win. The transparency of where you’re heading too in unfamiliar places is a big asset. Cabs just love to hustle you every which way they can.
What’s your Uber rating?
5 stars. Or I like to think it is.
Best airport hack to save time?
Time is money domestically, so milk all of it that you can. You can’t buy time, but you can buy status. Try to attain at least ‘Gold’ tier if you’re in the position to on whatever airline you fly with most. That’ll give you fast-track security, lounge access, and priority boarding. And if something ever goes wrong, they’ll be more likely to look after you.
When’s your next flight and where?
Queenstown, New Zealand, before a mammoth few months between Hong Kong, Taiwan, and eventually Europe for the Rugby World Cup.
Wheels Up is presented in partnership with Uber Reserve. Riders moving to and from airports across Australia can schedule a trip up to 90 days in advance from their destination airport, with flight tracking technology to help ensure a ride is ready and waiting, whether their flight is early, on time or delayed.